Experience Michigan Trails Week in the Straits of Mackinac

A new season is upon us and throughout the Straits of Mackinac area, acres of woodlands surround scenic trails ideal for exploring during the fall color tour season—especially during Michigan Trails Week, September 22-29. Michigan Trails Week concludes on National Public Lands Day, a day for volunteer-led efforts to beautiful and build awareness about the value and breadth of U.S. public lands.

Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas in Northern Michigan offer some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the Midwest. One of the most enjoyed activities is hiking, whether for exercise, nature observation or while on a backpacking trip. Some of the best hiking opportunities exist in the Mackinaw City area south of the Mackinac Bridge and once you cross into the Upper Peninsula.

A few of the key spots to visit for a hiking excursion include:

The Headlands:

An Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac. The Headlands property is made up of nearly 600 acres of forested lands, four miles of trails and two miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline including Michigan’s only Dark Sky Park. You will experience breathtaking sunsets, pristine lakeshores and natural surroundings full of wildlife. St. Helena’s Island, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge, Waugoshance Point, Wilderness State Park, Cecil Bay and Trails End Bay are all visible from the shores of the Headlands. The Headlands has been painstakingly preserved by local residents and groups for your enjoyment.

Wilderness State Park:

Offering 12 miles of designated foot trails that weave throughout the park, Wilderness State Park boasts several marked trails include Sturgeon Bay Trail, Swamp Line, Boundary Trail, Nebo Trail, Pondside Trail, Red Pine Trail, Hemlock Trail and Big Stone Trail. Check with the DNR staff first, as parts of the shoreline are closed in the spring and early summer when the endangered Piping Plover is nesting. It is also suggested you request a complete hiking map to fully enjoy the sites and trails. This is a wonderful area to explore the ecosystem of the Great Lakes meeting the great hard woods of Northern Michigan.

Mill Creek:

Situated on over 600 acres of beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views, Mill Creek State Historic Park is also home a reconstructed sawmill. The park has 1.5 miles of trails including a half-mile nature trail that borders the creek and passes two scenic overlooks from where the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island can be viewed. Departing from the nature trail is a mile-long spur to a beaver pond. Interestingly enough, Mill Creek has a one of a kind mile loop nature trail that is totally handicap accessible.

Mackinac Island:

There are 140 miles of roads and trails on Mackinac Island with many of them designated for foot traffic only, as there are no motor vehicles allowed on the Island. The majority of them are paved roads that are shared by bicyclists, carriages and pedestrians. The longest walk is the “Round the Shore” trip, an 8.2-mile journey along Lake Shore Road which takes you by many natural features of the Island and shows off the breathtaking scenic shoreline. Other popular routes are “Across the Turtle’s Back,” “A Tranquil Bluff Trail” and “British Landing Nature Trail.” For detailed trail maps, purchase a Historic Visitor’s Guide to Mackinac Island on the ferry boat or at the Mackinac Historic Park Visitor Centers, for $1.00.

North Country Trail:

The North Country National Scenic Trail passes through seven northern states, from New York to North Dakota—traveling extensively through Michigan’s two peninsulas. When completed, the 4600-mile trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. Coming out of Petoskey, the trail travels through Mackinac State Forest and Wilderness State Park where it follows the Lake Michigan Shoreline to Mackinaw City. The trail enters town on the southern border and its entire one-mile stretch inside the village is also a paved DNR Rails-to-Trails project named the North Western State Trail. From the trailhead there is also access to the DNR’s North Central State Trail, which will take you from Mackinaw City south to Gaylord. For those wanting to continue north via the Mackinac Bridge, The Bridge Authority provides a shuttle to the trail’s Upper Peninsula connector.

For lodging reservations for this weekend, or throughout the fall season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.


#MiTrails #PureMichiganTrails #MakeItMackinaw #MiTrailsWeek


PHOTO: Photo by Kathryn Bartoszyk courtesy of Michigan Trails Magazine.

Celebrate National Bike Month (May) in the Straits Area

Whether you are a fan of road biking or trail riding, the Straits Area of Michigan offers some of the state’s greatest cycling opportunities.

Because of the area’s low traffic volume and great scenery, there is an abundance of great road routes. A good source of information about these routes can be found by referring to Michigan Department of Transportation’s Road and Trail Biking Maps. The maps can be viewed on line, purchased through the website, or picked up at various locations including most chamber and visitor bureau offices and at the Top of Michigan Trails Council’s office in Petoskey (1687 M 119).

The U.S. Bicycle Route System includes two important routes in the Straits area. This is a national network of regionally and nationally significant bicycling routes spanning multiple states. The purpose of the U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) numbering system is to facilitate travel between states on road routes identified as suitable for long-distance cycling. U.S. Bicycle Route 10 is a 193-mile route that connects St. Ignace and Iron Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The route utilizes the wide paved shoulders along US-2. U.S. Bicycle Route 35 is a 500-mile route that runs from Indiana through Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, generally following the Lake Michigan shoreline and through the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Mackinac Island is a great place to cycle and is only a ferry ride away from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. The ride around the island is eight miles, and the paved road borders the water nearly all the way. The interior of the island with its Victorian homes and great vistas is open to cycling, but there are substantial hills to climb to get there. It’s a pleasure to road ride without the worry of automobile traffic, which is not permitted on the island.

Michigan’s two peninsulas can be toured on bicycle with connection by ferry to and off Mackinac Island or by use of the Mackinac Bridge. Bicycles are not permitted to ride on the bridge, but the Mackinac Bridge Authority will transport cyclists across one of their official vehicles for a fee of $2.00 per bicycle). If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge to call for a pickup. If you are southbound, go to the service window in the administration building and ask for assistance.

In addition to road riding in and near St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula, the St. Ignace to Trout Lake Trail runs 26 miles. The surface is unimproved which means the trail can best be navigated with a mountain bike.

Rail trails offer cyclists a safe way to pedal off-road to access scenic spots and to travel from one community to another in the Straits area. Michigan has more rail trails than any other state in the US—2,439 miles. Of those miles, many are in the Straits area, including three great trails within the trail network of Top of Michigan Trails Council (TOMTC). These compacted crushed limestone trails can be navigated with any bike, with the exception of road bikes with thin tires.

The North Central State Trail runs 16 miles from Mackinaw City to Cheboygan, then 48 miles from Cheboygan to Gaylord. The North Eastern State Trail connects Cheboygan to Alpena (70 miles). The North Western State Trail, the newest of Northern Michigan’s rail trails, runs from Mackinaw City to M 119 just north of Petoskey (32 miles). These rail trails are compacted crushed limestone with the exception of eight miles of asphalt paved trail from Alanson to M 119. At M 119 you can ride seven miles north to Harbor Springs or south 19 miles through Petoskey to Charlevoix on the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved asphalt trail with a total distance of 26 miles.

Maps of these trails are available at the TOMTC office (near the intersection of the North Western State Trail and the Little Traverse Wheelway). Maps are also available in most area chamber and visitor bureau offices. They can also be found at the organization’s website: www.trailscouncil.org/trails.

This summary was prepared by the Top of Michigan Trails Council, whose mission is to advocate for trails in the Northern Lower Peninsula. TOMTC will host their second annual “Lake to Lake Tour” utilizing their trail network to facilitate pedaling from Lake Huron (Alpena) to Lake Michigan (Petoskey). This tour will take place September 14-16. The Trails Council also will host a Festival of Races (marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K) on Saturday, May 26. These running races will take place on the Little Traverse Wheelway. For more information about these events, or to learn more about the work of TOMTC, email info@trailscouncil.org or call (231) 348-8280.

PHOTO SOURCE: Michigan Traveler.