Keweenaw Point Trail!
An epic 30-mile purpose-built sustainable trail traversing the remote, rugged terrain at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Progress is underway but we need your help!
In 2003, the State of Michigan, working with The Nature Conservancy acquired 6,275 acres of land near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to prevent private development and preserve public use. This acquisition brought the state’s total land ownership on the Keweenaw Point to 8,387 acres. Soon after the acquisition, the Michigan DNR (MDNR) created an advisory group, the Keweenaw Point Citizen Advisory Committee, to make recommendations for future use of the Keweenaw Point lands. Among one of the primary suggestions finalized in 2005 was to develop a “shoreline trail that begins on the Mandan Road near the intersection of Mandan Road and Montreal River. The trail will generally parallel Montreal River to the mouth, then head east paralleling the shoreline around the tip of the Keweenaw to Schlatter Lake, then northwest towards Horsehoe Harbor and finally reconnecting with Mandan Road.”
Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC) working with Grant Township, MDNR, Keweenaw County, and a number of private land owners and conservancies has taken the lead to complete the proposed Keweenaw Point Trail following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. The trails have proven to be an economic driver for the region as trail users are filling local restaurants, brewpubs, stores, hotels and the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Campground. The effort to protect and expand the system is part of a long-range plan to connect communities and add new experiences that utilize the land and enhance access to unique assets in and around the Keweenaw region.
Phase 1: Open!
2.6 miles of singletrack carved into the rocky hillside featuring occassional views of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. The trail begins on Manganese Road just past the parking pull-off for Manganese Falls just south of town. Whereas most trails require grading soils to build a sustainable tread, Phase I required grading solid rock! This intermediate trail has a few small rock drops/ascents as it traverses the ridge over Lake Fanny Hooe. It is a bit tougher than average but is quite a lot more fun than your usual 'rocky & rooty' trail. After crossing Vulcan Creek, the trail embarks on perhaps its most impressive feature: the longest boardwalk you've ever seen! This 1/4 mile boardwalk traverses a dense cedar forest that would be impassable without. Eventually the trail exits onto Mandan Road a short distance past the end of US-41.
Phase 1.5 (Summer School to Mandan Road): Open!
Half a phase? Yeah... we kinda goofed up when we started naming the different phases of this trail after we realized there was a big gap between Phases 1 & 2. Rock Solid's East Bluff Bike Park project did away with almost the entire gap in 2019 & 2020. At the eastern end of Phase 1, head east on Mandan Road for one mile until you find the access road into East Bluff on your right. This leads you to Summer School, an exciting ride along one of the most feature-rich trails in Copper Harbor. Constructed rock elements abound here, giving riders plenty of opportunities to test their skills in either direction. Summer School eventually takes you to the next segment of the KPT, another premier flow trail that bounces up and down the Union Creek hillside. The Keweenaw Point Trail hops across Mandan Road before connecting directly to the beginning of Phase 2 further up the hill.
Phase 2: Open!
So begins some of the most remote singletrack you'll ever ride! Phase 2's 5.5-mile intermediate route twists and turns its way through primarily public land, alternating between solid rock and dirt hard pack. Though it trends downhill the closer you get to the lake, the trail maintains its fun-factor even on the return journey. The two skinny bridges that once struck fear into the hearts of riders were replaced in 2020 with properly wide spans perfect for any user. This is a very approachable trail and fun for all levels of riding! Once you've wound your way around the deep woods the trail spits you out at High Rock Bay, the proverbial end of the Keweenaw Peninsula. A bumpy rock garden followed by a sand pit greets you at the trail's end and can be easily walked to avoid the toughest portions. Think of it as Mother Nature's way of saying "No further!" Be sure to pack a snack and your camera, because the views from High Rock Bay are some of the best around.
If you do not wish to ride all of the trail from Copper Harbor to High Rock Bay, you can pick up the beginning of Phase 2 by driving 3.4 miles east along Mandan Road past the end of US-41. The out-and-back trip from here is roughly 11 miles, a perfect afternoon adventure.
Phase 3.1: Complete!!
Crews from Rock Solid are wrapping up construction the trail by the end of Setpember. Aside from a bridge over Union Creek at the southern end near Keystone By, the trail is complete! This 5.3 miles of the trail stretches from the current Point Trail corridor north of Schlatter Lake, winds along the beautiful northern rim of the lake, follows a sandy ridge along the eastern shore all the way to Keystone Bay, traverses the 'burn zone,' and finally crosses Union Creek to reach the existing DNR access road. It's a beautiful and scenic stretch of trail!
Portions of the trail on the east side of Schlatter Lake are somewhat loose due to the sandy soils. With the addition of more organic matter and additional traffic, it will set up well for long-term use. Until then, the trail may be soft in areas. Ride with caution in corners especially.
The bridge over Union Creek near the southern terminus will be completed in the fall of 2023, weather permitting. Stay tuned! It can easily be hopped over on foot in the meantime.
PHASE 3.2 + 3.3: In the Planning stages
The next portions of the Keweenaw Point Trail will be as difficult to build as the first. However, we have a big headstart on our planning and hopefully the next two sections will be much quicker to execute. The next steps include crossing from Keystone Bay through Big Bay before reaching Fish Cove, then taking the trail north along the Montreal River corridor up to Mandan Road. Eventually it will bump back into East Bluff and our existing trails via a corridor that has yet to be identified fully. This partly depends on where the DNR and TNC allow us to build.
$500,000 is in committed to the overall Keweenaw Point Trail Phase 3 project: the Recreational Trails Program ($125,000), Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund ($297,000), and CHTC fundraising. This was the initial estimate for the trail's construction, but as of September 2023 we had used about 2/3 of it on the first ~5 miles alone. The rest is up to our fundraising efforts to keep in motion!
With the substantial amount of unforeseen work it's taken to get the project to where it is currently, it is likely the remaining part of the Keweenaw Point Trail will come in over-budget. We need your help to cover these extra costs so the project will come to fruition eventually! Please donate today!