For the past couple of years, I’ve used the long 4th of July weekend to take a road trip. First I went on a solo camping trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and last year my boyfriend Glenn and I rented a camper van and went out west to Yellowstone National Park. Even though everything is different this year due to COVID-19, the one thing that didn’t change was our July 4th road trip.
Our plan was to leave from Minneapolis and then spend 5 days in Copper Harbor, Michigan in accommodations that allowed me to work remotely. From there we would head down to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to spend the weekend and Independence Day with my family at Houghton Lake.
We hit the road on Sunday and our first stop along the drive between Minneapolis and Copper Harbor was the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park a.k.a. “Porkies.” I’ve always heard that it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the fall but I had never been this far northwest to see for myself. Since this was just a stop along the way, we didn’t have a ton of time to explore but we did get to see Lake of the Clouds. There are a whopping 63 backcountry camping spots in the park and this is definitely a place I would love to come back to and see the autumn colors at their peak.
We continued up along the coast of Lake Superior with a few stops for food and to let our dog Audi swim. Copper Harbor is located at the very top of the Keweenaw Peninsula. There are a few restaurants and shops but it’s mostly made up of resorts and vacation rentals.
Fun fact: Copper Harbor is the starting point of Highway 41 and there is a sign just outside of town that points to Miami, where Highway 41 ends nearly 2,000 miles away.
We stayed at Lake Fanny Hooe Resort. It was a great location! They have cabins, a motel and a campground. There is no cell service in Copper Harbor but I was somehow able to do most of my work from the WiFi at the motel (it may as well have been dial-up but hey, it worked!) The rooms were dated but clean and we had access to our own beach. Lake Fanny Hooe is walkable to Lake Superior and all of the restaurants. But let’s be real, Copper Harbor is pretty tiny so everything is walkable to everything.
We packed a ton of activities into our week (especially considering I had to work during the day) but I’m going to try to give only the highlights or this post is going to become a novel!
One day we took a walk through Hunter’s Point Park which is out on the peninsula that cradles the harbor. It was our first chance to see the beautiful red pebbles that are polished and smooth from washing up against the shore. From the photos, you’d think that Copper Harbor was named for these rocks but it actually gets its name because of the copper they used to ship out of the harbor. Copper. Harbor. Pretty straightforward!
One evening we loaded Audi and our fishing poles into a rickety old rowboat and went out on Lake Fanny Hooe. I caught a couple smallmouth bass and Glenn got a good workout rowing me around the lake.
One of my favorite things we did was the Brockway Mountain Scenic Drive. There is a great overlook to see all of Copper Harbor spread out before you and at the very top of the mountain you get a full panoramic view of Lake Superior and the surrounding area. It was so much more mountainous than what you typical imagine when you think of Michigan geography.
We tried to go on another drive to the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula only to find that the logging roads to get there were completely washed out. Our Jeep Cherokee did a decent job but we ultimately ended up turning around for fear that we would end up stranded after dark with no cell service.
Normally there is ferry boat that leaves out of Copper Harbor for Isle Royale National Park but the island was closed due to the COVID pandemic. Fortunately, Jamsen’s Fish Market & Bakery, which is located on the ferry dock, was still open and we enjoyed some incredible coffee and baked goods.
My other favorite food stop was The Jampot. It was located about a 30 minute drive down the peninsula from Copper Harbor and just outside the small town of Eagle Harbor. The Jampot is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been to, here’s how they describe themselves:
We purchased some jams as well as the largest and most amazing blueberry banana muffin I’ve ever eaten.
On the drive down to Eagle Harbor and Jampot we also stopped along Great Sand Bay. There are some beautiful overlooks and if you stop at the George Hime Dune and Marshes Preserve you can take a short hike up some of the massive sand dunes.
A huge highlight of our time on the Keweenaw Peninsula was a hike to Montreal Falls. Located on the southern side of the peninsula, you have to drive along a private road to reach the trailhead. It was very hot that day and the trail winds along the coast of Lake Superior. You reach the lower falls first and can walk right up to them as the water runs into Superior. Because we’re overachievers, we hiked further into the woods to see the Upper Falls. It was worth the effort. The Upper Falls are much taller and we had the entire thing to ourselves. We even removed our hiking boots to soak our feet. It was so freakin hot that day that when we got back to the lower falls we removed our outer layers and jumped into freezing Lake Superior.
To reward ourselves for our hard work, we stopped at the Log Cabin Italian Bistro in the Mount Bohemia ski resort and had some Wood Fire Pizza that was **chef’s kiss** delicious.
Unfortunately, our time in Copper Harbor had to come to an end and we headed along the coast of Superior this time towards the Mackinac Bridge. And luck was on our side because we may or may not have gotten pulled over on Highway 41 and somehow got away without a speeding ticket. Plus, we were able to drag the trip out a little longer with stops in beautiful Marquette and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on our way to the Lower Peninsula.
All in all, this was one of my favorite road trips ever! I’m a born and raised Michigander and I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to finally visit the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsula. We definitely didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to and I’m hoping that this new work-from-home lifestyle will allow us to head back soon!