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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!

Five Helpful Tips for a Late Season Ride on the Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail

Today, guest blogger and off-road vehicle enthusiast Bryan Much shares his top tips for enjoying a late season motorcycle or ORV ride along the Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail. 

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Winter may be somewhere up ahead, but there is still time to get in that last great motorcycle ride of the season.  Late fall riding allows us to be comfortable in our riding gear without the sweat, bugs, and discomfort of hot summer days.

As autumn colors fade and leaves begin to fall, the fields and forests offer another aspect of their beauty for us to appreciate.  We soon are able to enjoy the now unrestricted views that penetrate the forests. Features hidden in summer and early fall are now there for us to discover and enjoy. What better time than now to take that stroll to a hidden waterfall or a scenic overlook?

Wander off the Beaten Path
One of the best ways to enjoy scenery unique to late autumn, and to discover some of the remarkable history of the Upper Peninsula, is to tour the forests and towns by dual sport or adventure motorcycle.  Many know that road riding is great for traditional bikes, but riding dirt and gravel paths through the backcountry provides an experience not available to many.

Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail

Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail

The Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail (UPAT) is a GPS guided 1,250 mile loop of the UP.  The path is principally off-pavement often following twisty and rolling paths through the forest.  Points of interest that detail the location of historic and scenic places that are not to be missed are included in the GPS file.

Take Your Time
It takes 5-6 days to navigate the entire loop, but riders have the option of riding either the east or west loop over a long weekend. I’ve enjoyed some stimulating wildlife encounters including a wolf that lingered long enough for me to take a few photos.  I’ve also encountered bears, moose, and a variety of other wildlife along the way.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

A Little Research Goes a Long Way
Points of interest on the trail offer riders the opportunity to explore the fascinating maritime, mining, and logging history of the UP.  A little advance reading provides a rich background that makes in-person visits to these sites a fascinating experience.

It’s Nearly Impossible to ‘Pick a Favorite’
I tried to sort out a few locations on this ride that I might consider favorites.  In the end, I had to admit that nearly every section had some element that propelled it to near the top of the list.  The technical riding, the scenery, the wildlife, the history, and so much more.  Touring the mining towns and camping at the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula certainly is near the top.  But so are the long rides through uninterrupted forest and visits to the now small towns that were once major logging and fishing centers.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.14.53 PM

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Customize Your Route
Some people might be wondering if this ride is within the capabilities of their motorcycle or their skills as a rider.  To help people explore the route and answer these questions as they plan a trip of their own, I’ve prepared a “ride report” that gives detailed information and photographs. View the report here or download the GPS file.

For those that don’t ride, but enjoy overland travel, there is a version of the path tailored specifically for standard four-wheel drive vehicles.

So what are you waiting for?  Get started on that late season motorcycle adventure.  See you in the UP!

Where is your favorite place in Michigan for a motorcycle or ORV tour

Bryan Much retired from the military after having advanced from Private to Colonel. He now spends much of his time advocating for off-highway motorcyclists and exploring and recording paths for them to ride and enjoy.  He serves on two councils relating to trails and is a member of many organizations related to this recreational interest.