Follow the cars hauling canoes, kayaks and fishing gear to Grayling for the full river experience. The editors of Michigan Travel Ideas share their picks for enjoying the Au Sable River, home to some of the state’s best trout fishing.
Clustered along the Au Sable River, a handful of outfitters offer canoe and kayak trips. Sign up for a two-and-a-half-hour trip, an all-day excursion or even a five-day expedition to paddle the 120 river miles to Oscoda.
- Cheri Hunter of Borcher’s AuSable Canoe Livery says the two-and-a-half-hour trip is by far the most popular. If you want the river mostly to yourself, paddle weekdays, she adds. Saturdays are the busiest.
- Saddled with a reputation as an elitist sport, fly-fishing is anything but on the Au Sable. Old AuSable Fly Shop offers low-cost rods and gear to rent or purchase, plus free casting lessons every Saturday at 11 a.m. “We can usually get you casting in 15 minutes,” promises owner Andy Partlo. If you’re a newbie, hire a one-on-one guided four-hour instructional fishing trip.
When you’re ready to step back on dry ground, dock your boat and take a peek into the past on these land adventures.
- Just north of town, hike the three-quarter-mile Virgin Pine Trail through groves of redwood-size white pines towering 150 feet above the mossy forest floor at Hartwick Pines State Park. Many of the trees sprouted a century or more before the Revolutionary War. The trail takes you past Hartwick Pines Logging Museum with frontier lumbering gear and featuring a replica bunkhouse.
- Southwest of Grayling, 60-acre Wellington Farm Park interprets rural life during the Great Depression at a blacksmith shop, grist mill and other structures. Count yourself lucky if your visit coincides with something tasty, and usually sweet, being prepared in the Summer Kitchen.
Where to Eat
A full day of fishing and hiking are sure to work up an appetite. Whether you’re craving comfort food or a good old-fashioned hamburger, Grayling has a restaurant to fit the bill.
- Borcher’s offers riverside bed-and-breakfast rooms and lodging and canoeing package specials.
- “If it was good enough for Henry Ford …” says Todd Fuller, owner of Fuller’s North Branch Outing Club, a National Historic Site. The bed-and-breakfast drew the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison and big auto men from Detroit back in the day.
- Penrod’s AuSable River Resort features one- and two-bedroom cabins riverside and canoe and kayak rentals.