The Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary
The Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary is a short drive from downtown Copper Harbor, up a road that can be rough at times but not so rough that you’d need four wheel drive.
I’d heard it’s a “must see” and, though we were ready to drive back to Iron Mountain after a few days in the Keweenaw, and my infant daughter was getting cranky, I really wanted to see the pines. And I’m glad we did! But the little side jaunt wasn’t without its hiccups.
First of all, the mosquitos were bad. Worse than normal. Worse than “bad for the U.P.” bad. We’d sprayed ourselves down with standard issue bug spray (30% Deet) before venturing into the woods, and next time I visit I’m bringing the thunder! (ie. 100% Deet) I’ll also be wearing long sleeves and a hat.
Because the bugs were out, my wife and I decided to strap our daughter in the stroller (because it has a bug screen). That idea turned out to be less than stellar.
As we pointed the stroller toward the trailhead and readied ourselves to see some giant pines, one of the first things we saw was a boardwalk over a marshy area. “Great!,” we thought. “This should be a piece of cake hike with the stroller.”
Not so much. About halfway in we realized this is not a stroller friendly trail. We should have done a little more research (or inquired at the visitors center right in town) before just assuming we could push that thing through the woods.
But being that we’re both fairly stubborn and had come that far, we decided to stick it out. After all, we bought this stroller for “off-roading” and wanted to put it to the test. (My wife would later curse our stubbornness while navigating said stroller through ankle deep mud to skirt between a two-ton boulder and a dead-fall pine.)
You’ve got the option to take a couple different loops, the Cathedral Loop or the Memorial loop. And then there’s the “Fallen Giant” trail which is a very cool sounding, offshoot. The sign for the Fallen Giant Trail says: “This unmaintained trail crosses a swamp and a river. Recommended only for experienced hikers with proper gear.”
Sounds cool, right?
The well-marked (and well worn) trails helped us stay on the right path and out of the news. (“Hikers lost in the Keweenaw,” anyone?)
I’d be lying if I said our enjoyment wasn’t dampened a bit by our lack of preparation and planning for this little hike, but I’m definitely still glad we did it and those ancient pines, though scattered throughout the forest, are truly something to behold. “The last stand of virgin pines in Michigan,” is what I’ve heard this area called.
But it’s not just the pines in the spotlight here; because all of this is virgin forest many other trees have had the chance to reach that “larger than life” status, too. All things considered, I’m going to name this one of my “must see” places in the U.P. and will definitely be back for another visit!
Bottom Line: I would absolutely recommend that you check out Estivant Pines. I would also recommend that you bring strong bug spray, and don’t even think about bringing a stroller.
Time Required: 45 minutes to 2 hours.
How to Get There: At the Copper Harbor Visitors Center on US-41, turn right and drive three miles, following the signs to Estivant Pines. The road is a little rough, so I’d recommend not trying to take your Harley up there.
To see the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary’s location on my map of the Upper Peninsula, click here.
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