There are a handful of places on the Keweenaw Peninsula where the dense forest simply overtakes a road, creating a tunnel made of trees. It’s a surprisingly captivating sight, and it’s one you can find quite easily with a short drive out of Hancock/Houghton, Michigan. As a bonus, the Covered Road to Freda leads you out to a tiny community that once served the area’s mining operations.
From Houghton, Michigan, take M-26 south. As you leave the downtown area, turn right onto P-554, Houghton Canal Road, which as the name suggests runs alongside Portage Lake/Keweenaw Waterway. After 2 miles, turn left onto A-63, Coles Creek Road. There should be a sign that says “Covered Road 2.5 Miles” at this intersection. Follow this road through the Covered Road portion, then keep going to Redridge and Freda.
If, like me, you’re heading out of town, off the Keweenaw Peninsula, and westbound to the Porcupine Mountains, from Freda you can take Freda Crosscut Road, a fairly decent dirt road down to Misery Bay Road. From there, it’s a short drive east to M-26 at Toivola.
Should you decide to take the unnecessary detour to Agate Beach Park (described below), head west on Misery Bay Road, then follow the signs to Agate Beach.
As Day Seven of my trip began, I was leaving the Keweenaw Peninsula behind, and heading west, before making the long drive back to Milwaukee on Day Eight. My first goal of the day was to see the Covered Road to Freda, Michigan.
Covered Road to Freda
This small road through the countryside west of Houghton is dirt, but it’s in great shape. It’s narrow enough that you’ll probably want to slow down a bit when passing oncoming traffic. That narrowness also helps the trees practically cover the entire road.
My visit took place at the end of the first week of October. As you can see, there was some fall color on the leaves near the tops of some of the trees. It was mostly yellow, giving the light that filtered down to the road a wonderful glow. However, I’m willing to bet that the fall colors on the Covered Road to Freda would be even better, perhaps one week later, towards the middle of October.
You’ll find numerous places to stop along the road and enjoy the tunnel of trees on the Covered Road to Freda. The covered portion of the road lasts for a couple of miles, I’d estimate.
At the end of the road in Freda, there are just a couple of blocks of homes. I’ve read that the town’s one business, the Superior View Restaurant, closed in 2006. The town used to have railroad service and a popular park, which made it a draw for tourists. But that’s all been gone for quite some time now.
Next to the old restaurant, you’ll find a small memorial to local veterans. Just beyond it…
… you have a view of the ruins of the Champion Mill. There were five stamps in operation here, which crushed rock from nearby mines in order to extract the copper ore. Some walls and concrete foundations, and a towering smokestack are all that remains. As far as I could tell, there’s no way to get any closer — the road that appears to go down to the ruins is gated.
Freda Cross Cut Road
As I left Freda, I didn’t want to backtrack all the way to Houghton, and my GPS convinced me that there was another alternative. At first, this advice was pretty good — I ended up on Freda Cross Cut Road, which took me directly south out of Freda towards, well, nothing really. But it would have fairly easily have connected me back to M-26, had I known where I was going. Cross Cut Road was dirt, but it was in pretty good condition (aside from some big puddles, like this one, that provided nice reflections of the fall colors).
Once I reached Misery Bay Road, I should have turned left. I would have been on M-26 in a matter of minutes, and the drive on to the Porcupine Wilderness would have been an easy one. Instead, my GPS was convinced that I should turn right, and head out to Misery Bay, then down another dirt road. Since I didn’t know exactly where I was, I played along for a while, and went where the machine told me to go. I even got to add-on a brief detour to an interesting-sounding place…
I don’t know if I’d know an Agate if I saw one. But, I was more than happy to get a chance to walk on a lonely beach. So, I stopped for a few minutes at Agate Beach.
This beach was covered with smooth pebbles and rocks of every shape and color, all perfectly polished by the churning surf. They were only slightly less perfect than the ones I had seen several days earlier at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. But there, I wasn’t allowed to take any. Here, I was, and I did. I can complain all I want about my useless, GPS-led detour, but at least I got a souvenir out of it.
So my GPS continued to insist that I take another dirt road, to continue south and west towards Ontonagon and the Porcupine Mountains. It put me on Camp 18 Road which later became “Snowmobile Logging Road”. I think that name makes it pretty clear that it wasn’t a very good road, for I had neither a snowmobile nor a logging truck. The road became progressively narrower and bumpier until it stopped resembling a road at all. I actually had to drive in reverse about a tenth of a mile to get to a place wide enough to turn around, and then I had to backtrack, all the way back to Misery Bay, past the turnoff to Agate Beach, and past the end of Cross Cut Road. It was only then that I discovered that M-26 was just a short hop away. Beautiful, paved, smooth, two-lane M-26. Seriously, Garmin, you thought I’d prefer “Snowmobile Logging Road”???
There’s not along this stretch of M-26, aside from some beautiful fall colors, and the unpleasant-sounding Mosquito Inn. M-26 leads to M-38, which leads to Ontonagon and M-64, which leads to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Fortunately, I didn’t waste too much time driving down undrivable roads, and I still had plenty of time for some hiking before the day was done.
Here’s a look at the drive from Houghton to Freda, via the Covered Road…
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… and from Freda to Agate Beach…
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… and Agate Beach to the Porcupine Mountains:
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I highly recommend driving the Covered Road to Freda, especially if you can time your visit to coincide with the best Autumn colors. My best guess is that the fall colors peak around mid-October. Freda itself is interesting but only requires a brief stop. If you decide to venture out onto any dirt roads, make sure you know where you’re going, and don’t trust your GPS entirely.