Copper Harbor was recently proclaimed as being the town located the furthest distance from any U.S. Interstate Highway (about five hours). It is without a doubt off the beaten path, but that’s what makes it nice –it’s a destination and those who are here are here for a reason!
Our tiny town has a year-round population of about 80 hearty souls, which swells to around 300 during the summer months. Although far less known and on a much smaller scale, Copper Harbor is sort of a weird combination of Isle Royale, Moab, British Columbia, Telluride, Gatlinburg, Sedona and Key West all blended together with a distinct U.P. flavor. The village is located in a valley at the base of a spiny, rocky ridge – Brockway Mountain and is Michigan’s northern-most community, situated at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Lake Superior is the great regulator, generally keeping summer temperatures cool and pleasant (average daytime highs in the mid-70’s) and winters relatively warmer with abundant lake-effect snowfall. In the summer, the northern boreal forests are green and lush and nights are clear and filled with stars and the occasional display of the aurora borealis (the northern lights). Copper Harbor is home to the purest, most vitalizing air on earth!
There is no cell phone reception in town (many visitors claim this is a good thing), though a signal may be found four miles away at the top of Brockway Mountain, where a panoramic view of Lake Superior and the surrounding peninsula are showcased nearly 700’ below. There is, however, wireless internet at most locations around town to keep folks easily connected to the outside world.
Copper Harbor is known as the gateway to Isle Royale National Park with daily passenger ferry service on the Isle Royale Queen during the season. Isle Royale is the largest island within the world’s largest fresh-water lake (Lake Superior) and is the only island park within the National Park system. It is said that more people visit Yellowstone National Park in a day than visit Isle Royale in an entire season…Isle Royale is a true wilderness experience!
Copper Harbor is also and home to Fort Wilkins State Park. This once active military outpost was established in 1843 to maintain law and order during the beginning of Michigan’s great copper boom. Today most of the Fort is still intact and is open for the public to get a first-hand glimpse of what life was like for those early pioneers. Fort Wilkins additionally hosts a campground that offers easy access to the village, and greater human-powered trail system, just a mile away, along with public access to Lake Superior and Lake Fanny Hooe.
The county-owned Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is another popular park of sorts. This magnificent hand-hewn log structure was built as a WPA project during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The government essentially created work for the large ranks of the unemployed by developing a golf course. The timber harvested from this project was in turn utilized to build the Lodge and associated rustic tourist cabins. Open to the public, the Lodge hosts a nice restaurant and lounge filled with hand-crafted nostalgia. The Mountain Lodge is centrally located at the core of the mountain bike trail system and makes a nice place for a lunch, dinner or refreshing beverage. The Copper Harbor Trails Club has developed and maintains a frisbee/disc golf course on the premise, of which there is no charge to use.
All of the village’s artisans, shops, restaurants, brewpubs, and motels are entirely (and refreshingly) Mom & Pop owned and operated. If you are looking for strip malls, water parks, Holiday Inns or McDonald’s, this is probably not the place for you. If you’re looking for a slow-paced area rich with its quality of life, friendly folks, good value and access to uninhabited shorelines, wilderness trails, and great adventure, then Copper Harbor is a place you need to visit to fully appreciate its charm and attractiveness.