Copper Harbor Trails

Another trail review:  Copper Harbor Trails Michigan

This is a very long review so for the impatient I will summarize it, this place was so much fun I could go on and on about it. And now I will….

You have probably never heard of Copper Harbor . It is a small community on the very northern tip of the Keweenaw peninsula, which protrudes northward from the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was recently designated as an Epic Ride by IMBA, the International Mountain Bike Association. The newness, design, layout and build quality of this trail system make it a destination trail system, of the same caliber as the Kingdom Trails in Vermont or Rays Town Lake in Pennsylvania. Of Rays Town Lake, Kingdom Trails, and Copper Harbor it’s very very hard to pick a favorite; none of these should be skipped.

The locals are very friendly and happy to tell you all about their trail system.  So stop in at the local shop, and buy a trail map for five bucks, and make sure you have a pen to mark in the bail line for the almost completed flow trail and to make other little notes, in order to avoid doing silly things like trying to climb the trail Down Town. Also, the profits from the map sale go to the trail org and after riding here you will agree that the money is well spent. The local shop is Keeweenaw Adventure Company . Before launching into the full review, a word of caution, this is not really a novice, beginner or easy trail system. Less than 1/4 of the mileage is rated as easy and this is accurate.

Virtually all the trails have a nice flow and are a lot of fun. My top two favorites were The Flow and Down Town. The Flow is so new its not even totally finished yet. Its crazy blurred vision teary eyes fast. This trail seldom requires you to brake and has few rocks or roots, buff single track and its not even totally ridden in yet. I always say well designed trail is never flat and you can never have too many grade reversals, this exemplifies those beliefs. This trail is certainly down hill, however it would not be terrible as a climb. I rode it from the top down to where I nearly collided with the mini excavator at the end of the line. Here I turned around and went back up until I noticed a faint spur trail to the left which took me down to the road and back to town.  Most of the trails in Copper Harbor should be ridden in both directions because they flow well either way so you don’t miss out on anything. There are a couple exceptions, for example, riding up Paul’s Plunge would not be great, and you can go up Mango instead which is a nice climb. The next exception was one of my favorites, Down Town. Seriously this thing is basically a down hill trail, even if you wanted to and could climb it it you wouldn’t have any fun. This is the hardest trail on the mountain and the helpful folks at the shop informed me that IMBA wanted it to be designated as a double black diamond. I rode it twice and was left a little scared and grinning. It has a few large gap jumps, but you can can just roll them, between my two runs I cleared them all, but did case once or twice, but was able to roll it out and remain rubber side down. There are a couple seriously steep rock faces that you turn sharply onto and then ride down which look scary but I stayed off the brakes and the burst of speed was fun. There are also some sizable drops which you can either charge full speed or carefully roll. I charged full speed and JUST cleared them. If you ride a new super light frame, fork, wheels or cranks intended for what bike manufactures call cross country skip this trail – it will probably break them. That said, you do not need a 7″ + travel full suspension bike or a full face helmet. If you had to commit to riding and clearing all the gap jumps and drops this trail would be a double black for sure.  Other must ride trails are Stairway to Heaven (make sure to go up and down it), Corkscrew and The Edge. The Corkscrew and Stairway to Heaven have more cedar planks than a lumber yard.  Do these guys have a trail crew or a bunch of carpenters?!  (See video below from Keweenaw Adventure Company of the Stairway to Heaven Trail).

For photos and videos check the already linked IMBA club and local shop. I didn’t take photos cause I was too busy riding and didn’t want to stop and there is already good stuff on the web.

Keep your eye on Copper Harbor, it’s destined for classic status, with three more ridges slated for trail construction and over $400,000, a mini excavator, and full time trail crew of three, it’s growing bigger and better all the time. Currently they have only fully developed Brock Ridge and they have at least two more ridges to go. They just keep building it out here, so we should come. If all goes according to plan this trail system will be better than Rays Town Lake in a few years because there will as much single track as 3 Rays Towns.

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8 responses to “Copper Harbor Trails

  1. Wow! Wow! Happy you could do this!

  2. Melinda Bloom

    Jay, I didn’t understand much of what you wrote, but I sure can tell that it was a fabulous experience and you had a blast! I’m so glad. Can you get a summer job there?

  3. Madelon Bloom

    Man, Jay, your enthusiasm is contagious! I didn’t realize it was you writing until I saw the words “build quality.” Then I looked. It sounds like you had a heart-pounding, excellent time! Very glad to hear it!

  4. Glad you like them…I can see that I’m very lucky…I live 30 mins from the trails, in Houghton!

  5. I just hit these trails up over the weekend for the first time, and can confirm everything he said. lol

    I didn’t know what to expect though, so I brought a hardtail, and I sooooo regretted that decision. This place needs some full suspension love! I’ll be back with 5 inches and some band-aids!
    –Mark

  6. Nice to see reports on Michigan adventures! Wave next time you come through. (Not a “cyclist” in your class, didn’t understand much of it – but hey! you loved da U.P. so y’all come on back!)

    • I do hope to come back some time. There are lots of other trails in the area, especially around Houghton that I would like to ride. The Michigan tech folks are rumored to have created a great system there as well. Word seems to be getting out about the fun vibe and great trails on the U.P. There have been recent articles in a couple mountain bike magazines featuring copper harbor in particular.

      I am hoping that there will be expert trail reviews on here from me and also plain english reviews from Sharon that way we will cover all the bases. Since after all this is fun for every one.

  7. Pingback: 26th Week in Review: 6 MONTHs!! | Service Driven

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