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!

Snowshoe Your Way Through a Pure Michigan Snow Day

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an ideal destination to snowshoe, whether you are trying it for the first time or are looking for someplace new to explore. Theresa Neal with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sells readers on why snowshoeing is a great way to get outside this winter season.

Winter can be a tough time for people to stay active. It’s cold outside, it gets dark early, and curling up in a blanket with a tablet or book sounds SO good! But if you are feeling a bit dreary, maybe gained a few pounds over the holidays, or find yourself in a routine that is getting a bit old, I would suggest giving snowshoeing a try. Many people are intimidated to strap giant paddles to their feet and try walking around, understandably so. I find that once people are outfitted correctly, and given a few pointers, the majority are amazed at how easy it is to snowshoe.

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Snowshoeing Tips:

  1. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! You may need to adjust your stride slightly, and many people find poles helpful in the beginning.
  2. Aluminum snowshoes are best for icy or hard-packed snow conditions. The crampons (pokey-grips on the bottom) will give you traction, but can trip you up if you drag your feet.
  3. Traditional wooden snowshoes are great for deep, fluffy snow conditions. They are very quiet (no squeaky noises) compared to aluminum, and they leave beautiful tracks in the snow where you have walked!
  4. Used cross-country ski poles from a second-hand store or garage sale work great for snowshoeing.
  5. Expect to sweat! Avoid cotton base layers, as they soak up moisture and can make you cold. Fleece, polyester and wool are good options. Dress in thin layers so you can easily adjust your body temperature while snowshoeing.
Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Benefits of snowshoeing:

  1. You burn twice as many calories snowshoeing versus walking!
  2. You can be outside WITHOUT getting cold!
  3. After the initial investment of purchasing snowshoes, it’s free! Many state parks offer free snowshoe rental, including Tahquamenon Falls, Ludington, Hartwick Pines and Porcupine Mountains.
  4. You can explore places that are inaccessible during the summer. At Tahquamenon we hike ‘off-trail’, across marshes and through forests that are usually too wet or thick with vegetation to get through.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

My favorite part of winter is snowshoeing at night. The cold, crisp air seems so clean and refreshing, forcing the fog from my head and waking up my senses. The light from my headlamp glistens off the snow, and I enjoy scanning the trail for animal tracks to see who has been out since my last hike. Red fox, coyote, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and deer mouse tracks are most common. The best nights are those without cloud cover, when the moon is shining and the sky is filled with stars, lighting my path without needing a headlamp.

With an average annual snowfall of over 15 feet, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great place to explore winter on snowshoes. The park is open year-round, with two main destinations for snowshoeing (Upper Falls and Lower Falls). Check our website to print winter maps and join us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on current conditions and events.

Have you ever been snowshoeing? Comment on your experience below!


Theresa has served as the park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls since 2005. She began her career as a naturalist with the DNR at Holland State Park as an Adventure Ranger, delivering nature programs and leading hikes for park visitors. She was then hired as a naturalist for DeGraaf Nature Center in Holland, designing and presenting programs for children and school groups. During the summer of 2005, she again worked for the DNR Explorer Program as a mentor for the Explorer Guides in southeast Michigan. Theresa is a proud graduate of Michigan State University.

Six Ways to Get Fit and Enjoy Michigan’s Outdoors in 2016

Happy Holidays! As we look forward to an eventful and adventure-filled New Year, guest blogger Shalee Blackmer from The Awesome Mitten shares some Pure Michigan ways to get active while enjoying the incredible scenery and outdoors the Great Lakes state has to offer.

New Year, new beginnings. By now, we know the beauty that Michigan offers, and with that beauty comes hard work. Sometimes in order to get the benefit of the stunning Michigan shorelines, high cliffs, and spectacular sunsets, we must work for it. We summit, hike, and climb to the destination, and we are rewarded with pure simplicity. A far away land miles from the nearest freeway, cubicle, or stop light.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

The start of 2016 is the best time to commit to becoming a healthier you. Fortunately, we’re able to go beyond the gym to gain the benefits. There are hiking routes that span the entire state, rock walls that are begging to be climbed, and hidden lighthouses that are patiently awaiting our arrival.

For some starter inspiration, I’ve combined some of my favorite Michigan outdoor activities that are fun, healthy, and always involve a little adventure.


Right now is the perfect time to invest in a pair of snowshoes and prepare for when temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. Snowshoeing is more of a work out than most people believe, but is easy enough to do with a group of friends. One of the best times to go snowshoeing is in the woods right after a winter storm. A winter wonderland surrounds you, but not a sound can be heard.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer


Kayaking weekly will build arm muscles and allow you to enjoy the surrounding beauty in one. Michigan has hundreds of prime kayaking locations. Everything from the three-mile journey to Turnip Rock, to an afternoon down the Muskegon River, or a casual paddle around Presque Isle Park. Viewing some of Michigan’s most beautiful areas from the water offers a whole new perspective, and you’re guaranteed to feel the soreness at the end of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Ice climb/ Rock climb

If you’re ready to build that arm and finger strength, this one is for you. Both activities involve considerable workouts, and have different difficulty levels from beginner to expert. Places like Planet Rock, an indoor rock climbing facility, will train and teach you everything you need to know before you start. Eventually you can take those skills to the real outdoors, and climb everything from rocks to frozen waterfalls.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Go backpacking

Nearly everyone is fit enough to backpack, even if it is just for a day. Finding routes that have more elevation changes (sand dunes, Porcupine Mountains) will allow for a more strenuous workout. Beginners can start on shorter and flatter hikes and then can set a year end goal of a week-long backpacking trip on Isle Royale or through the Huron-Manistee National Forests.


One of the most common winter activities in Michigan is skiing and snowboarding, which also happens to be one of the best winter workouts. No matter how many years someone has hit the slopes, they will be sore at the end of a long day filled with snow and friends. Lucky for us, there are dozens of ski areas around the state, and you can always find one within a few hours drive. Those who are beginners will soon learn why it is such a common activity in Michigan, and will want to do it over and over.

Surf or body board

Michigan waves are some of the most powerful waves in the world. When the waters are choppy, those who take on the Great Lakes power will endure a non-stop workout in attempt to catch the perfect wave. Those who are interested can visit Third Coast Surf Shops in New Buffalo or St. Joseph to rent surfboards, wet suits, and even get lessons from experienced freshwater surfers.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer


What is your favorite Michigan outdoor activity?Shalee

About the author: Shalee Blackmer is a 21 year old college student who grew up in the small town of Mecosta. She currently attends Michigan State University as an advertising student and spends her time exploring the outdoors. Her hobbies include running her own travel blog, which aims to inspire college-age students to see explore on a budget and taking photos to share her story. She enjoys camping, road trips, hiking and cliff jumping and enjoying Pure Michigan beauty.