11 Pure Michigan Hiking Trails to See Brilliant Fall Colors

To help you plan your fall travels, here’s a round-up of the best trails around the state for spectacular views of the changing colors of autumn. Listed from easier to harder routes, there’s something for everyone. With a variety of overlooks, hills and mountains, there are a multitude of ways to soak in Pure Michigan’s beauty. And check here for any other trails that might be near you!

Port Crescent State Park Trails
Port Austin

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re looking for a great family trip, head to Michigan’s “Thumb” for a fantastic day trip along Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay shoreline. The park offers fishing, canoeing, birding and more! It is also a great place to view the stars, so you might want to consider staying overnight. There are seven miles of trails including a loop and a nature trail.

It’s easy to customize your own route, depending on your interests. The Camper’s Trail is one of the most scenic and, at 2.3 miles, is not difficult. You can even shorten the trek by using the 0.3-mile cutoff spur, but might miss out on some scenic views. October is one of the best times to visit as there are less campers and the fall colors reach their brilliant peak. It is also dog-friendly!

While you’re hanging out in the area, take the time to kayak by Turnip Rock, one of the most famous spots in the state!

Mackinac Island Trails
Mackinac Island

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

There are over 140 miles of trails and roads leading to great views on Mackinac Island. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to buy a map of the trails, significant points of interest and self-tours. Or visit a rental bike shop for a map, (though these have less detail). One of the most popular trails is the 8.2 mile road along the island’s perimeter. Typically there are bikers along this trail, but plenty of pedestrians also use it to see the beautiful shorelines. The road is not very hilly but it is long, so take your time to enjoy the views and be sure to stop occasionally to read about the history of the island. If you’d like to get deeper inland, there are several trails that lead to great views of the changing reds, yellows and oranges as well as vantage points to see the beautiful shorelines. Stay aware of bikers and horses and be sure to stop at Sugar Loaf, Fort Mackinac, Skull Cave or Arch Rock for amazing views.

Mackinac Island, Photo Courtesy of Linda Sorensen

Mackinac Island, Photo Courtesy of Linda Sorensen

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail
Marquette

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail in the Upper Peninsula is a fantastic hike for great views. There are two different ways to reach the viewing area: an easy route and a difficult route. The difficult route is faster than the easier route, but is steeper. If bringing the family, we suggest the easy route as it’s easier on young children. You’ll also be able to spend more time leisurely strolling and admiring the color change on the trees.

Be aware there are intermittent stairs on the route once you get closer to summit to help with the elevation change and the trail also has many rocks and roots sticking out of the ground. Once you get to the top, there are three different vantage points for views of Lake Superior, the Superior Dome and miles of colorful trees. Take this trail on your next visit to Marquette and you won’t be disappointed!

Photo Courtesy of Jill Boudreau-Wallaker

View from Sugarloaf Mountain, Photo Courtesy of Jill Boudreau-Wallaker

Ludington State Park Trails
Ludington

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Ludington State Park has a fantastic array of sand dunes, marshlands and forests. There are three modern campgrounds if you want to stay overnight. With a multitude of trails, there is a hike for everyone! One of the best and most scenic is the Lighthouse Trail that leads to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. It is 3 miles long and winds over open and wooded sand dunes. Take your family to tour the lighthouse and climb the tower through October.  If that seems too difficult, take the Lighthouse Road that travels from the main entrance to the lighthouse via a 1.8-mile hard-packed sand and gravel road.

Photo Courtesy of Jesse Barcega

Ludington State Park, Photo Courtesy of Jesse Barcega

Stony Creek Metropark Trails
Shelby Township

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Get that “up north” feeling without leaving the suburbs! There are a few rustic and nature trails in the park ranging in distance. There is also a paved trail perfect for bikers, rollerbladers or hikers, but still provides great views of the surrounding trees and foliage. Visit the Nature Center for more information and to see where you want to start your trip.

From lounging on the beach to playing disc golf, there are a ton of activities to do at Stony Creek Metropark, making it a great place to take your family for a day trip.

Chapel Loop at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Munising

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The 9-mile Chapel Loop is one of the most scenic hikes in Michigan. Take in the view of Lake Superior, Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock and Grand Portal Point. Try and take a weekend trip to tackle this hike as it can take most of the day and you’ll want to view the rocks from the water as well! Take your bug spray, water and camera too, as the views will be amazing.

Chapel Rock, Photo Courtesy of Justin Mault

Chapel Rock, Photo Courtesy of Justin Mault

Empire Bluff Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Empire

Difficulty: Moderate

The Empire Bluff Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes is a 1.5 mile roundtrip hike perfect for views of the water and foliage. On a clear day, you can even see South Manitou Island! Be sure to pick up a map of the trail at the trailhead. There are also numbered posts along the way for more information. For your own safety, don’t climb down the bluff as it is more than 400 feet above the sandy shoreline! This trek is a must-do for those looking for spectacular views of the lakeshore.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Winn

View from Empire Bluff Trail, Photo Courtesy of Ben Winn

Tahquamenon Falls State Park River Trail
Paradise

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

One of the most popular hiking trails in this park is the River Trail. Linking the Upper Falls and Lower Falls, this nearly 5 mile hike leads along the Tahquamenon River and is very scenic. It is a moderate to hard trail to tackle due to the hilly terrain and exposed roots, but is well worth the effort. Be sure to bring plenty of water and bug spray for the trip. After your hike, stop by the shops and pub near the Upper Falls for a great meal, drink or souvenir.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Hammel

Upper Tahquamenon Falls, Photo Courtesy of Dan Hammel

Porcupine Mountains State Park Escarpment Trail
Ontonagon

Difficulty: Moderate

Despite it only being 4 miles long, the changes in elevation along the Escarpment Trail make this hike more of a challenge. However, viewing Lake of the Clouds, Lake Superior and the Carp River Valley in one trip will leave you in awe of Michigan’s unimagined beauty. Take a weekend to stay in the area and take advantage of the many restaurants and entertainment centers, like Black Bear Lanes for bowling!

Lake of the Clouds, Photo Courtesy of Angie Barnstead

Lake of the Clouds, Photo Courtesy of Angie Barnstead

Jordan River Pathway Trail
Mancelona

Difficulty: Moderate

The Jordan River Pathway is one of the most popular hiking trips in the Lower Peninsula. Stay at the walk-in campground for a weekend and bask in the rustic nature of the area. It is an 18-mile loop perfect for hikers looking for scenic views of streams, colorful foliage or the valley below. If you’re an angler, fishing in the Jordan River might allow you to catch dinner at the end of a long hike! Definitely bring bug spray, as horse flies and mosquitoes may greet you along the way. Be sure to capture pictures of the views from Deadman’s Hill and Landslide Overlook.

Dead Man's Hill, Photo Courtesy of Michelle Russell

Dead Man’s Hill, Photo Courtesy of Michelle Russell

Greenstone Ridge Trail
Isle Royale

Difficulty: Hard

Greenstone Ridge Trail is a trail for experienced hikers. The 40-mile long trail is the backbone of Isle Royale, an island only accessible by boat or plane. Every backpacker should try this trail at least once, as it is an incredibly fulfilling multi-day trip. The Greenstone Ridge Trail provides panoramic views of the gorgeous and rustic landscape, crossing through exposed bedrock and dense forest. Take a few days to truly experience the wilderness of Isle Royale where moose and wolves roam free.

Where do you love to hike and take in the views? Share with us in the comments!

Falling for Michigan: Five Ways to Enjoy the Fall Foliage

Another fall color season in Pure Michigan is about to begin! When the days begin to get shorter and the crisp fall air arrives, Michigan’s 19 million acres of woods turn to shades of red, gold and orange.

The new season offers new vacation experiences, and whether you take a long weekend, or a short day trip, there is no better place to see the dynamic fall foliage colors than along Michigan’s highways, trails and coastlines.

Here are five great ways to “fall” for Pure Michigan this year.  

Take a Fall Color Tour

From the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Sunrise Coast to Southeast Michigan, there is no shortage of beautiful places to take in the fall foliage.  Starting in the Upper Peninsula in Mid-September to Michigan’s Sunrise and Sunset coasts in Mid to late October, let our fall colors report guide you toward the best time to take a Pure Michigan fall vacation.   For a listing of fall color tours, visit http://www.michigan.org/fall-color-tours/ or sign up for the Fall Color Update newsletter.

Enjoying a beautiful Fall day. Photo Courtesy of Todd Reed.

Enjoying a beautiful Fall day. Photo Courtesy of Todd Reed.

By Land…or By Lake

During the summer, boat cruises take vacationers out onto Michigan’s lakes, but many of them offer color cruises or private charters for those wanting to enjoy the fall foliage from the nation’s longest freshwater coastline.  Check out cruises and charters near you here.

Want to get in some outdoor recreation?  Bundle up and take a fall paddling trip on one of Michigan’s lakes or rivers, enjoying the peace and quiet of a fall morning or afternoon.  Michigan is blessed with more paddling opportunities than any other state.  {Related:  Michigan’s Seven Best Paddling Trips}

Peshekee River in Marquette. Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR.

Peshekee River in Marquette. Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR.

Blaze Your Own Trail

Michigan has hundreds of miles of trails and pathways, and nothing beats a biking or hiking trip than one with a colorful backdrop of fall foliage and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet.

Looking for something unique? Saddle up and enjoy the beauty of fall with a horse ride.  Michigan has several horse-friendly trails and stables perfect for an afternoon adventure.

Michigan Trails Week  is September 17 – 24, which is a weeklong celebration of Michigan’s extensive trail network.  Find your favorite trail.

Michigan Trails Week_Updated

A View from the Top

We are often times looking up to see the fall colors, but you can get a bird’s eye view of Michigan’s thousands of trees with orange, red and yellow leaves.

Take a scenic chairlift ride at participating ski resorts throughout the state such as Boyne Mountain Resort, Mount Bohemia,  Mont Ripley and Crystal Mountain, among others.

Feeling more adventurous?  Many of Michigan’s hot air balloon companies have fall schedules that will give you the view of a lifetime.

Mt. Bohemia Lift Rides. Photo Courtesy of Katy Kass.

Mt. Bohemia Lift Rides. Photo Courtesy of Katy Kass.

Fall “Fore” Michigan Golf

Michigan is consistently named among the best places in the country to play golf with more than 650 public courses throughout the state.   The fall season is a great time to enjoy a round of golf and the fall colors with many courses offering packages and deals.

Where is your favorite place in Pure Michigan for fall colors?

 

Here Are 7 of the Best Ways to Explore Michigan Trails

If you ask anyone who calls Pure Michigan home, they’ll tell you there aren’t enough days in a lifetime to explore all of the amazing things the state has to offer. From beaches, lakes, cities, farms, and trails, the Great Lakes state offers an escape unlike any other.

Today, we share some of the many activities you can do while exploring Michigan’s expansive trail system.

1. Hiking

Hiking offers the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with nature and makes for a wonderful family experience. Many of Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas offer designated hiking trails and Michigan Hiking and Backpacking Clubs provide opportunities for group and family hiking experiences.  You can literally hike across the state while exploring more than 200 miles on the Shore-to-Shore Trail that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Strap up your hiking boots and go!

JordanHart

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @JordanHart

2. Biking

Pedal through Michigan’s lush forests and gentle hills on more than 1,300 miles of bike trails across the state. Ride among vibrant wildflowers and swaying trees or enjoy the relaxing breezes as you pedal along scenic lakes and streams. Many trails offer amenities such as restrooms, picnic areas and informational signage. Whether recreational or mountain biking, Michigan has a tour for every cyclist’s interest and comfort level.

Flint-Bike-Path

Photo Courtesy of the Flint River Corridor Alliance

3. Off-Roading (ORV and ATV)

Rev up your engines and venture out on more than 3,100 miles of ORV trails. Michigan ORV trails run the gamut from twisty, single-tracks to rocky hill climbs to soggy mud bogs, daring dirt bikes, quads and dune buggies to stir up the dirt. If you’re an ORV enthusiast, the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes are a can’t-miss!

ORV-SLSD

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau

4. Snowmobiling

Can you hear the engines roaring? Whoosh in and out of 6,000 miles of maintained, interconnected trail systems while experience the beauty of a Michigan winter. With an expansive trail system that includes many hidden gems in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan is a snowmobiler’s paradise.

AndyPeninger

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @AndyPeninger

5. Equestrian

What better way to enjoy the beauty of Pure Michigan than sitting high atop your favorite horse? Let’s saddle up and ride across towering bridges, wander through converted railroad trails and stride along hundreds of rivers and streams. No matter what level of rider you are or whether you’re looking for a short loop or an extended adventure, Michigan has the perfect trail with riding stables and horses to rent.

Fall-Horses

Photo Courtesy of Facebook fan Jenni Ritzler Johns

6. Snowshoeing

Snowshoe through the woods, breathing air filled with smells of the forest, hearing nothing but the sound of your own footsteps. Snowshoeing in Michigan offers outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers a respite among picturesque trails and terrains. A silent sport, snowshoeing offers a unique opportunity to meld into your surroundings and feel what ancient cultures must have experienced as snowshoeing is one of the oldest forms of transportation.

Snowshoeing-Photo

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

7. Cross-Country Skiing

Enjoy the peace and tranquility of Michigan’s more than 3,000 miles of cross country ski trails. Distance yourself from the world’s fast pace as the hush of snow-covered landscapes sets the tone for a contemplative, yet invigorating, winter pastime. Cross-Country skiing, along with snowmobiling and snowshoeing, is a great way to get out of the house to avoid the winter blues.

What do you love most about Michigan trails? Share with us by commenting below!