3 Scenic Pure Michigan Hiking Trails Near M-22

Today, guest blogger Scott Christ describes his experience hiking along three scenic trails near M-22. For more information on hiking trails in Michigan, visit michigan.org. 

Close your eyes and imagine an idyllic place filled with vibrant, turquoise-hued lakes … powdered sand beaches surrounded by towering dunes … and pine-scented, old-growth forests.

For some people, Michigan may not be the first place to come to mind that fits this description. Yet that’s exactly what I experienced during a summer trip to the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan.

Scoping Out the Hiking Trails Along M-22 Near Leland and Glen Arbor

Our destination for this trip: Lake Leelanau. Our goal: plan as many “Michigan-themed” activities as possible. I had driven up M-22 before, but after spending a week trekking up and down this infamous road, I was absolutely blown away by it’s winding roads, spectacular views, and overall magnificence.

Before leaving for our trip, I did my homework and found three hiking trails close to M-22 between Leland and Glen Arbor:

1. Houdek Dunes Natural Area

2. Whaleback Natural Area

3. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Here’s what each had to offer.

Experiencing the Trails

Whaleback Natural Area

Whaleback Natural Area is a 10,000-year-old playground of preserved dunes and forests. It’s within walking distance of downtown Leland and directly accessible from M-22. Plan on 1 to 1.5 hours if you’re walking the trail. There are a couple fairly intense climbs involved too, so I’d classify this one as “Moderately Difficult.”

Make sure you stop at the spectacular Lookout Point, which offers majestic views of Lake Michigan.

Houdek Dunes Natural Area

Quick disclaimer about Houdek Dunes: it’s not easy to find. A Google Maps search took us to downtown Leland and we quickly realized we were in the wrong spot. So we headed up M-22 just north of Lake Leelanau, and found it marked by a tiny sign on the left side of the road.

The troubles getting there turned out to be worth it though. Houdek Dunes was formed from glacial sediments about 4,000 years ago, and you’ll experience the amazing aftermath of geology and time with its combination of dunes and wooded forests.

Depending on which way you trek through the trail system, you’ll see plenty of hundred-year-old birch trees, mature pines, sun-kissed stretches of dense green ferns, and the beautiful Houdek Creek, a spring-fed trout stream that flows into North Lake Leelanau.

The trail features 3/4 and 1- 1/2 mile loops. Plan on a couple hours to get through it if you’re walking, but you can definitely do it in less. I’d classify the difficulty level as “moderate.”

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive turned out to be one of the coolest parts of our trip. Located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it’s a 7-mile drive that offers a variety of stops and lookout points.

To get there, you’ll need to head over to Glen Arbor along M-22 then take a quick detour up “Dune Highway” 109.

About halfway through the drive, you’ll reach the Lake Michigan Dune Overlook Platform stop. Park your car and walk the trail to the dune, which towers 450 feet above lake level.

Although going down the bluff is not recommended, it’s also not prohibited for those who are up to the challenge. The way down is a little unnerving at first because it’s steep, but once you get used to it it’s smooth sailing. The way up is another story. I consider myself to be in good shape and it was strenuous. But if you’re in decent shape, like a little adventure, and don’t have a fear of heights, do it. You won’t regret it.

There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle, which gets you access to all areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s well worth the money and I was happy to help support these awesome parks.

Final Thoughts

As someone who comes from the ad world, my feelings about “Pure Michigan” were that it was just a clever ad campaign. But this trip changed that. Pure Michigan embodies the fact that Michigan, and particularly northern Michigan, is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in the world. Let’s keep it that way.

Where is your favorite spot to go hiking in Michigan?

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and health enthusiast who helps people look better, feel better, and live longer with healthy real food recipes and motivational weight loss tipsConnect with Scott on Facebook or Twitter

Eight Cool Things to Do in the Eastern U.P. During the Summer

With hidden lakes, coursing waterfalls, fresh local fare and more, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a traveler’s ultimate escape. Featured blogger Jesse Land from Things to Do in the U.P. tells us about eight cool things he has done in the Eastern U.P. to inspire your visit. 

Many people forget just how big the U.P. is. For example, even though I live in Iron Mountain (roughly in the middle of the Upper Peninsula), it still takes me over four hours to get to DeTour, in the far eastern U.P. If I lived in Ironwood, it’d be more like a six hour drive!

Iron Mountain_Joseph Parrott

Iron Mountain, Photo Courtesy of Joseph Parrott

And so it is that the far ends of the U.P. often don’t get as much attention as they should. Well, I decided to at least scratch the surface in the eastern U.P. last summer and am so glad I did. Let me just point out that this is not a “best of” list by any means. One could easily spend a few weeks over in the Eastern U.P. and not take it all in. These are just a few highlights from last summer and hopefully by the time you’re done reading this you’ll want to venture over there to check it out for yourself!

1. Kayak through the Les Cheneaux Islands

One of the highlights from last summer was definitely kayaking through a few of the Les Cheneaux Islands with Woods and Water Ecotours. Our guide Carla was a very experienced kayaker and had moved from out west to the Les Cheaneaux area to attend their famed wooden boat building school. Carla took my wife and I and two other travelers out around a few of the thirty six islands, over some really cool rock formations and even over a shallow water shipwreck.

The short paddle was just long enough for me to realize I need to plan a whole week or more in the Les Cheneaux area with my kayak. What an amazing place.

2. Have lunch at Brown’s Fish House in Paradise

Brown's Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Brown’s Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Ah, Brown’s. It almost seems to good to be true. For some reason I’m afraid that one of these times I’m going to go into Brown’s Fisheries Fish House for lunch and not have an amazing meal. Luckily, that’s never happened and I doubt it ever will. Last summer I had their lake trout basket for the first time and I think I might have found a new favorite. If you like fresh fish, put Brown’s at the top of your U.P. itinerary. (32638 West M28 Paradise, MI)

3. Visit Tahquamenon Falls (and have dinner at the brewery)

Photo Courtesy of Amy Brown

Photo Courtesy of Amy Brown

What’s a trip to to the eastern U.P. without a stop at Tahquamenon Falls? I had the chance to not only see the falls, but have a great chat with Lark Ludlow, the co-owner and brewer at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.

Lark’s grandfather gifted much of the land that is now Tahquamenon Falls State Park to the state of Michigan so she told my friends and I about the history of the area, what used to be where the restaurant/brewery is now and how the brewery came to be. And we capped off the evening with an excellent dinner. Next time you visit Tahquamenon Falls, make sure to stop in the brewery! Even if you’re not a fan of craft beer, they’ve got great food.

4. Discover Malloney’s Irish Pub in Sault Sainte Marie

We’d planned to visit the locally famous Antlers for dinner in Sault Sainte Marie, but ended up walking into to Maloney’s Alley Irish Pub just to check it out and were very pleasantly surprised, so we stayed for dinner. Prior to that visit I hadn’t heard of Malloney’s, but they ended up having great food and a terrific Michigan craft beer selection! I’ll definitely be back. (227 W Portage Ave. Sault Sainte Marie, MI)

5. Have a picnic lunch at the Hessel marina

Hesel Marina - Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Hessel Marina – Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Sometimes it’s the simple things you remember the most. My wife and I packed a cooler for a picnic lunch on our first visit to the eastern U.P. last summer but didn’t have any specific location in mind. Well, we ended up finding the perfect spot as soon as we pulled into Hessel, in the form of the Hessel marina.

We had lunch on a picnic table while gazing at antique wooden boats, water, a beach and the many islands as a few “islanders” came and went in their boats. Whether you have lunch here or not, it’s a great spot for a photo op.

6. Tour Drummond Island on ATV

Another highlight was touring Drummond Island on ATV with Beaver’s ATV Rentals. We were told that Bill Beaver knows Drummond Island as good as anyone, and he sure seemed to. Bill led my wife and I on an excellent several hour tour of various Drummond Island highlights via the island’s designated ORV trails. And once again, it was enough to make us realize we need to block off at least a few days to explore Drummond Island further. We can’t wait to get back.

7. Visit Soo Brewing

While in the Soo we made it a point to stop into Soo Brewing and really enjoyed the place. It’s an open, unassuming space with plenty of board games on hand and lots of couch and table space where friends can relax for hours. And since it’s located right downtown, it’s easy to walk from the brewery to all the other bars, restaurants and things to do in the area.

8.  Visit the Crisp Point Lighthouse

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

The Crisp Point Lighthouse is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go but for one reason or another I just wasn’t able to make it work. Well, last summer I was determined to get out there and am definitely glad I did. It’s probably the U.P.’s most remote lighthouse (at least that I’ve been to) but wow, what a place. It has a wonderful history, is beautifully restored and the view from the top is amazing!

So, those are just eight of the cool things I did in the Eastern U.P. last summer. I can’t wait to get back there so I can add to this list for next year!

What are some of your favorite things to do in the Eastern U.P.?

JesseLand21111Jesse Land owns Land Family Media and publishes the Upper Peninsula Travel blog Things to do in the U.P.

Leap into these 29 Obscure Facts about Michigan

As the childhood, adulthood or industrial homes of leaders of the greatest technological advances of last century, we Michiganders have a long history of being number one. And as the only state in the country with two peninsulas, we also like getting a little extra. To celebrate the one extra day of February we get each Leap Year, guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten has put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is the first, best or only of its category.

Every four years, a Leap Year provides us the fortune of one extra day to enjoy the great things we love about Michigan. Unfortunately, that day happens in the cold, shortened daylight of February, so I’ve put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is first, best or the only – to help you get through each day with a little more Pure Michigan pride as we wait for spring:

detroit

Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Novak

1. The first permanent European settlement in Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie in 1668.
2. The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit is the busiest international border crossing in North America.
3. Michigan State University in East Lansing was the nation’s first land-grant institution and first agricultural college.
4. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor features the top graduate programs in Health Care Management, Social Work and Nuclear Engineering.
5. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti was the first in the nation to introduce a four-year curriculum for teacher education.
6. Kellogg’s, originally the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, produced the first flaked breakfast cereal.
7. The St. Clair River Tunnel from Port Huron to Sarnia, ON was the first underwater railroad tunnel built in North America.
8. Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company, which later became Gibson Guitar Corp., was founded in Kalamazoo.

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

9. The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing was the first organization dedicated to women’s history in the nation.
10. M-185 on Mackinac Island is the only highway in the nation where motor vehicles are banned.
11. De Zwaan, brought to Holland as a way for the city to pay homage to its heritage, is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the U.S.
12. The Nordberg Steam Hoist, located at the Quincy Mine in Hancock, is the largest steam-powered hoist engine ever built.
13. Although Traverse City no longer holds the record for world’s largest cherry pie, it does still have the world’s largest cherry pie tin.
14. Grand Rapids was named the #1 U.S. travel destination in 2014.
15. United Auto Workers’ first sit-down strike, starting at GM’s Fisher #1 plant in Flint, gave the union legitimacy and leverage just a year after its founding.
16. The nation’s largest indoor-outdoor museum complex, which features entertainment as well as American history, is The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
17. Until the Fountains of Bellagio, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world.
18. The world’s largest tire is the 80-foot tall Uniroyal landmark along I-94 in Allen Park.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

19. Bronner’s in Frankenmuth is known nearly all the way up and down I-75 as the world’s largest Christmas store.
20. Although many places claim to be his hometown, the first published story about Paul Bunyan appeared in the Oscoda Press in 1906.
21. Magic capital of the world and home to Abbott Magic Company and FAB Magic, Colon is the world’s largest manufacturer of magic supplies.
22. Green Meadow Farm in Elsie is one of the largest dairy operations in the state and at times had the largest Holstein herd in the world.
23. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry is the only hand-cranked chain ferry still operating in the country.
24. The northern-most part of Michigan is the island of Isle Royale, which is the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.
25. Northern Michigan is rich with limestone, and the world’s largest limestone quarry is Rogers Quarry in Rogers City.
26.The cement plant in nearby Alpena, originally Huron Portland Cement Company and now owned by Lafarge, was once the largest in the world.
27. Between those two cities is Presque Isle, home to the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

28. At 31 feet high and 22 feet wide, Cross in the Woods in Indian River is the largest crucifix in the world.
29. The world’s largest weathervane can be found in Ellenwood Park in downtown Montague.

Congratulations! You’re now one month (plus one day) closer to Opening Day, Red Wings playoffs, warm Great Lakes beaches, or however you celebrate spring in your part of the state.

What makes your Pure Michigan city singularly unique? Let us know in the comments!

IMG036-3smJoel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is on the social media team at Identity, and his experience includes work with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.