A Traveler’s Guide to Hiking in Northern Michigan

Hiking Michigan

If you are visiting Northern Michigan, you will find that there are many beautiful outdoor spaces to visit. One of the best ways to explore the area is by visiting the hiking trails, and there are many trails from which you can choose. To help you enjoy the best outdoor experience in this part of the United States, here is a traveler’s guide to hiking in Northern Michigan.

Dunes Trail

According to Freshwater Vacation Rentals, the best place to hike in Northern Michigan is Dunes Trail. It is a 3.5-mile loop trail that takes you through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and offers spectacular views of Lake Michigan. In some areas of the trail, the terrain is steep. However, you can avoid these sections by only completing shorter sections of the trail if you prefer.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

A fantastic trail to explore more of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the Alligator Hill Trail. The trail takes you from Lake Michigan to Glen Lake, and you will see interesting structures along the way, such as an old sawmill and charcoal kilns. It covers nine miles of forests and hilly terrain, so it is best suited to fit and active people. Another excellent trail is the Old Indian Trail, which is on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s southernmost point. It is a loop trail with a vantage point of Lake Michigan halfway along. The trail is also known for being one of the best places to watch the sunset.

Northern Loop

The Northern Loop trail is on North Manitou Island, which is an island in Lake Michigan. Therefore, you will need to take a ferry to the island if you want to complete this trail. It is worth making the journey, as the trail has some of the best views of Lake Michigan, and the island is a fantastic place to enjoy stargazing at night.

North County Trailhead to Wawatam Township

There are thousands of miles of trails that start at the North County Trailhead, so it is a great starting point for exploring vast swathes of Northern Michigan. One of the best trails leading from the North County Trailhead is the one that takes you to Wawatam Township. However, you can also use the trailhead as a starting point to see the Mackinac Bridge, Colonial Michilimackinac, and the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

Empire Bluff trail

My North recommends the Empire Bluff Trail, which is a 1.5-mile out-and-back trail that opens out onto a bluff that sits 400-feet above Lake Michigan. The elevated position is one of the best vantage points to enjoy fantastic views across the lake. Although it is only a short trail that will take less than an hour to complete, there are some challenging sections, including steep stairs and uneven terrain sections.

North Point Nature Preserve

For inexperienced hikers who want to enjoy a leisurely stroll rather than a strenuous hike, one of the best places to visit is the North Point Nature Preserve. Within the preserve, there are miles of hikes with the option to complete small sections or to tackle multiple trails in one day. Many of the trails run alongside the water, and the terrain is even. Most people visit this park after seeing the iconic Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix.

The Dunes Trails

The dunes are a distinctive feature of Northern Michigan, and there are several areas with trails that take you across the dunes. Three of the best are Houdek Dunes Natural Area, Arcadia Dunes, and Petosky State Park. There are trails for all abilities in the Houdek Dunes Natural Area, as there are both easy challenging trails to explore. Although the terrain is uneven, as you travel across sandy dunes and encounter stairs, they are enjoyable walks that are not too strenuous. Some of the trails have boardwalk sections. There are two trails to enjoy within Petosky State Park, both of which run through a nature preserve and then over sand dunes. The main reason that this trail is so popular is because of the pretty beach views. For those who enjoy coastal walks, the best option in Northern Michigan is the trails at Arcadia Dunes. There are several trails in Arcadia that take you along the dunes. Each has a different starting point, but they all offer great views along the Northern Michigan coastline.

Porcupine Mountains

A popular area for hikers in Northern Michigan is the Porcupine Mountains, as the trails offer scenic views and take you through varied terrain. Of all the trails in the Porcupine Mountains, the Escarpment Trail is probably the best. It is a four-mile trail that follows the edges of Cloud Peak and Cuyahoga Peak and to an overlook that offers views of the mountains and of the Lake of the Clouds below. The Lake of Clouds is a narrow body of water that sits at the base of the peak, and it is one of the most picturesque sights in the area.

The Mackinac Island Trails

If you enjoy both history and spending time outdoors, then you can combine both your interests if you sign up for the guided Legends and Lore Trek. It is a three-mile trek that takes you through Mackinac Island State Park, and the guide gives you interesting information about the sights along the way. Some points of interest along the way include Sugar Loaf, Arch Rock, Skull Cave, St. Anne’s Cemetery, Point Lookout, and Fort Holmes.

The Mission Point Lighthouse Trails

Mission Point Lighthouse is one of the most significant landmarks in Northern Michigan, and it sits at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. There are multiple trails that will take you to the lighthouse, some of which run through forests and others that run along the beach. There are short loop trails and longer out-and-back trails to choose between, and each trail offers different sights and challenges.


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