Michigan Trail Tuesday: Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, Copper Harbor
Michigan Trail Tuesdays is a new feature that will showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.
The Michigan Nature Association’s Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in Copper Harbor features a rare collection of virgin eastern white pine, with some trees towering well over 100 feet tall and dating back 500 years. Two intersecting loop trails wind through these majestic trees, providing great hiking in a quiet atmosphere. In addition to numerous stands of virgin trees, the sanctuary is also home to a variety of wildflowers and birds.
The MNA notes that the “Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary was originally part of a 2,400-acre tract of land owned by Edward Estivant of Paris, who sold it to Calumet and Hecla Mining Company in 1947. The tract was sold to Universal Oil in 1968, and the area was threatened when Universal Oil cut down 300 acres of forest nearby and began plans for future logging. MNA led a three-year statewide fundraising campaign to purchase 200 acres of Estivant Pines from Universal Oil in 1973. Concerned citizens from the “Save The Pines” committee helped in the fundraising that led to this initial acquisition. Three additional acquisitions occurring between 1989 and 2005 have expanded the 510 acre sanctuary.”
We visited Estivant Pines in June 2016, and hiked roughly two miles of the trails. Starting from the parking lot, the trail heads into the woods for a little bit before presenting a split. The Memorial Grove Trail is 1.2 miles long and the Cathedral Grove Trail is one mile long. Together the trails form an “8.” Based on advice from Eric Hansen’s Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula book we stayed to the outside at every junction, hiking about half of each loop. Another option is to hike both loops for a total of 2.5 miles. Trail maps can be found online (https://www.gobigsmile.com) or at the trailhead. The Cathedral Grove Trail has the oldest and largest pine trees, while the Memorial Grove Trail has younger pines as well as large red oak and yellow birch trees.
The trail is well-worn and easy to follow, with some moderately taxing sections with elevation changes. It is also important to watch for protruding rocks and roots, and to remember that in wet conditions a visit could prove much more challenging. Plan ahead for the presence of bugs in summer months. A side trail that is marked as the “Fallen Giant Trail” leads to a large pine near the Montreal River but requires a swampy hike, which is why “this unmaintained trail crosses a swamp and a river. Recommended only for experienced hikers with proper gear.”
To reach the Estivant Pine Nature Sanctuary from Copper Harbor, turn south on Manganese Rd. and follow it for about 2.5 miles and a fork. At this fork, turn right on Burma Rd. (the ‘straight’ option at the fork is Clark Mine Rd.) and follow it a little more than a half mile to the parking area. There will be several signs pointing the way. On the way out of town you’ll pass Manganese Falls, a 45 foot tall waterfall in a gorge – this is an easy stop and one we definitely recommend! Check out our full guide of Things to See and Do in Copper Harbor for more ideas. There are some mine ruins if you continue down Clark Mine Rd. from the fork, including the smokestack pictured below.