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.
Where to Stay
Listen to the Au Sable gurgle as you settle in for the night riverside at lodges or bed-and-breakfasts.
- 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.
Travel blogger Donald Dale Milne gives us the inside scoop on some of the lesser-known things to do in the Grayling, Michigan area.
Crawford County Historical Museum
Everyone knows that Hartwick Pines State Park and Au Sable River canoeing are great places in Grayling. But how about enjoying some lesser-known attractions in the area? I’ve found three that are worth adding to your Grayling travel itinerary.
Dan Donarski, outdoor blogger and enthusiast, details his evening amidst the glow of the Hunter’s Moon, in search of the elusive Woodcock. Read more with Pure Michigan Connect!
Last week, on Thursday night, we were treated to what the Farmer’s Almanac calls the Hunter’s Moon. This moon is the first full moon after the Harvest Moon.
While on a driving tour along the Au Sable River, Hannah Agran, Midwest Living assistant travel editor and Michigan Travel Ideas contributor, spends the night at the North Branch Outing Club near Grayling and tries her hand at fly fishing.
My husband Juan and I are somewhere north of Grayling, our cell signal fading, the sky darkening. If my printed directions fail us, who we will ask for help? Before I can answer, we see a rambling old place with a welcoming porch and warm glow from the windows. Judy Fuller pushes open the screen door to meet us.
This past week found me waiting for nightfall along the banks of the Au Sable river. This is arguably the best, or close to the best, trout stream in our grand state. This time of year and for at least the next week or so anglers from around the Midwest and the world will be traveling to our northern rivers to chase of all things – bugs. That’s right the Hex hatch is basically the time of the year when may flies hatch, breed, deposit their eggs and die. All this flurry of activity happens just after dark and that is when the big trout rise to dine on these huge bugs. Anglers will wait until dark and when they hear the sound of trout rising to eat they will present their offerings along with the floating bugs and hope that the rising trout will pick their fly and not the real one that it most likely is floating next to.
The Hex hatch is quite a thing, and since it happens from about 10:30pm and on through the night, you better be ready to be a little tired the next day. I stopped in the Old Au Sable fly shop in Grayling the next morning and found one tired angler behind the desk sipping his coffee. Anglers would role in all morning long talking about the fish that got away, and a few with pictures of the ones that made it to the net. This time of the year is very special for fly fisherman it’s the equivalent to the rut for deer hunters. This is the time of year when big trout will make themselves available, even if it is in the pitch dark at 1am.
See the full story on Michigan Out-of-Doors TV
Jimmy Gretzinger is the executive producer and an on-air host on Michigan Out-of-Doors TV