While many exceptional mountain bike trails are congregated in the western United States, some of the best trails may be closer to home than you think. Michigan mountain biking trails are rapidly gaining popularity, specifically the trails in the Keweenaw. Those who make the trip north quickly find out that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the “out west” of the Midwest.
Copper Harbor Trails
When talking about mountain biking in Michigan, the conversation usually starts with Copper Harbor. What once was predominantly a “gift-shop stop” at the northernmost point of the Keweenaw has now become a favorite outdoor tourism destination. The Copper Harbor Trail System provides over 37 miles of fun, gnarly, and scenic singletrack. This IMBA Silver Level Ride Center includes everything from downhill tracks, flow-style trails, old-school cross-country trails, and family-friendly options on the Back 9 trails at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. There’s something for everyone at Copper Harbor.
What to Expect:
The use of the Copper Harbor Trails is completely free. However, donations are welcome. An easy way to support the trails is to drop a donation in the trailhead donation pipe or contribute via PayPal.
Parking is available near the Grant Township Park along Manganese Road. A trail map, bike wash, and changing room are also located at Grant Park. You’ll also find parking at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge which has a bike wash station. Please be aware that some trail access has changed this year in Copper Harbor. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Copper Harbor Trails Club trails status page for important information before you visit.
Michigan Tech Trails and Recreational Forest
An hour south of Copper Harbor lies Houghton, the springboard for adventures in the Keweenaw. Houghton hosts the Michigan Tech Trails, which cater to a diversity of riding styles with jump lines, flow trails, technical singletrack, and family-style trails. The Michigan Tech Trails are curated on a modest slope of elevation which has been used to great effect to create challenging trails. The Tech Trails flow effortlessly into the Nara Trail System which can extend your riding experience by several miles and includes some scenic vantage points of the Pilgrim River.
What to Expect:
To ride at the Michigan Tech Trails, you will need to purchase a day pass. You can purchase a day pass online at mtu.universitytickets.com (tip: type Michigan Tech Trails Day Pass in the search bar to find the ticket type quickly) or get one at the trailhead through an honor system by depositing your money into the collection pipe and taking a day pass. Passes can also be purchased at the SDC Ticket Office, Downwind Sports, Cross Country Sports, or the Hancock Bike Shop.
The main trailhead is located off Sharon Ave. across from the Michigan Tech Football Field. The main trailhead features a detailed map, a bike maintenance station, and a porta-john. The Michigan Tech trails also have a trailhead on Mill Road or you can begin your ride from the Nara trailhead if you enjoy your climb first and descent for dessert.
Churning Rapids and Maasto Hiihto Trails
A short trip across the Portage Life Bridge and you will find yourself in Michigan’s northern-most city—Hancock. Hancock is home to the Churning Rapids and Maasto Hiihto trails. Best known for the groomed snow bike trails in winter, Churning Rapids offers an enchanting surround to the cross-country mountain bike trails. The system weaves its way around the Swedetown Creek Gorge as well as other natural features and showcases diverse vegetation throughout the year. The trail builders at Churning Rapids use the area’s elevation to great effect to create a few challenging climbs as well as rollicking descents. Maasto Hiihto features a diverse array of intermediate trails that are perfect for those looking for an enchanting afternoon ride with your family, friends, or dog (or all of the above!).
What to Expect:
Summer use of the Churning Rapids or Maasto Hiihto trails is free. However, there are donation pipes at the trailheads if you wish to contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the trails. You can enter the trail system by one of three trailheads, Christensen Road, Tomasi Road, or starting from the Four Seasons Chalet.
Swedetown Mountain Bike Trails
Conveniently located in Calumet, the Swedetown Trails are a great place to explore, whether as a warm-up to Copper Harbor or its own dedicated trip. With over 25 miles to choose from, these trails are fun, fast, and flowy. Starting from either the Swedetown Chalet or the trailhead positioned near the intersection of M-203 and North Cloverland Road, you can ride seamlessly from one end of the system and back again without retracing your path. Swedetown is one of the best navigable systems with great signage and trails that flow into one another. You never have to backtrack if you don’t want to. It highlights charming natural features and historic remnants such as flowing creeks, native flora, and old mining ruins that have been integrated as trail features.
What to Expect:
Swedetown summer trails are free to use. If you wish to donate to help maintain and improve the trails, there are donation pipes at each of the trailheads. The main trailhead is at the Swedetown Chalet where you can find a detailed map and restrooms. It is also a short trip to the heart of Calumet where you can find a great cup of coffee, food, and shopping. There is a second trailhead at the far end of the system along M-203 where you can start your ride on trails you may not have been able to reach before and explore new areas.
Sökē Trails at the Adventure Mine
The Sökē Trails (pronounced “So-key”) are one of the last true hidden gems of mountain biking in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Sökē is an abbreviation of “Southern Keweenaw” which is descriptive of where these trails are located near Greenland, MI. These trails combine traditional cross-country style on the climbs but with enduro-style downhills. Test your mettle on techy uphills followed by large rock rolls down or tight s-curves that flavor the more challenging trails. If you’re planning on participating in the Miner’s Revenge, the annual bike race held on the Sökē trails, or the Ride the Keweenaw event you will also get to experience riding your mountain bike through a mine! This opportunity is only offered for these events, but even if you ride on your own, you will still get to see lots of mining ruins during your ride.
What to Expect:
The Sökē Trails are just outside Greenland, MI located right next to the Adventure Mining Company. They are free to use. You will find a separate parking lot for trail users that includes a map of the trails. You can also stop by the Adventure Mining Company office for a map you can carry with you on your ride. For the latest trail updates, visit their Facebook page or website.
Mountain Bike Events in the Keweenaw Peninsula
Many of these systems also have an annual bike race associated with them to help raise funds for maintaining and improving the trails. Join us for some of the best mountain biking and experience the unique scene and experience of these events.
- Copper Harbor — Copper Harbor Trails Fest
- Churning Rapids/Maasto Hiito — Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival
- Swedetown Trails — Great Deer Chase Mountain Bike Race
- Sökē Trails — Miner’s Revenge
You might also consider a trip to the Upper Peninsula for Experience the Keweenaw that occurs each Memorial Day weekend. This unique event offers an opportunity to ride at all of the systems we mentioned with a group ride leader who can curate the ride to your group’s abilities and interests.
No matter what trails you decide to ride on your next trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula, they will for sure bring a smile to your face (and perhaps a few bugs in your teeth).
About the Author
Erin was born and raised in the pristine Keweenaw Peninsula. Her appreciation for the area grew after she moved away to the big city. She quickly realized she needed to live where the air and water are fresh. She’s now lucky to have found a job at SmartCreative where she can work on creative projects and live in one of the best outdoor communities.