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

Sugarloaf Mountain: A Short Hike to an Amazing View

Michigan is home to hundreds of great hiking trails to explore – many of which offer spectacular views to enjoy along the way. Today, native “Yooper” Jesse Land takes us on a journey through Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette, which he thinks rewards hikers with one of the best views in Michigan.

Marquette is full of excellent hikes and beautiful views. One shining example is Sugarloaf Mountain. The trailhead for Sugarloaf is just a few miles from downtown Marquette, the turnoff from county road 550 is well marked, and it’s a relatively quick hike to the top where you’re rewarded with one of the best views in the Upper Peninsula.

The Hike to the Top

On a recent hike, my first time to Sugarloaf Mountain, two friends and I took the “difficult” route and made it up in about fifteen minutes. There’s an optional “easy” route with a tamer grade that takes a little longer, but both paths up the mountain do require a extra care as rocks and roots stick out of the ground along much of the path.

Most people come to Sugarloaf for the view, but the forest canopy that envelops the trails is worth mentioning. With century old trees and ancient rock outcroppings, this trail reminds me of a few of the better hikes I’ve done in the rainforests of Australia. It really is a gorgeous area.

As we approached the top, the dirt trail switched to a series of wooden stairs that brought us up to the viewing area. At the top we were rewarded with a stunning view of Lake Superior, Marquette, Presque Isle Park and Little Presque Isle as well as Hogsback Mountain and the large swath of forest between Marquette and Big Bay.

Photo courtesy of Crag Grabhorn @ Chalet Press

The Stone Monument

Also at the summit is a stone obelisk erected long ago by Boy Scout Troop 1 to commemorate their assistant scoutmaster Bartlett King. King had helped to establish the local troop, which is one of the claimants of first Boy Scout Troop in the U.S. He later fought and died in World War I and his troop members wanted to construct a memorial that his mother could see from her home on Marquette’s arch street.

Three Observation Decks

As we stood there, about 1,000 feet above sea level, I was impressed with how much work has been put into this viewing area. Three viewing platforms situated atop Sugarloaf Mountain offer three slightly different vantage points. The first observation deck faces southward toward Marquette and offers a view of the Superior Dome, the Upper Ore Dock and Presque Isle Park. The second deck faces northward toward Wetmore Landing and Little Presque Isle island. And the third platform faces westward and offers a great view of Hogsback Mountain.

After the Hike

After our hike we opted for a late lunch in downtown Marquette, but deciding where to eat was no easy task as Marquette County is filled with excellent dining options, not to mention being home to four of the thirteen Upper Peninsula Breweries.

Getting There

Sugarloaf Mountain is located about six miles north of downtown Marquette on CR 550. Get there by taking Washington Street to Fourth Avenue. Turn north onto Fourth Ave., which becomes Presque Isle Ave and drive .4 miles to Hawley Street. At Hawley Street, turn west (left). Hawley becomes CR 550. Drive about 4.0 miles on Hawley Street/CR-550 to the parking area. A sign that reads “Sugarloaf Mountain” marks the parking area and is easily visible from CR 550.

Have you been to Sugarloaf Mountain? What did you think?

This blog post was written by Jesse Land on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan. Marquette County is home to some of the best hiking, biking, motorcycling, beaches, breweries and restaurants in the Upper Peninsula. Learn more about beautiful Marquette County at www.travelmarquettemichigan.com.

Five Ideas for Welcoming Spring in Traverse City

As any Michigander will tell you, Michigan is truly a four-season state. The water wonderland of summer, the brilliant colors of fall, and the snow sports of winter all contribute plenty of reasons to love a four-season destination like Traverse City. But it’s spring that seems to occupy a special place in the hearts of many residents of the Great Lakes State. As winter whites give way to the greens of springtime, it’s time to get outside and renew our relationship with Michigan’s many outdoor resources.

With so many options in and around Traverse City, the hard part can be deciding where to go and what to do first. Read more as our friends at Northern Swag narrow down the list for you by sharing five Traverse City favorites.

1. Hike a Trail

The Traverse City area is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails that are perfect for taking in on a sunny spring day. The wooded Lake Michigan Trail in Leelanau State Park near Northport winds its way through wooded hills to an observation deck overlooking Lake Michigan. While you’re enjoying the natural setting and fresh air, be on the lookout for the unmistakable petals of the white trillium, which can cover entire hillsides when they bloom in early-to-mid-May.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

2. Hunt for Morels

These tasty, yet elusive natural treasures can be found in wooded areas throughout the Traverse City area. Look for south-facing hillsides that soak up the sun, and if possible, wait for a warmer day (over 60 degrees) that follows several warmer evenings for the best chance at success. Locals may be hesitant to share their favorite spots, but the adventure of the hunt can be almost as rewarding as the discovery. Almost.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

3. Take a Sunday Drive

In mid-May, the hills and valleys of Old Mission Peninsula come alive with color as the cherry blossoms emerge. The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula ® host Blossom Day Saturday, May 14. This event offers participants a chance to sample award-winning wines while enjoying the incredible scenery along the way. Scenic overlooks and cherry blossoms abound, and if you make it to the town of Old Mission, be sure to enjoy the view at Haserot Beach – it’s one of our favorite stops on the peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

4. Hit the Beach

The water will still be a bit too chilly for a swim, but a picnic with an afternoon walk along the beach is a splendid way to celebrate spring in northern Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore includes 35 miles of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline. The views are some of the best in the Traverse City area, and don’t forget to keep an eye open for Petoskey stones, found along the entire length of the Lakeshore.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

5. Discover a New View

There’s a brief window of time between the melting of the snow and the return of summer foliage to the trees and the forest floor. With 70,000 acres to explore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers numerous opportunities for discovering hidden views that aren’t as visible during the summer months. If you find yourself “up north” on a perfect spring day, an afternoon adventure amongst the rolling hills and wooded bluffs of the Sleeping Bear Dunes can lead to a pretty nice reward.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

Northern Swag:

Northern Swag is a collective group of Northern Michigan creatives that is obsessed with the incredible beauty of the area. In their eyes there’s something else that evades description, a type of pervasive style that makes being here just feel awesome. It’s their goal to try and capture that unique Northern Michigan style, or swag, with photos and words.

How will you celebrate spring in Traverse City? Let us know by commenting below!