DISCLAIMER: This route potentially passes through an ATV only trail north of Calumet. Please ensure you are paying attention to posted signs when driving this route. Do not drive on any trails that are posted for ATV only.
The Seven Hour Plane Crash trail is easily one of the best overlanding trails in the midwest. If you haven’t heard of it before, here’s what it is and my personal experience driving the trail. It was initially posted on an overland bound forum by member GPG3. The Seven Hour Plane Crash Trail
The trail was meant to serve as an alternative to the TWAT for those who had 4×4/overlanding rigs. The trail starts in northern Wisconsin and travels through Copper Harbor, Michigan.
It covers a variety of terrain, including dirt, sand, rock, and a ton of puddles to splash through. The trails are easy enough for a stock rig with high clearance, but technical enough to keep those fully built rigs feeling satisfied. I went with my trail buddy Dovydas Sungaila this fall, and we had a blast. We didn’t need any recovery gear except for a tire repair kit that we did use.
One section of the trail was completely flooded out, so we ended up crossing some pretty deep water. The trail is split up into 4 phases; however, because of logging, the updated version is split up into 5 phases. Let’s jump into my experience driving the 7-hour plane crash trail.
On the first day on the trail, we covered phases one and three; this section was gorgeous in the fall. The roads and trees were all covered in burnt orange and yellow leaves. Everything was smooth sailing until we had a shocking turn. We rolled into a section that was pretty heavily flooded and came across our first and only river crossing.
The first rig that went in was a 2016 Toyota 4Runner, and it sunk in deep. My copilot and I were in shock because we did not expect it to be that deep. The water nearly went up to his windows midway through the crossing.
He didn’t go in with enough momentum and got stuck on a muddy ledge while still submerged. After a few seconds that felt like minutes, he managed to get out after coming to nearly a complete stop. Seeing him get out was a relief, but then it was my turn.
Giving the skinny pedal a good tap, I plunged my FJ into the muddy river, and after getting both wheels over the ledge my trail buddy got stuck on, we both rolled out of there with our adrenaline pumping. After that, the rest of the day was super quiet. We hit some rocky sections on the trail but nothing major. While still heading to our campsite, the sunset beat us, and we finally rolled into our campsite at Perch Lake around 6:30. We set up camp at spot number 5 for $14.
On day two, we covered phases 3 – 5, but I do not recommend doing this ever again. It was an extremely long day, and it would’ve taken us 13 hours of straight driving to complete the trail. During phases 3 and 4, we passed a lot of lakes, which was very refreshing.
My favorite campsite we found overlooked a beautiful meadow that had a fire ring and a little camping section. Although it was not far from the trail, it would’ve made an excellent campsite for the night. I have the waypoint locked in on Gaia maps.
About midway through the section of phase 4, there are markers on Gaia that say rocky road. We thought we were about to hit some mid-level bouldering sections, but no, this was the start of the bumpiest part of the trail. If you don’t have good suspension, hell, even if you do, the whole trail was quite rough. It made everyone’s neck a little stiff.
Driving into the town of Houghton was one of the highlights of the trip. There’s a very rocky decline that we were surprised to find as you enter the town, which is also marked on the map. We stopped briefly at a brewery and got some drinks and food and then went on our way.
The next section of the trail was again very bumpy at the beginning. We would’ve taken a break, but we were trying to finish the trail in only two days. We passed more lakes and scenic sections of the trail. At times I forgot we were in Michigan because some of the areas were just out of this world.
Now, this is an essential part of the trail that will help you avoid an hour or more of backtracking and put you in logging territory. At 47.41330, -88.01794, we turned left and took the main road to Copper Harbor, which is a 10-minute drive. If you stay on the trail, there is no way to get through to the end. Everything is closed and locked. Learn from our mistake that took us two hours of backtracking.
After you hit Copper Harbor phase 5 will commence, I had already gone on this section before, and it has lots of smooth dirt roads and some fun puddles to splash in. It won’t take you long before you reach the end of the trail and come to one of my favorite spots to camp. This place is pretty popular, so don’t think you’ll be alone at the campground, but it was an excellent opportunity to talk to new people and share our stories about trails traveled and rigs built.
Overall, the 7-hour plane crash trail was a win! I plan on doing it again next year with a larger group. Doing it again, I would split it up into a 3-4 day trip.