Don’t Overlook Copper Harbor, MI: Plan an Epic Outdoor Family Vacation

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So, you’re looking for that next family vacation idea? Copper Harbor, MI is one vacation destination you should not overlook. Ideal for families with active teens and pre-teens, Copper Harbor offers an epic outdoor adventure family vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We brought our kids on a road trip and spent 6 wonderful days in Copper Harbor.

We discovered a friendly, quaint town set on the pristine shores of Lake Superior with world-class bike trails, hiking, gorgeous roadside parks, paddling in jaw-dropping beauty, and so much more. There are so many things to do in Copper Harbor, MI. It’s a spot like none other and we can’t wait to return. Bring the kids. You’re going to love it.

Things to do in Copper Harbor, MI

Things to Do in Copper Harbor, MI

Explore the Coast

Rocky beaches abound in Copper Harbor and so do the easily accessible roadside parks where you can enjoy them. You’ll want to spend some time soaking in the view and examining the extremely unique rocks along the shore. You’ll find agates with a variety of minerals and crystals trapped in volcanic basalt and other rocks.

We even purchased a small rock and mineral book at Grandpa’s Barn bookshop in town to help us learn what we were looking at.

These parks are all west of Copper Harbor and a very short drive from the town.

Copper Harbor, Lake Superior

Hunter’s Point Park

F4F5+WP, Copper Harbor, MI 49918

The red rocks that make up the beach at Hunter’s Point Park are stunning, and the power of Lake Superior is shocking on a windy day as the lake slams the huge conglomerate rock formations on the shore. On a warm day when the lake is calm, this would be a nice place to go for a little swim.

Devil’s Washtub in Copper Harbor

Devil’s Washtub is a rock formation on the coast of Lake Superior that looks remarkably like a giant bathtub at the bottom of a rocky cliff. It’s a short walk from the road to the washtub, along a large rock face. Devil’s Washtub is not a marked trail and it’s located on private property. The property owners have posted a sign that identifies the property as private and reminds guests to be responsible.

Devil's Washtub in Copper Harbor, MI
Where is Devil’s Washtub in Copper Harbor?

You’ll find the unmarked trail to Devil’s Washtub across from Dapple Gray B&B and Antiques.
13640 M-26, Eagle Harbor Twp, Michigan 49950

There is room on the shoulder to pull off the road and park. You’ll see several little trails. The trail closest to Copper Harbor will take you out to Devil’s Washtub, you’ll see the sign from the property owners reminding guests to be responsible. The other trails will take you to several other little rock formations and down to some pretty little rocky beach coves.

Hebard Wayside Park

F2HX+GR Eagle River, Michigan

Hebard Wayside Park has picnic and restrooms, located across the street, a rocky beach, and several rock outcroppings to explore. This is another place to examine some gorgeous rocks and enjoy the vast views of Lake Superior.

Esrey Park- Eagle Harbor

FW9V+F8 Mohawk, Allouez Township, MI

We visited Esrey Park on our last day in Copper Harbor. There are picnic facilities, a restroom, and another rocky beach. I liked the little trail walk along the rock ridge here, lots of places to see the beautiful lake views.

Biking Copper Harbor

The mountain bike trails in Copper Harbor are world-class. People come from all over for these trails. My husband and a couple of my kids had an amazing time biking. And, there are trails available for everyone.

Now for my biggest ever mom tip: If you haven’t been on a bike in more than a decade, do not let anyone convince you to come with them on an “intermediate” rated bike trail in Copper Harbor. There were tears and they weren’t from my kids, ok? Seriously, it was dumb and I’m lucky I didn’t get seriously hurt. The trails in Copper Harbor are hard (remember, world-class). My husband said the intermediate trail we tried was as hard as any black diamond he ever did at home.

Biking in Copper Harbor, MI

There are, however, nice easy gravel trails and comparatively flat-ish dirt trails toward Fanny Hooe and the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park area that I did truly enjoy. So, as much as we love to do things together on family road trips, this is one area where I’d recommend splitting up as ability allows.

Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor rents excellent mountain bikes, so if you don’t have the ability to cart your own gear up there, they are an excellent option. Rentals are offered for 2 hours, 5 hours or all day. The fee depends on the type of bike you want to rent, but they start around $40 and go up from there.

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is the least visited national park in the lower 48 states. It’s an island and you’ll need to cross Lake Superior to get it. There are a few towns with boat and plane companies that offer to transportation to the island and one of them Isle Royale Queen IV is based on Copper Harbor.

Roundtrip fare on the Isle Royale Queen IV is $160 for adults and $115 for kids 15 and under.

Isle Royale Queen IV

The trip over will take about 3 1/2 hours. Many people camp or stay in the lodge on the island. Others choose to do a day trip from Copper Harbor while they are in the area. If you choose the day trip option you’ll have a 3 1/2 boat ride across Superior, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours on the island, and a 3 1/2 hour boat ride back. It’s enough time for a hike along beautiful trails with gorgeous coast views and opportunities to relax on the shore. You may even catch a glimpse of a moose!

Hiking in Isle Royale National Park

On the boat ride you’ll get to view both the coast of Copper Harbor, including the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, and the coast of Isle Royale. In the middle, there’s a lot of water. The boat has comfortable seating and tables and sells coffee and snacks. Plus, you can bring whatever lunch or other food you’d like. There are restrooms on board.

An Isle Royale day trip is a long day, but worth it in my opinion. Not too many people can say they’ve visited Isle Royale National Park and the views are magnificent.

Don’t forget the bug spray!

Paddling: Kayaks and SUPs

We brought our inflatable stand-up paddle boards from home and we enjoyed paddling on an inland lake, Lac La Belle, as well as along the coast of Lake Superior. But, if you don’t have your own boards or kayaks, you can also rent stand-up paddle boards from Keweenaw Adventure, as well as kayaks. They’ll even deliver them to the inland lake of your choice.

Lake Fanny Hooe is right in Copper Harbor, and there are a couple of other options nearby, too. These lakes are generally smooth and warmer than Lake Superior. They are often a much safer paddle than Superior offers.

If you want to paddle on Lake Superior though, you’ll need to bring your own equipment or join a guided tour that provides equipment. Rentals are for inland lakes only.

While paddling Lake Superior is extremely beautiful, the water is very cold and the wind and waves can change very rapidly. Hypothermia can be a real threat and paddlers should proceed with caution and only attempt a paddle on Superior when conditions are favorable and have contingency plans in place if conditions change.

For example, we drove the coastal road prior to our paddle and noted several places we could bail and get off the water. Then, I paddled our route with my older kids and my husband stayed behind. When he went out with our youngest, we planned for me to pick them up at the end of their paddle, rather than having them return. I knew their route and could follow them at several points on the coast in our van.

The water was 39 degrees, so, knowing the closest point to pick them up and keeping an eye on them was important.

Don’t forget life jackets and a waterproof whistle.

That said, we put in our boards at Hebard Park and paddled along the shore to Devil’s Washtub so we could paddle under the arch. It was stunningly beautiful.


The town of Copper Harbor is not large, but there are a few very nice shops you should check out while you’re in the area. Here are two of my favorites!

Grandpa’s Barn

This bookshop has a wide selection of books on the area, as well as popular fiction and non-fiction for adults and kids. We picked up a book on agates and other rocks and minerals here, as well as a few other things to read on our trip. You’ll find this little gem in the barn behind the schoolhouse. The barn once belonged to the owner’s grandfather, hence the name.

Laughing Loon

The Laughing Loon has lots of unique gifts and products from local artisans, plus books, puzzles, plus a wide selection of t-shirts and the typical gift shop fare.

Where to Eat: Restaurants and Groceries in Copper Harbor

There are a few restaurants to fuel your adventure, and one grocery store in Copper Harbor. There are a number of places where you can scroll through a list of Copper Harbor restaurants, but here are the places we visited and enjoyed.

Jamsen’s Coffee and Bakery

On the dock in Copper Harbor is Jamsen’s Coffee and Bakery. It is the spot to be for your morning coffee, with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs facing the water. You can order coffee, plus donuts, pastries, muffins, and breakfast sandwiches.

Note: This used to also be a fish market. They no longer sell fish, but you’ll see that name pop up on maps and Google. Don’t let that confuse you.

Jamsen's Bakery and Coffee in Copper Harbor, MI

The Genny: Gas-Lite General Store

The Genny is Copper Harbor’s only grocery store. It’s well stocked with both staples and local goods. We picked up a few things for dinner here, got snacks for hikes and bike rides, and picked up some local beer. It’s a cute shop with friendly, funny staff. Prices were comparable to grocery stores elsewhere in the UP. So while you may want to pick up supplies are your way into town, you can definitely get anything you forgot and a whole lot more here at the Genny.

Brickside Brewery

Local beer and a food truck alongside the building serves yummy pizza, pitas, and pretzels is what you’ll find at Brickside Brewery. Super friendly people, and the food truck was a great option for lunch. The food was good, and we saved a little money over a regular restaurant because we didn’t need to tip a server.

Lake Effect Bar & Grill

Right across from the Keweenaw Adventure Company bike shop, Lake Effect has indoor and outdoor seating. After our bike ride experience, I declared a burger and a beer were next on the to-do list, Lake Effect Bar & Grill did not disappoint.

More in Copper Harbor

Does Copper Harbor offer more? Yeah, in the winter there’s downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The locals said the town does a good job keeping roads clear of snow and that winter is actually one of the most beautiful times to visit. I can’t comment personally on any of that, but I sure do hope we get to go one winter. Although, I haven’t cross-country skied in a couple of decades either. Let’s hope that goes better than the bikes. Fall colors would be stunning, too.

Lake Superior paddle board

Tips for Traveling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

  1. Keep your gas tank full. If you’re driving up through the UP to Copper Harbor, Michigan, your gas station options will spread out a little. The big-ish town in Copper Harbor is Houghton. Fill up there.
  2. Take your time, pull over when you see signs at bakeries with pasties. They are good, and a unique historically significant food for the copper country. Originally an area full of mines, the pasties could be kept in miners’ pockets, kept warm, and eaten at lunch.
  3. Bring bug spray. Good bug spray. Wear bug spray. The mosquitos were thick in June in the woods. They weren’t bad in town, but around our vacation rental and out on the trails, they were plentiful. Bug spray is good. Those burning bug-repellent sticks helped by the campfire at night, too. Don’t let this keep you from visiting Copper Harbor, I hate bugs, and even I think it was worth it!
  4. Ask. All the locals we met were eager to share their favorite spots on the Keweenaw Peninsula and recommendations.
  5. Don’t forget water shoes! The rocks are smooth but hard on your feet, and some of the inland lakes are a little muddy on the bottom.
  6. You will not have cell service in most places in Copper Harbor. Pro-tip is to use the wifi at Jamsen’s when you get your coffee to load directions to the park or the destination you plan to visit.

About the Author
Maria Bassett is a former school orchestra teacher, turned homeschool mom. She and her husband homeschool their 3 sons and 1 daughter, who range from 4th grade through 9th grade. Believing children learn best when they are engaged and having fun, this family loves to take their homeschool on the road, around Greenville and beyond.

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