Brockway Mountain Drive offers stunning picture-postcard views of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula and, on a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of the wild and remote Isle Royale National Park nearly 50 miles distant.
We last drove the road during an early September visit, just ahead of the fall color season in Michigan’s northernmost reaches, so we saw the beginnings of a kiss of autumn color as we traveled the road. I can only imagine how glorious these views must look at the height of fall color a week or so later into the season.
Brockway Mountain Drive is the highest scenic roadway between the Rockies and the Alleghenies, with its highest point hitting 1,328 feet above sea level (or 726 feet above Lake Superior’s surface).
The approximately 9-mile drive is just a short distance outside of Copper Harbor, the small town at the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, but it can seem miles away from anywhere when you’re atop the mountain.
While the numbers and the views are impressive, I’m always more fascinated by the difficult work and engineering that must have gone into what is one of northern Michigan’s legacies from the Great Depression in the 1930s.
With jobs in short supply during the dark days of the Depression, the government’s Works Project Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps created projects like Brockway Mountain Drive to provide employment for workers. Unemployment was particularly acute in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with massive job losses among the area’s copper miners. The value of the project went well beyond immediate employment as we continue to enjoy the workers’ efforts more than 70 years later.
The project employed up to 300 workers for wages of twenty-five cents per hour. Imagine those workers cutting a road along the steep cliff on the Keweenaw Fault!
Keep an eye out for vintage-1930s stone walls along the route and be sure to visit the Skytop Inn, a small gift shop atop the Brockway Mountain Summit originally established in 1934.
The road offers plenty of scenic turnouts to stop and enjoy the view, as well as places to walk and learn about the mountain’s rich ecosystem. Those visiting in early June can enjoy the peak season for many of Brockway Mountain’s more than 700 wildflower varieties, many unique to this particular area.
There is no electricity atop the mountain, making the trip a must-do for astronomy buffs seeking the unadulterated darkness of the night sky that’s ideal for stargazing or maybe even seeing the Northern Lights.
Brockway Mountain Drive opens in spring when the road is clear of the Keweenaw’s legendary accumulation of winter snow and closes to cars in late fall, when it becomes a snowmobile trail.
We’ve found the drive worth taking even on the haziest and windiest of days—and it can get plenty windy atop Brockway! The haze may give your photos more of a vintage Polaroid look, and feeling the strong winds may give you even more of an appreciation for those hard-working former miners who carved this pathway so long ago that we may enjoy some of Michigan’s most beautiful vistas today.
© Dominique King