Looking for a great motorhoming destination? From Alaska to Virginia, here’s a look at the towns that grew up around the discovery of copper, a mineral that helped build America.
Copper Center, Alaska
Copper Center is located along the Richardson Highway, about 100 miles from Valdez and 10 miles south of Glennallen. The town is home to the headquarters of the largest U.S. national park, Wrangell-St. Elias.
The size of six Yellowstones, Wrangell-Elias National Park offers fishing, skiing, hiking and other opportunities to explore breathtaking Alaska scenery. The park contains the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. From 1911 to 1938, nearly $200 million worth of copper was processed there.
Founded in 1860 for its rich copper ore, Copperopolis grew rapidly to make and supply bullets during the Civil War. Mining operations continued through the two world wars. By the time the mines closed in 1946, Copperopolis had produced more than 72 million pounds of copper worth $12 million.
Today Copperopolis, located 51 miles from Modesto and two hours from San Francisco, is known for its lakes, ski resorts and wineries. From Copperopolis, visitors can take easy day trips to Yosemite National Park, Big Trees State Park and Stanislaus National Forest.
Copper Mountain, Colorado
Located in Summit County about 75 miles west of Denver, Copper Mountain is known for its 2,400 acres of skiable terrain, along with world-class golf courses, hiking and biking trails in the Arapahoe National Forest.
In the 1800s, miners discovered copper in Summit County and it became a booming settlement. Old mining buildings still can be seen scattered along the back nine of the Copper Creek Golf Club. Copper Mountain is about 20 minutes from Vail, and also close to the mountain towns of Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Leadville.
Located about 17 miles from Salt Lake City, Copperton lies near the historic mouth of Bingham Canyon. The town was established in 1926 by the Utah Copper Co. as a residential area for its employees.
Rich in tradition, Copperton is a few miles from the home of Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine, the largest man-made excavation on earth. Historic photographs, interactive exhibits and 3D models are available inside the Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor’s Center, where the public can see right into the mine.
More than 3/4 of a mile deep and 2½ miles wide, the Bingham Canyon Mine is on the National Register of Historic Sites and is just one of two man-made objects on earth that can be seen by astronauts. The other is the Great Wall of China.
Located in Polk County along the Tennessee/Georgia border, Copperhill grew into a town when copper ore was discovered there in the 1820s.
Copperhill and neighboring Ducktown were part of the largest mining operation in the southeastern United States through 1987. Now Copperhill is a town built into the mountainside and filled with quaint shops and beautiful scenery.
Known for three rivers, the Ocoee, the Hiawassee and the Conasauga, Polk County offers a natural settings for hiking, tubing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, fishing, camping, horseback riding and backpacking through the Cherokee National Forest, revealing spectacular waterfalls and overlooks, colorful leaves and wildlife.
Copper Harbor, Mich.
A small, unincorporated community Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Copper Harbor was used to ship copper mined locally during the mid-19th century. The town has spectacular scenery and the harbor now is used mostly for boating and winter snowmobiling.
Nearby is Ford Wilkins Historic State Park, a restored 1844 frontier army base built to protect the port in the early years of the copper mining boom. The park has a fully reconstructed fort, walking trails, and picnic and playground areas.
The Copper Harbor Lighthouse, adjacent to the park, is one of the oldest in the Great Lakes.
Coppertown, USA, a museum dedicated to Michigan’s copper industry, is located in nearby Calumet.
Copper Cliff, Mont.
Copper Cliff is the name of a ghost town and a small mining district, 30 miles east of Missoula, near Garnet Ghost Town. The district was named for a cliff in the area, a rugged mass of quartzite about 150 feet high, with blue, green, yellow and white streaks.
The Copper Cliff copper-bearing lode was discovered in the 1890s. No one lives in Copper Cliff today, but it’s known for a few partial buildings and some ruins. There are brilliant blue cliffs nearby, caused by copper leaching through the rock.
Missoula is the second largest city in the state and home to the University of Montana. Missoula offers a thriving arts scene and a mecca of bicycle travel. Thousands of bikers come through Missoula annually to visit the Adventure Cycling Association, North America’s largest cycling association.
Copper Creek, Ariz.
Another copper ghost town, Copper Creek is located in a canyon in the Galiuro Mountains in Pinal County. Copper Creek’s post office was established in 1907 and discontinued in 1942.
The town was built in tiers because it was located in a canyon. The mining industry there led to the establishment of a town of about 50 buildings and 500 people, a stage line, a mansion and a physician’s office.
The Copper Creek ghost town, located about 10 miles east of Mammoth, is a popular local attraction. Tucson, home of the Saguaro National Park, is within an hour’s drive of Copper Creek.
Copper Basin, Idaho
Copper Basin is a massive mountain valley, 20,000 acres of wide-open vistas, unconfined spaces and pristine waterways. It’s a popular destination for local anglers and guided fishermen, who can pursue three species of trout along the same stretch of water.
Idaho is known for its mineral wealth. By the 1980s, after 100 years of mining, Idaho had produced more than a billion ounces of silver and significant amounts of copper, lead and zinc, worth more than $5.5 billion.
A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to get to Copper Basin, located two hours from Ketchum. But locals say the trip is worth it to see a slice of true Idaho.
Copper Hill, Va.
In the early 1800s, the local economy of Copper Hill, located in Floyd County, was agricultural except for three iron furnaces. The iron ore was unusual in that it had significant amounts of copper. The county was known for its copper pots.
Today, Floyd County is in the center of the culturally rich Blue Ridge Mountains, 45 minutes from Roanoke. Known for its artisans, music and beautiful scenery, Copper Hill and Floyd County attract visitors from all 50 states. Floyd County has an annual Harvest Festival each September, celebrating the area’s agriculture and heritage.