If you prefer foot power to wheels, Michigan offers hundreds of great hiking trails to explore and enjoy. 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. Plan a hike around a camping trip to maximize your outdoor vacation.
Endurance hikers can hike traverse more than 200 miles on the Shore-to-Shore Trail that connects Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. But there is a trail in Michigan that fits any interest or stamina level.
The city of Lowell near Grand Rapids is the home of the Michigan chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The North Country Trail connects 7 states via 4,600 miles of hiking trails. The Michigan portion of the trail is 1,105 miles and begins at Pittsford near the Ohio border, and travels southwest, then north to Cheboygan. The trail continues in St. Ignace and extends across the Upper Peninsula to Iron Mountain.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (ABC News: the Most Beautiful Place in America) offers a combined 100 miles of hiking on 13 trails. The Bay View Trail is a hilly hike of 7.5 miles and offers a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. Catch the ferry boat to the South and North Manitou Islands, both part of Sleeping Bear. On South Manitou you can hike past Florence Lake, take in the wreck of the Francisco Morazan or enjoy a ten mile hike around the island. Experience nature and hike along the bluffs on North Manitou.
Plan a trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula. Hike the 90 miles of trails within Pictured Rocks 73,000 acres along 42 miles of Lake Superior's south shore. You can also take a tour of the Au Sable Point Light Station, about 12 miles from Grand Marais; it’s a 1.5-mile hike between the parking lot and the lighthouse. Summer tours are Wednesday – Sunday through September 15 as staffing permits. The 30-40 minute tour is just $3 for those six and older.
The Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area is part of the Huron-Manistee National Forest and managed for hikers. There is plenty to see including wetlands, wildlife and rich forestry. Hoist offers 20 miles of trails for intermediate and advanced hikers with steep hills that rise up to 1,000 feet. If you are looking for solitude, this is the place you want to be.
Combine a hike with birding and visit one of many wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. Near Saginaw is the 9,400-acre Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge includes a 5.5-mile trail where you can hike and observe Canada Geese, deer, muskrats, beavers, ducks and turtles and more than 200 species of birds including great blue herons, great egrets and bald eagles. Interpretative signs help identify areas and four observation decks allow you to take in breathtaking views. If your feet get tired, hop in the car and drive the new 7.5-mile Wildlife Drive that opened in July 2011.
Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Hiking Trail is a 36-mile point-to-point trail located between Chelsea and Pinckney. The trail is rated as moderate and includes the picturesque Pond Lily Lookout and Sackrider Hill, a climb 1,200 foot climb. Take a rest at the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center mid-way along the trail to learn about the area’s unique natural communities, cultural history and to participate in the interactive geology exhibits. The Waterloo Recreation Area is the third largest park in Michigan with more than 20,000 acres.
Even urban dwellers don’t have to go far for a good hike. Southeastern Michigan’s Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton offers a scenic trail following the Huron River. Seven miles of the 12-mile trail have been designated a part of the National Scenic River program; Michigan has 13 designated scenic rivers. Camping is available at Island Lake. Proud Lake Recreation Area in Commerce Township has a 21-mile hiking trail good for all skill levels. Two trails run parallel to the Huron River with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.