Rogers City - Cheboygan - Indian River

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 Woods and water have always been important to the northeast corner of Michigan's Sunrise Side at the "Tip of the Mitt." You'll see no shortage of either on a tour of the 200-mile triangle that includes the sandy beaches of Lake Huron, rivers and lakes teeming with fish, the only waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula, and thousands of acres of forests. The land that was clear cut during the lumbering boom more than a century ago now offers beautiful fall scenery from late September to mid-October.

Best Enjoyed: Late September to Mid-October
Approximate Length: 200 miles

Begin in Indian River, just stone's throw--but a world away--from I-75. Snuggled between Burt Lake and Mullett Lake, this resort town is just about midway on the Inland Waterway, a 38-mile chain of navigable waters between Crooked Lake to the west and Lake Huron to the east.

Here you can rent a canoe, browse a gift shop, and pick up some smoked fish for a picnic at Burt Lake State Park, one of six state parks in this corner of Michigan. Stop by Chillermania, the home bookstore of local author Johnathan Rand, who pens the American Chillers series and thrillers for kids of all ages. Pause to reflect at The Cross In The Woods, a 55-foot high crucifix made of a single redwood tree, with a 7-ton bronze sculpture of Christ by sculptor Marshall Fredericks. Since 1954 visitors of all faiths have strolled the paths surrounding the work of art and attended Catholic masses offered outdoors or, if weather dictates, in the new church, overlooking the cross. 

Travel north about 22 miles on a colorful, tree-lined stretch of I-75 to the Straits of Mackinac, and stop just south of town at Mill Creek State Park. This is where Scotsman Robert Campbell built a water-powered sawmill in the 1780s, establishing one of the first industrial sites in the Great Lakes region. You can see a working demonstration of the recreated mill, view additional exhibits, and stroll two trails through hardwood and aspen (through September 24).

The 56-mile drive on US-23 between Mackinaw City and Rogers City is liberally sprinkled with scenic turnouts, roadside parks and state parks, so allow time to stop and enjoy the views, gaze at Lake Huron, and stroll the low dunes.

The harbor town of Cheboygan is a pleasant place to shop, dine, catch a performance at the restored 1877 Opera House, or just stroll the waterfront. See the Cheboygan Lock, which since 1869 has been making up the 15-foot difference in water levels for small boats navigating the Cheboygan River and the Inland Waterway. Outdoor recreation enthusiasts venture 13 miles southeast of the city to Black Mountain Recreation Area, a forested wonderland on Black Lake, known for its walleye and lake sturgeon fisheries. Or follow M-33 just 5 miles south of Cheboygan to Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake, on the Inland Waterway. About three miles east of town on US-23, stop at Cheboygan State Park for a picnic on the Lake Huron shore and mountain bike and hiking trails.

The highway hugs the shoreline to Presque Isle County's Lighthouse Park and the Forty Mile Point Light Station, one of seven lighthouses in the area. Built in 1896, the 52' high tower is located 40 Miles southeast of Old Mackinaw Point and 40 miles northwest of Thunder Bay. 

Bicyclists might hop on the paved Huron Sunrise Trail at Hoeft State Park, 5 miles north of Rogers City off US-23. The park also features 4.5 miles of scenic hiking trails that wind through a mixed forest and along Lake Huron. 

Rogers City, known for excellent salmon fishing, is home to the world's largest open pit limestone quarry, which you can view from a viewing platform. The Port of Calcite is one of the largest shipping ports on the Great Lakes.

Continue southeast from Rogers City on US-23 for about 12 miles to the undeveloped Thompson's Harbor State Park. The rustic, undeveloped site protects about 7 miles of Lake Huron shoreline and sand dunes, and appeals to hikers with its 6 miles of trails.

You'll have to swing east from US-23 for a worthwhile visit to a pair of Presque Isle lighthouses. Located just about a mile apart, you are welcome to climb to the top of both towers. Take Highway 638 to Grand Lake Road where you'll turn north to reach the New Presque Isle Lighthouse, located in a 99-acre township park. Built in 1870, at 38 feet it is the tallest Great Lakes lighthouse tower that is accessible to the public. The restored 1905 keeper's dwelling is a museum. Also on Grand Lake Road, the 30-foot tall Old Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1840 and is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes.

Continue on Grand Lake Road 6 miles south of Presque Isle to the Besser Natural Area, a quiet pocket of Lake Huron shore and forest with virgin red and white pine, plus spruce, balsam, cedar and birch trees. The Bell Cemetery is all that remains of the lumber and sawmill town located here in the 1800s.

Make your way back to US-23 and head west on M- 68 toward Onaway, but watch for signs and make a detour to Ocqueoc Falls.  The two gentle cascades, 300 feet apart, are the only natural waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula. Hikers will enjoy a choice of 3, 4, and 6.5 mile loops on the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway

A logging town in the 1880s, Onaway is now recognized as the Sturgeon Capital of Michigan in honor of the giant prehistoric fish that thrives in nearby Black Lake. Visit the Onaway Historical Society Museum to learn about the city that "Steered the World" as a major producer of automobile steering wheels, then turn yours west on M-68 for a colorful close to your tour of this northern Michigan triangle. 

Burt Lake State Park
6635 State Park Drive
Indian River, MI 49749
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (231) 238-9392
Burt Lake State Park is located at the heart of the inland waterway, where Burt Lake and the Sturgeon River converge. The park consists of about 400 acres which include 306 modern campsites with 4 toilet/shower buildings, a day use area with beach for swimming or shoreline fishing, rentable picnic shelter, a youth organizational campground. The campground is closed November through April. An overlook tower and picnic area, and a boat launch with a skid pier and car/trailer parking. One mile hiking trail is marked within the park. No bicycles, horses, or motorized vehicles allowed on the trail. Cross-County ski trails are non-groomed. Pet friendly shoreline.
1651 S. Straits Hwy.
Indian River, MI 49749
Phone: (231) 238-0338
The All-New World Headquarters for Books by Author Johnathan Rand. Also featuring Christopher Knight's Adult Fiction books.
Cross in the Woods Shrine & Nun Doll Museum
7078 M-68
Indian River, MI 49749
Phone: (231) 238-8973
The center-piece of this shrine is a cross carved from a single redwood tree. It is 55 feet high, 22 feet wide. The bronze figure of Jesus that is attached to the redwood cross is the work of a famous sculptor, Marshall Fredericks. It weights seven tons. Other shrines are situated on the grounds. The Shrine is privileged to be the home for the largest collection of dolls dressed in traditional habits of men and women religious communities in the United States.
Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park & Zipline
9001 US-23
Mackinaw City, MI 49701
Phone: (231) 436-4100
Hear the rush of water powering a reconstructed sawmill as you experience a sawmill demonstration at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park in Mackinaw City. Participate in the sawpit method of lumber production. Immerse yourself in nature trails and interactive exhibits. Climb a 50-foot tower. Play like a child beside your child in the Forest Friends Play Area and at the Water Power Station. And then experience the Adventure Tour! The Adventure Tour includes the Eagle's Flight Zipline, Forest Canopy Bridge, and Nature Trail Climbing Wall. Zipping through the Treetops is Fun and Affordable. Height and weight restrictions apply. Visit our Web site for guidelines. Located less than five minutes south from Mackinaw City.
The Opera House
403 N. Huron Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Reservations: (231) 627-5841
Toll Free: (800) 357-9408
Phone: (231) 627-5432
A restored, vintage 1888, three-story, red brick Romanesque theatre with 582 seats and arched doors and windows. Hosted such notable celebrities as Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, William S. Hart and Annie Oakley, among others over the years. Highly regarded for its fine acoustics. Open year round and hosts a variety of world renowned artists.
Black Mountain Pathway
County Road 489
Onaway, MI 49765
Phone: (231) 627-2811
30 mile groomed double-tracked cross-country ski, hike, bike and horseback trail. A separate six-mile skating lane meanders around the lower portion of the mountain. Well maintained. Parking lot, toilet and informal bulletin board with maps. Nearby Black Lake and Twin Lakes Campgrounds.
Aloha State Park
4347 Third Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (231) 625-2522
Our park has 285 modern campsites, two swimming beaches. The swimming beaches have sandy bottoms and have easy incline from the shore. There are three play areas with a softball field, horseshoe pits, basketball and volleyball courts, boat launch and basin that provides a protected harbor for boats of various sizes. Metal detecting area.
Cheboygan State Park
4490 Beach Road
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (231) 627-2811
Cheboygan State Park has a system of well-marked trails that provide access to scenic Lake Huron vistas and glimpses of rare wildflowers. Visitors have their choice of lodging, with modern camping, rustic cabins, tepees and a fully-furnished modern lodge. A carry-in boat launch is located on Duncan Bay, and fishing is available both on the bay and on Elliot Creek.
Forty Mile Point Lighthouse
7323 US 23N
Lighthouse Park
Rogers City, MI 49779
Phone: (989) 734-4587
40 Mile Point Lighthouse is located on the northern shoreline of Lake Huron in Presque Isle County’s Lighthouse Park, Rogers City, Michigan. At a cost of $25,000, the station was completed by the end of 1896. Its 4th Order Fresnel lens has been a welcoming beacon to sailors since May 1897 and is still operating today. In 1996, the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse Society began restoring the lighthouse, outbuildings and grounds. Several years ago, the pilot house from the Steamer Calcite, built in 1912 and the first self-unloading steamer on the Lakes, was relocated to the reservation. The Society, with the help of many retired Great Lakes sailors, has also restored and preserved this structure. The park is open to the public year-round. The lighthouse museum, pilot house and gift shop are open 10:00am to 4:00pm Tuesday through Sunday beginning Memorial Day weekend through mid-October. Admission is free. Group tours can also be arranged. Ask about our Guest Lighthouse Keeper program.
P.H. Hoeft State Park
5001 US-23 North
Rogers City, MI 49779
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (989) 734-2543
Heavily wooded 300 acre park on with a mile of sandy, Lake Huron shoreline with small sand dunes. We have 144 modern campsites and a mini cabin. P.H. Hoeft State Park Offers a Sears Roebuck Lodge for rent. Amenities include a refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, coffee maker and toaster. Linens/towels are supplied along with dishware, utensils, pots, pans, bakeware, a Weber grill, (charcoal not provided) a fire pit (wood for sale in the park) and a picnic table. Guests are expected to clean the lodge prior to their departure. Excellent swimming area and a close view of Great Lakes shipping traffic from beach. Spacious, lakefront view picnic shelter with split-stone fireplace available. Our 4 1/2 miles of hiking trails are groomed for skiing in the winter. Metal detecting area.
Thompson's Harbor State Park
120 "A" Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (231) 627-9011
Situated along seven and a half miles of Lake Huron shoreline, this undeveloped park provides a rustic retreat for hikers exploring the park's six miles of trails. Thompsons Harbor now has two rustic cabins.
New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park and Museum
4500 East Grand Lake Road
Presque Isle, MI 49777
Phone: (989) 595-5419
Presque Isle Light Station is a complex of three historic buildings including a lighthouse tower and two keeper's residences. Located on the Lake Huron shoreline near Presque Isle Harbor, the "New Presque Isle Light" is the tallest lighthouse tower accessible by the public on the Great Lakes. Built in 1870, it replaced the 1840 harbor light. The light station complex is part of a 99-acre township park that includes a playground, picnic area, pavilion and nature trails. A gift shop is located in the original keeper's quarters connected to the tower. Visitors, for a nominal fee, may climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower for a spectacular view. An unattached 1905 keeper's dwelling has been painstakingly restored. It is now a museum that provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about local history, as well as how keepers and their families lived. The buildings and grounds are open to the public daily from 9am - 6pm, mid-May through mid-October. The 1905 House is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 11am- 5pm Tuesday through Saturday, 1pm- 5pm Sunday, closed on Monday.
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse
5295 E. Grand Lake Rd.
Presque Isle, MI 49777
Phone: (989) 595-6979
The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Built in 1840 by Jeremiah Moors of Detroit, the harbor light operated until 1871 when the keeper transferred to a new, taller, coastal lighthouse a mile to the north. The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse park is a complex composed of two main structures, a keepers dwelling and a light tower. The stone and brick tower measures thirty feet tall and eighteen feet in diameter. Visitors can climb the hand-hewn stone steps for a panoramic view of the Lake Huron shoreline and Presque Isle Harbor. Nearby is the one-story side-gabled brick keeper’s dwelling which serves as a hands-on museum. Here, visitors can blow foghorns and examine other interesting artifacts. They can also ring the bell from the Lansing City Hall clock tower. Tipping the scales at an impressive 3,425 pounds, this bronze behemoth is much bigger than the Liberty Bell, which weighed 2,080 pounds when cast. Visitors may also pose for the perfect photo opportunity with head and hands in an old set of punishment stocks. The buildings and park grounds are open to the public daily, from 9am until 6pm, mid-May through mid-October. A nominal fee is charged for tower climbs.
Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway
Mackinaw State Forest
Millersburg, MI 49759
Phone: (989) 785-4251
While the Upper Peninsula has hundreds of waterfalls, the Lower Peninsula has only two, with Ocqueoc Falls being the most popular and accessible one south of the Mackinac Bridge. You can rush from the parking lot to the falls in a couple of minutes, but the best way to turn this stop into an adventure is first to bike or hike a portion of the Ocqueoc Falls Pathway, a bicentennial project built in 1976. This Mackinaw State Forest trail is shared by hikers and mountain bikers during much of the year and consists of four loops; 2.85, 3.5, 4.6 and 6 miles. More than just the falls, this is a very scenic area dominated by the river valley and forested by towering pines and hardwoods that are brilliant in early October. You hike or ride out along a ridge above the valley for some incredible views, and then return along the river, ending at the falls.