Scenic Fall Color Drive - Black River Harbor Scenic Byway, Michigan 513
This fall color tour can be a loop if the traveler wants to end up in Wisconsin and head west along Lake Superior. Or, it could be the first leg of an extended color tour trip into the UP, proceeding to the Porkies and/or beyond into the Keweenaw Peninsula.
The map to the left shows the route to Black River Harbor as well as a number of other scenic spots you may want to include in your color tour. To get to Black River Harbor, we recommend traveling via US 2 through Ironwood to Bessemer, Michigan. As you approach Big Powderhorn Mtn Ski Area, look for the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway turnoff. If you miss this, catch Michigan 513 at the first stoplight in Bessemer.
Proceed north on the Scenic Byway to Black River Harbor. As you approach the harbor area, you'll see signage for trailhead parking for Conglomerate Falls. Further down the road, you'll see more signs for trailhead parking for the other waterfalls. We recommend you go directly to the harbor first to see the maps of hiking trails and waterfalls that are on the wall in the pavilion to plan your hikes and decide which falls you want to visit.
Black River Harbor Park
The park has several picnic tables, a pavilion, and a vending machine kiosk at the waterfront.
There is a suspension bridge that crosses river and leads to beach. There is also a trail that leads to other side of Rainbow Falls. While normally in the fall you'd expect the water levels in the river would be lower and the falls not as spectacular. But this particular fall was an exception as Rainbow Falls was outstanding.
Black River Camping and Hiking
There is a 40 unit campground at Black River Harbor and hiking trails and stairways to overlooks of all five waterfalls that lie within the boundaries of the park. The North Country Scenic Hiking Trail also passes through the park.
Along the Black River Scenic Byway on your way to Black River Harbor, you'll pass a sign advertising "Copper Peak Adventure Rides." The Copper Peak Ski Jump is reputed to be the tallest jump in the country. During Fall Color time people can ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and take the ride on the 24 story elevator to the top of the ski jump for terrific views of Lake Superior and the surrounding countryside. It wasn't open the day we were there, but these pictures will give you some idea of what the ride will be and what you might see.
The posted hours from Sept 1st to Mid-October are:
Wednesday-Friday, 12;30 pm-4:30 pm
Saturday-Sunday, 10 am-4:30 pm
Scenic Drive from BR Harbor to Little Girls Point on Lake Superior
The road from Black River Harbor west to Little Girls Point goes through a mature oak and maple forest that provides some outstanding color. To take this route, return south on the byway for about 10 miles, passing the turn-off for Copper Peak Ski Jump. Look for the intersection with Airport Road; turn right (west) on Airport Road. Continue for 2-3 miles to the intersection with Michigan 505. Turn right (north) and follow 505 to Lake Superior which you'll see when you arrive at Little Girls Point.
Lots of maples and red oak along the road but not quite at the peak of fall foliage color the particular weekend this photo was taken.
Little Girls Point Campground.
The campground closes around October 1st so the pictures below show the picnic area and campsites vacant even though it was a beautiful fall day. Most campsites have lake views and electric service. Campground rates are quite reasonable. The park is managed by the Gogebic County Forestry and Parks Commission. Sites may be reserved by calling 906-932-1913 after May 3rd or 906-663-4687 before May 3rd. Little Girls Point is perhaps best known as having one of the best rock picking and agate hunting beaches in the Upper Peninsula. Little Girls Point Website.
Scenic Drive back to Wisconsin
Michigan 505 continues past Little Girls Point along the lake shore to Wisconsin. Waterfall seekers may want to visit Superior Falls at the power station on the Michigan side of the Montreal River. Once in Wisconsin, Highway 122 will take you back to US Highway 2. A few miles west is the intersection with Highway 169 offering a worthwhile color tour side trip through the quaint community of Gurney. Just south of Gurney is the road to Potato River County Park with two very impressive water falls. After stopping at Potato Falls, return to Highway 169 and proceed south and west until you get Copper Falls State Park near Mellen. Here are more waterfalls, hiking trails, and attractive fall scenery. From Copper Falls you can return, via Wisconsin Highway 13 to US Highway 2 near Ashland.
Scenic Drives further east in the Upper Peninsula
Instead of doing a loop from Black River Harbor to Little Girls Point and into Wisconsin, return to Bessemer and proceed east on US 2 to Wakefield Michigan where you take Michigan 519 to Presque Isle Park (with more waterfalls and hiking trails). From there you can take the South Boundary Road to visit several scenic overlooks in Porcupine Mountains State Park.
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