The mission of the Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC) is to advocate for, develop, and maintain trails and land for human-powered activities in and connecting to Copper Harbor. Put more simply, we build and maintain incredible trails near Michigan’s northernmost town. Our trails are open year-round, come rain or sun or feet of snow. We welcome trail users of all ages, ability, race, color, orientation, gender, religion, profession, or however else you identify yourself. On the trail, we’re all equal in our love for being outdoors in the Keweenaw’s magnificent woods and rocky shorelines. The Copper Harbor trails are free to use and open to the public.
Our trails are sustainably built and optimized for mountain bikes. However, that’s not to say that other trail users aren’t allowed. With the exception of dedicated downhill trails, all of our singletrack trails are multi-use for all non-motorized pursuits. That means hikers, birdwatchers, berry pickers, rockhounds, backpackers, trail runners, dog walkers, photographers, and basically anyone propelling themselves with their own two feet can use our trails alongside our mountain biking brethren. In the winter, snowshoers, and backcountry explorers take over the system. XC skiers and fatbikers can enjoy a few loops closer to town on the easier-to-groom terrain and unplowed roads. Horses are not permitted but Class 1 E-bikes are on most trails (more details here).
The Copper Harbor Trails Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are officially incorporated as the Copper Harbor Trails Society Inc., but we thought Club sounded more appealing at some point in our history and stuck with it. We partner with several other organizations in the Copper Country to improve trail access and conditions for all users. Our goal? To make the Keweenaw one of the top trail destinations not just in Michigan or the Midwest, but the world.
Don’t believe it? Come up and see for yourself what makes Copper Harbor so special!
How do we do what we do?
CHTC is a member-driven organization with a volunteer Board of Directors and a paid Executive Director to help keep the wheels moving. To put quality trail on the ground, we contract with Rock Solid Trail Contracting, based right here in Copper Harbor. Talk about a lucky break having the best trail builder in the business in our hometown! Long ago we used to build all of our trails by hand, utilizing volunteers to hack out bench cuts from the side of the mountain. These days our new trails are all machine-built. It’s faster, easier, and it frees up our volunteers for general maintenance work, assisting with events, and most importantly, actually using our trails.
To fund our trail building efforts, we rely on generous donors, fundraising events, and grant writing. Great trails don’t happen by accident, and despite our best efforts we still haven’t won the lottery or met that elusive Nigerian prince. Trail construction can run upwards of $60,000+ per mile depending on the ruggedness of the terrain we are building through. Rocky soils, dense forests, and literal cliffs all slow progress and increase costs. It ain’t easy, but the results are worth it.
What else do we do?
Our trails help support the Keweenaw’s growing and ever-evolving tourism economy. Those cars, trucks, and RVs rolling into town with bikes hanging off the back bring a lot ofdollars to local businesses. Whether they’re staying in motels or campgrounds, eating at restaurants passed down through the family, or spending the evening at one of our fine local breweries, visitors to our trails infuse an enormous amount of money into our region. People gotta eat and sleep somewhere, and #vanlife is not for everyone.
For local riders, having great trails is more about quality of life. There’s a reason people come to live and work in a place as remote as the U.P., and one big reason is our superior access to top-notch recreational opportunities that the Copper Harbor Trails offer. Our region refuses to stagnate because of the constant influx of new residents, businesses, and ideas, all driven by a keen interest in joining a community that values smart people and our high-quality natural playground.
During the summer months we host two clinics designed to help riders advance in the sport. Whether you are a beginner just getting into mountain biking or an advanced rider honing your skills for even bigger and badder jumps and drops, our Women’s Weekend and Big Boy clinics are just what the coach ordered. And for the kids? Our Singletrack Flyers youth mountain biking initiative is leading the charge for our local riders. From fearless striders on up, these little rippers will soon be the trail advocates and racers of tomorrow.
Anything else? Glad you asked. Artists come together to curate a summer-long ArtBike art show to support our trails. And let’s not forget the kick-ass events we host each summer, including Ride the Keweenaw and the Copper Harbor Trails Fest. These aren’t just fundraisers for the Copper Harbor Trails Club. They’re a way to bring us together to celebrate what makes our region so special: the people, the place, and the best riding around.
How many people exactly? Trail counters in 2015 showed over 20,000 people passed by the main Copper Harbor trailhead between May and October, and it's only balooned since. Quite a lot for a town of just ~100 residents.
Who Are We?
The Copper Harbor Trails Club is lead by a dedicated group of volunteer Board of Directors. This ten-member Board oversees organization policy, sets the budget, coordinates with CHTC's committees, and assists with the promotion of our mission within the greater community. We have one full-time, year-round staff member who manages the organization's day-to-day inner workings both big and small, and during the summer we hire trail workers to keep things in tip-top shape. Learn more about our Board and Staff here.
There's a surprising amount of work that goes into building and maintaining Michigan's top trail network. From organizing Copper Harbor's biggest events to spearheading trail projects of all shapes and sizes, we keep busy. That's been the case ever since we were founded in 2008, and well before that when it was just a loose-knit group of volunteers leading the charge. You can view a brief summary of our history and ongoing projects on our Projects & News page. It's quite lengthy and doesn't even include the half of it!