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