The Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails were designated as an International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Silver Level “Ride Center” in October of 2012. Ranked among the top five trail systems in the world at that time just behind Park City, UT and on the same level as Sun Valley, ID, Oak Ridge, OR and Tauppo, New Zealand, the Copper Harbor Trails are now among the top 20 with the addition of more “Ride Centers” since that time. Points were scored based on Copper Harbor’s variety and quality of gateway, cross-country, flow and gravity trails, in addition to the village being considered as mountain biker friendly with its resorts, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, bike shop and a brew pub all easily accessible to/from the trails.
The Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails offer some of the most unique terrain and challenging trails in the Country. Working diligently on the grassroots level, the Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC), a 501c3 non-profit organization, has been building a network of designated human-powered trails, while working to promote the area as a mountain bike destination since the late 1990’s. A cooperative effort between the CHTC and neighboring land owners have resulted in a network of over 35 miles of world-class single track trails.
The riding in Copper Harbor is REAL mountain biking and really does not compare with anywhere else in the Midwest…if you have ever been to nearby Mount Bohemia to ski or snowboard its 900’vertical drop, you know what we’re talking about! A series of rocky, undulating ridges and valleys punctuate Keweenaw County and are highlighted with old growth forests, historic locations, pristine inland lakes and streams, mountain top vistas and rugged Lake Superior shoreline. Singletrack trails wind over bedrock, cobbled rock, rooty, hard packed surfaces with lots of climbs, technical descents, berms, rustic bridges and boardwalks and a total lack of sand. Constant elevation changes provide a Western-like riding experience and some riders have nicknamed it “the BC of the Midwest.”
While its reputation may entice the experienced mountain biker, a number of easy and intermediate rated trails do exist…about two-thirds of the trail system are rated as intermediate. Additionally, a network of old logging roads and jeep trails traverse the narrow, uninhabited tip of the peninsula, east of Copper Harbor and offer some less technical riding options. This includes over 8000 acres of State Forest land along Lake Superior and a side trip to the Nature Conservancy Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor. Some popular family rides near Copper Harbor include the Hunter’s Point and Fort Wilkins Pathways and Lighthouse Overlook and Lake Fanny Hooe Trails at Ft. Wilkins State Park. Bikers may ride to the Hunter’s Point and Estivant Pines trailheads, however bicycles are prohibited, as hiking is the only permitted use in these preserves.
The annual Bell’s Beer Copper Harbor Trails Festival (formerly Fat Tire Festival) is traditionally held on Labor Day Weekend. This end of the summer gathering of the tribe hosts some fun events and is a good time for the racers, volunteers and spectators alike. The Cross Country, Enduro and Downhill races feature some of the most diverse and challenging courses in the region and attract racers from all around the Midwest and beyond. A true festival by the definition of the word, the Trails Festival also includes a kid’s race, “Art Bike”, two nights of live music, tasty food, great camaraderie and of course Bell’s Beer on tap.
~By Sam Raymond, Keweenaw Adventure Company
More info on the trails, Trails Club events and how you can help to support the non-profit’s efforts the Copper Harbor Trails Club.
Information on Copper Harbor bicycle rentals, mechanic, guide and shuttle service at the Keweenaw Adventure Company.