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Just go through Copper Harbor and follow the signs. Parking lot is gravel.



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Estivant Pines - Copper Harbor

I was first drawn to the Estivant Pines by stories of a legendary fallen giant pine, the former Michigan champion white pine. The Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary is a 377-acre stand of old growth Eastern White Pine, growing in a mixed hardwood forest. Comparisons have been made with other places in the upper peninsula, such as the Porcupine Mountains or the Huron Mountains. The major differences are that this place is a bit wilder, and these white pines are really old. Some are more than six hundred years old.

Etstivant Pines

As soon as you leave the parking area, you will enter a special place. There are no improvements here and the going can be rugged. Even people in good shape have found these trails to be a handful. The sanctuary is a beautiful place, and you may want to linger a while. Dress appropriately and take water with you. This is a wild spot with no facilities other than a privy. This is rugged terrain and leaving the trail is risky even for the experienced and well equipped. The trails often have roots protruding out of them. In several places there are rudimentary boardwalks for crossing wet areas. Those caveats noted, this is a beautiful wilderness full of silence with lush growth, and it is usually devoid of crowds. Then there is the forest itself which is not all pines. There are a lot of old hardwoods as well, with the stands of old growth pines scattered throughout.

A short distance in, a sign describes the loop options. The two main loops form a sort of figure rough 'eight'. Each loop is about a mile long and both the Cathedral Grove loop and the Memorial Grove loop leads to awesome stands of the ancient pines. There are several distinctive trees found in the sanctuary. Along the way is a pine with a hollow trunk and in another spot is a pair of pines known as the “Twins”. One can easily spend a lot of time in this forest. It is important to remember that there are no facilities inside the sanctuary. Bring water and energy bars, at a minimum, if you plan to spend time walking both loops. There are, after all, nearly 400 acres of pristine forest to explore.

Then there is the sign that announces the “Fallen Giant Trail”. It describes the trail as a swampy hike, recommended only for experienced hikers with proper gear; believe it. If you are looking for something “off the beaten path”, this is it. Hiking the side trail toward the “fallen giant” is worth it, just to see the cedar swamp that blocks the way. Hundreds and hundreds of fallen tree trunks are scattered in every direction. The one time I attempted to cross the swamp, the water was quite deep. I went forward moving from log to log. Balancing on the dead fall, the going was treacherous at best. There is no trail through the swamp, just trees, water, and underbrush. When I reached a point where there was nothing but swamp and fallen trees in every direction, I decided that going further alone and without proper preparation was foolish. It was discouraging, but the smart decision was to turn back. The “fallen giant” remains on my exploration list.