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Trail Safety & Etiquette

Learn the rules of the trail!

Group at Flying SquirrelThe trails that make up the Copper Harbor Trail system are open for all human-powered trail users.  If you can get yourself around using your own two feet (or hands!), you are welcome to recreate on our trails.  That includes hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners in the summertime, and snowshoers, backcountry skiers, and occasionally even fat bikers in the winter.  We don't allow horses or motorized vehicles of any type to keep our trails intact and our users safe.  In an effort to keep our trails open for as many people in our community as possible, we ask that you follow these simple rules to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time when visiting Copper Harbor.

  1. Mountain bikers yield to hikers.  Just because our trails are world-reknown for how awesome they are to mountain bike on does not mean that they are only open for biking.  Hikers are allowed on all two-way trails, including Stairway to Heaven, Garden Brook, Red Trail, and more.  It is the biker's responsibility to give the hiker safe passage on our trails.  Don't like having to slow down or stop when there is a hiker in your path?  Try our dedicated biking-only downhill trails: Danimal, Downtown, Flying Squirrel, and Overflow are all one-way trails that are closed to hikers.  
  2. Ride in control and within your ability.  If you are riding too fast for trail conditions, the capability of your bike, or beyond your skills, you are putting yourself and others in danger.  Many of our trails are two-way, meaning someone could be climbing uphill around that blind corner just as you are bombing down.  Stay in control at all times and be ready to stop at a moment's notice.  If you encounter an obstacle or trail that is over your ability, please dismount and walk your bike.  There is no shame in walking away in one piece when the alternative could be severe injury.
  3. Uphill traffic has the right-of-way.  Except for our dedicated downhill trails, all of our trails are open for both climbing and descending.  Uphill traffic always has the right-of-way.  It is much easier to get back up to speed if you have to stop while going downhill.  Don't force a group of climbers off the trail just because you want to cruise through a berm or sweet line.  Come to a stop, give the uphill rider space to keep riding, and carry on when the coast is clear.
  4. Respect wildlife.  Copper Harbor is surrounded by seemingly endless forests that are home to all sorts of wildlife.  These animals often use our trails and live in the habitats adjacent to them.  Please do not disturb any wild animals you see in the area, and be patient with those that you may find in your path.  We are in their home and have the power to lessen our impact so that they may live in peace.
  5. Keep your dog leashed.  Dogs are welcome on our trails if they are leashed.  Even a friendly dog can pose a hazard or annoy others along the trail, particularly if they are not close and in control.  Wildlife especially does not appreciate being chased by unleashed dogs.  
  6. No E-Bikes.  Our trails cross land owned by several different jurisdictions, from Grant Township, Keweenaw County, the Michigan DNR, private landowners, local businesses, and conservancies.  Not all of our landowners allow E-bikes on their property.  Additionally, some trails were built with grant money from programs that specifically forbade the use of any motorized vehicle, including E-bikes. Rather than have a trail-by-trail policy, we have a blanket ban on E-bikes across our system.  This applies to all makes, models, class, and style of E-bike.  No exceptions.  Don't be that person who ruins it for everyone by causing a critical landowner to close our trails.  Earn your turns or take a shuttle to the top.
  7. Heed trail closure notices.  If a trail is marked as closed, it is probably for your own safety.  A bridge may be out or crews could be working to repair or build a new section of trail.  We aren't kidding: bears often close Dancing Bear at peak berry season.  For your safety and that of others, steer clear of all closed trails and return to ride another day.
  8. Plan ahead for anything.  Before you head out for a ride or hike, be sure to check the weather forecast.  Storms can roll in quickly off of the lake with little warning.  Always prepare a few essentials in a pack before heading out, including raingear, snacks, water, insect repellant, sunscreen, a map, and spare tubes in case of a flat.  Don't rely on your cell phone in case you get into trouble; Copper Harbor is notorious for its terrible cell reception.  Instead, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  9. Obey the rules of the road.  Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on public roadways in Michigan.  However, you must obey the rules of the road to keep yourself and others safe.  All bikers must ride reasonably close to the righthand shoulder at no more than two abreast.  Do not hog the lane, block traffic at the end of the trail, or ride on the wrong side of the road.  You must use lights on your bike if you ride after dark so that others may see you.  Additional laws and explanations can be found by visiting Michigan Bicycling Law.
  10. Be respectful.  Our trails share a busy area with many other recreational users flocking to Copper Harbor's natural splendor.  From ORVs to campers to motorcyclists to paddlers and everyone in between, everyone wants a piece of this charming paradise.  Believe it or not, there are also a handful of people that live in Copper Harbor year-round!  It is important that our trail users put their best foot forward when interacting with the community.  Don't ride across lawns, litter, drink and ride, or any other deleterious activities.  All it takes is that one proverbial 'bad apple' to make all mountain bikers look disrespectful.  

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