Brockway Mountain Scenic Drive ambles uphill from the coast of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, winds through a tunnel of trees and arrives at the top of West Bluff with a view that trumpets "Tah-daaah!"
A lush forest of green, and the blue glimmer of an inland lake, undulate toward the grand backdrop of Lake Superior. It's a clear day, and my mom, Lyn, and I can make out the outline of Isle Royale where it hovers near the horizon, about 50 miles away.
The 10-mile scenic drive, built in the 1930s, snakes along Brockway Mountain's spine, sometimes lined with Works Progress Administration rock walls and dotted with flowers such as orange hawkweed and daisies. While the glimpse of Isle Royale greets drivers on its western end, a postcard view of the village of Copper Harbor and its lighthouse meets those traveling east.
Between the two vistas, frequent pullouts beckon to picnickers, hikers and romantics, with bird's-eye views that beg them to stay a while and explore trails through the 400-acre Brockway Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Keweenaw's curved tip — the northernmost point of Michigan's Upper Peninsula — juts 60 miles into Lake Superior and is a shorter drive from Minnesota and Wisconsin than from much of its own state. It's about five hours from Duluth or Green Bay, Wis., versus six hours from Mackinaw City in Michigan's lower half.
The remote location buffers it from summer crowds and preserves its wild, outdoorsy nature loved by adventurers, paddlers, mountain bikers and campers. With Copper Harbor's population at just over 100 residents, finding a quiet place on the shore or in the woods can be far easier than snagging a cell signal.
Woodsy trails and sandy beaches, artsy galleries and gift shops, and tours through Fort Wilkins Historic State Park offer daytime diversions.
As evening approaches, folks stroll out to Hunter's Point, which juts into the lake near Copper Harbor, or they can head out onto a guided sunset paddling tour.
"It's my favorite time to be out there," said Sam Raymond, proprietor of Keweenaw Adventure Co. "You might think you're on the Pacific with how the sun drops into the lake."
My mom and I opt for another trip up Brockway Mountain to watch the evening spectacle before a leisurely late dinner. Out-of-towners and locals alike gather to watch the sun as it slowly casts a golden glow that ripples across the Great Lake, fills the harbor and gilds the mountain.
Things to do
Native Americans were mining the peninsula's copper long before Europeans took over and built a fort on the northern tip of the peninsula. Visitors can wander through the buildings of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, which has interactive exhibits on all aspects of 1844 fort life. Costumed interpreters help tell those stories from mid-June through mid-August. The park's two campgrounds include 179 campsites along Lake Fanny Hooe (1-906-289-4215; michigan.gov).
Copper Harbor's 15 miles of single-track mountain bike trails follow valleys and ridgelines, streams and inland lakes, and cedar-planked bridges and boardwalks connecting trailheads in town and at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, about 550 feet above lake level. The International Mountain Biking Association designates Copper Harbor a silver-level ride center (copperharbortrails.org).
Copper ornaments, agates and jars of locally harvested thimbleberry jam rank among the favorite souvenirs in several galleries and gift shops near the shore (copperharbor.org).
Take a paddling, mountain bike or hiking eco-tour with Keweenaw Adventure Co. in Copper Harbor (1-906-289-4303; keweenawadventure.com).
The Isle Royale Queen IV transports passengers between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale National Park for day trips or longer stays. The ride takes at least three hours each way. The boat also offers sunset tours from Copper Harbor (1-906-289-4437; isleroyale.com).
Hikers can follow trails through 100-foot-tall, 200-year-old virgin white pines and look for seasonal orchids at the 510-acre Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, 2½ miles south of Copper Harbor (1-866-223-2231; michigannature.org).
Where to eat
Harbor Haus serves Copper Harbor's most sumptuous dinners, with coveted tables facing Lake Superior. Look for griddle-seared or plank-style whitefish on a menu that changes weekly, but usually includes fresh seafood and a few German-Austrian entrees such as jaegerschnitzel. Keweenaw berries inspire seasonal desserts, but the signature Belgian chocolate soufflé is a perfect excuse to linger. The restaurant also rents out the Crow's Nest, an elevated, panoramic bed-and-breakfast suite with a balcony and stellar lake views (1-906-289-4502; harborhaus.com).
Jamsen's Fish Market and Bakery sells Lake Superior fresh and smoked fish, fresh breads or flatbreads, savory scones and Finnish custard, plus baked goods with local wild berries such as doughnuts with thimbleberry frosting, bilberry turnovers and blueberry muffins (1-906-289-4000; jamsen.biz).
Where to sleep
Tucked into the woods off Hwy. 41, the 1934 Keweenaw Mountain Lodge (a Works Progress Administration project) offers rooms and simple cabins near a golf course and trails, along with meals of whitefish and steak at the historic lodge (1-906-289-4403; atthelodge.com).
Copper Harbor: copperharbor.org.
Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau: 1-800-338-7982; keweenaw.info.
Lisa Meyers McClintick (lisamcclintick.com) wrote "Day Trips From the Twin Cities" and the ninth edition of "The Dakotas Off the Beaten Path."