Nature lovers come to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to explore natural wonders like the Keweenaw Raptor Migration, Yooperlites, waterfalls, and more.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into backpacking off the grid or strolling along the beach in front of your lakefront cabin, there is something for everyone on the U.P. Our own trips to the Keweenaw often include a combination of sipping wine on our deck overlooking Lake Superior with a mountain biking or sea kayaking trip.
These are some of our favorite activities for nature lovers.
Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a novice beginner, grab your binoculars (or borrow ours!) and enjoy a truly rare birding experience in the Keweenaw. Migrating birds use the Keweenaw as a bridge in their flight to Canada over Lake Superior. There is even an annual Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival that runs throughout the migration (end of April and going through mid-May). We. Love. Birds.
Keweenaw Raptor Migration
Birdwatching Brockway Mountain
Located just off the northernmost stretch of US-41, Brockway Mountain drive is only 10 miles long, but traveling it may take you up to an hour with all the pull-offs to take in the scenery of the surrounding shoreline, woodlands, and lakes. Upon reaching the windswept crest, 735 feet above Lake Superior, you’ll be perched at the top of the volcanic “spine” that forms the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor is a birding location of particular note, referred to as “Hawk Highway” for its spectacular raptor viewing. Ornithologists come here from all around for the annual Hawk Watch each spring from March 15 to June 15. Counters have recorded up to 15 different kinds of hawks, falcons, turkey vultures, owls, and even eagles passing in numbers upwards of 20,000.
There are several other amazing spots for bird watching in and around Copper Harbor, which is a really fun town to check out. Learn more about the Keweenaw’s spectacular bird migration and check out the entire Michigan Audubon’s Bird Sanctuary Network.
Walking and hiking
There is no limit to the nature walking, hiking, and backpacking you can do in the Keweenaw. You’ll find hiking trails along the Lake Superior shoreline and ones that lead up to high scenic overlooks showcasing the Keweenaw. You can head out for five minutes, five hours, or five days!
These are a couple of our must-visit spots:
Hike Estivant Pines
Despite the buzz of ATVs along the adjoining roads, a reverent hush pervades this boreal forest sanctuary. Home to the Keweenaw’s last stand of old-growth evergreens, Estivant Pines was rescued from logging by a determined group of conservationists in 1973.
You could easily spend 1-2 hours exploring here.
Estivant Pines Wilderness Nature Sanctuary: The 510-acre Estivant Pines is the largest tract of old-growth Eastern White Pines preserved in Michigan, and one of the state’s most popular sanctuaries. More than 85 bird species call this old-growth forest home, along with breathtaking wildflowers and ferns.
There are a couple of loop trails you can take separately at about one mile each, or combine them together for a two and a half mile hike. Learn more about the history of what you’ll see and how to get there from the Michigan Nature Association’s Estivant Pines Fact Sheet.
Beach/Swim Hunter’s Point
This rocky point serves as the western arm of the harbor that gives Copper Harbor its name. It’s also the name of one of the Keweenaw’s most popular and accessible hikes. Starting from the parking area off M-26, a trail sheltered by old-growth cedar leads over rolling terrain through the boreal forest, following 4,800 feet of the peninsula’s northernmost coastline.
You could easily spend 1-2 hours exploring here.
Hunter’s Point: This 9.4-acre spit of land that protects Copper Harbor from the storms of Lake Superior features a loop trail, pebbly beaches, and views of Lake Superior. You can even traverse the trail in winter on snowshoes or cross-country skis. People love coming here to observe natural history, birds, plants, animals, and its cool geology structure.
For the love of water
The U.P. is a water lover’s paradise! There is smooth water for the first-timers, white water for the more adventurous, and everything in between. With three Great Lakes (Huron, Michigan, and Superior), 4,000+ inland lakes, and 12,000 miles of rivers and streams, your possibilities are endless.
One of our favorite Keweenaw water adventures is sea kayaking on Lake Superior. We highly recommend checking out the Keweenaw Adventure Company during your visit. They offer everything from guided day trips and lessons to wilderness overnighters to Isle Royale.
Waterfalls of the Keweenaw Peninsula are a major attraction and we highly recommend you adding them to your sightseeing list. There are many, but these are some of our favorites to visit:
- Hungarian Falls is one of the most well-known waterfalls of the Keweenaw. There are six drops with the lowermost drop plunging 60 feet.
- Douglas Houghton Falls is well over a hundred feet with several plunges bouncing off the sharp, volcanic rock. It’s hard to reach and considered dangerous to explore, but well worth the effort.
- Montreal Falls is a rugged, beautiful cascade over volcanic rocks into Lake Superior with incredible views of the lake. You can even camp at the shore of the waterfall.
- Manganese Falls drops 100 feet down a steep gorge through rock walls and fallen boulders, which you can see from the viewing platform.
Beachcombing and rock picking
Beachcombing and agate/rock hunting is so popular on the Keweenaw’s Lake Superior beaches, multiple books have been written about it. We love this activity because we can stumble out from our cabin with our coffee cups in hand, or jump in the car to venture a little further.
Rugged coastlines with rocky shorelines are a great place for looking for Agates, Quartz, Datolite, Thompsonite, Copper, and of course, Yooperlites. You can spend hours combing the beaches for these beauties, which is an excellent way to explore and discover the diverse beaches around the peninsula.
If you’ve done any research on the Keweenaw, then you’ve likely heard of our famous Yooperlites, to which we attribute the recent craze in rockhounding on the U.P. Discovered in Michigan in 2018 and believed to be carried by glaciers from Canada, these syenite rocks are rich in fluorescent Sodalite and glow under UV light. Folks come from all around to find them, and you can even take a Yooperlite hunting tour!
Stay in touch
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the wonderful Keweenaw outdoor activities—we’ve barely scratched the surface with some of our favorites. We’re always happy to share more ideas and resources, so please reach out to us if you have any questions or if you’re looking for lodging. We love hosting and sharing our favorite parts of this magical place.
We hope to see you soon in the Keweenaw!