Next Exit // Episode 3 Copper Harbor, Michigan
Copper Harbor is the northernmost town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and might be considered the definition of “Off the beaten path.” However, to its population of barely over 100 year-round residents, that’s just one of the many factors they love about it, along with the tight-knit community, backdoor access to adventure and seriously stunning views of Lake Superior.
The mining and logging industries brought a decent crowd to the area throughout the 19th century, but once the resources fell off so did the population. What remained though were the logging roads and mining tracks, scars from the resource extraction that would eventually sprout area’s first singletrack. Back in the day, a crew of hardcore locals would embark on color tours, grueling rides (on fully rigid bikes) that connected old double tracks throughout the Peninsula, often 70 or 80 miles.
With that, the spark of mountain biking had ignited in Copper Harbor, and with the help of the Keewenaw Adventure Company and funding for paid trail building, it has become one of the area’s driving forces. Today, there’s over 35 miles of singletrack, making the most of the 500-vertical feet available, and the network has been ranked as one of IMBA’s Silver Level Ride Centers. All of this is proof that a passionate community can create an amazing riding experience with hard work and dedication—no matter how far off the path it may be.
Next Exit is a series dedicated to exploring communities around North America that have embraced the mountain bike lifestyle. Small towns are dreaming big when it comes to the issues that surround our sport, from tourism to advocacy to land management. Their efforts are redefining what a mountain town can be, keeping our culture—and trails—alive and well.