How To Make The Most Of Your Hike in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Posted on June 30th, 2020

If you’ve never been hiking before you won’t find a better place to start than Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. As much as going on a hike gives you a chance to get back to basics, there is more to it than simply showing up at a trail with a new pair of walking shoes. A happy and successful hike requires a bit of planning and preparation, and below are hints and tips that can help you do just that.

There are plenty of trails that weave their way through the Keweenaw’s many preserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and other nature areas. Each one of them offers a unique, unforgettable experience. You can explore the forest, make your way along the shore of Lake Superior, or enjoy the exhilarating challenge and sweeping vistas of hiking up hills and ridges.

Hiking also is a fantastic way to enjoy a healthy dose of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine while connecting with family and friends in new ways. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how you can make the most of your hike in Copper Country.

Preliminary Considerations

With so many appealing hiking trails in the Keweenaw, you might be tempted to write names on pieces of paper, put them in a hat, and pull one out to decide which one to do. Or better yet, grab your copy of Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw from the Michigan Nature Association for in-depth descriptions of 27 incredible outdoor experiences. But before you head out, it’s good to put some consideration into your choice.

Consider your fitness level: If your level of physical fitness is relatively good or you exercise regularly, and the same can be said for others in your group, you can consider trails suitable for beginners or that have an intermediate level of difficulty. If your fitness level could do with some improvement, choose an easier trail. Local favorite Estivant Pines, just outside Copper Harbor, is suitable for all skill levels.  But if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging check out Bare Bluff near Bete Grise.

Consider the distance: Walking a trail that takes you along the lakeshore or through a forest is a completely different experience to walking on a tarred city street. It’s not always possible to maintain a brisk pace due to terrain and other factors. If you are new to hiking, start with shorter trails that you can do at a slower pace.

Consider the time of year: Most hiking trails in the Keweenaw are open throughout the year. If you become a serious hiker and visit in different seasons, you can see Mother Nature in all her splendor. However, for your first hike, consider which season would be most comfortable for you. Do you want long hours of sunshine, or shorter days and snowshoes? You should also consider if your hike will coincide with any of the other outdoor activities the area has to offer. If you want to go fishing, kayaking, or cycling, the seasons can affect this too.

Hiker rests at Bare Bluff

Tips For Packing

Packing too much stuff for a hike becomes uncomfortable quickly. Not taking enough can be dangerous. The following tips can help you aim for a happy balance between too much and too little.

Enough water: Water is an essential part of any hike. No matter how long or short the trail, you need to make sure your body stays hydrated. Packing ample drinking water should be a priority.

Suitable food: You probably won’t need more than a few snacks on a short trail, but if you are going to hike one of the longer trails in the Keweenaw, make sure you pack enough food for rest stops as well as for lunch. Consider taking dried fruit, bananas, trail mix, granola bars, and/or whole-grain rolls or tortillas.

Tools for navigation: Take several different navigation tools. Cell service in the Keweenaw can be spotty, so don’t rely on your phone to get you to the trailhead. Pack in a map of the area as well as a compass. It’s good to write down the directions to the trailhead in case your GPS or mapping app loses service connection.

A mini first-aid kit: Make sure you take a mini first-aid kit on your hikes. In addition to any medication you or your group members take regularly, include antiseptic ointment, medical tape, gauze pads, bandages, tweezers, and antihistamines.

A survival kit: It’s important to be prepared for any situation when hiking, so put together a small survival kit. It should include fire starters, a whistle, a flashlight, and a multi-purpose tool or Swiss Army knife.

Warm clothing and raingear: The weather at Lake Superior can change suddenly, so be sure to pack in warm clothing as well as waterproof rain gear. Inland temperates can be as much as 10-15 degrees warmer than coastal areas near Superior. 

Sun protection: Even though many of the trails in the Keweenaw will take you through shaded areas, you still need sun protection. In addition to sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection, take sunblock of SPF 15 or higher, as well as a hat with a wide brim.

Insect repellent: You’ll probably encounter mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, and various other insects while hiking. Make sure you apply insect repellent before you set out on your hike and be sure to reapply regularly. While the bug season varies each year, early June through mid-July tends to be its peak in the Keweenaw.  

A bag for trash: Leave nothing but your footprints and take nothing but photographs! Carry a bag for any trash you generate and keep it with you until you can dispose of it in a bin.

Toiletries: Despite your best intentions, you may find yourself in need of a bathroom break when you’re far from an actual bathroom. Make sure you are prepared by packing hand sanitizer, toilet paper, waste bags, or a small hand spade that you can use to dig a hole. Remember to bury human waste at least 100 feet from watercourses.

A comfortable backpack: Choose a comfortable backpack. Make sure it sits close to your body, and that it is higher rather than lower. It should be large enough to contain everything you need to take with you.

Hiking Clothing Tips

The best clothing for hiking offers comfort and protection. Fashion should not be your first consideration, although you can find some great items if you shop around.

Pants are important: When hiking in summer, wear light, long pants to protect yourself from insects and to prevent chafing. In winter, choose pants made of wicking fabric, and wear long underwear under them. Avoid wearing denim.

Backpacking boot benefits: If you’re looking at hiking regularly, buy a pair of good-quality backpacking boots with a solid sole. Look for boots made from split-grain or full-grain leather, if possible, and break them in before your first hike.

Now that you’re ready to go hiking, you can explore everything Copper Country has to offer safely and at your own pace.

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