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Michigan's Best Dayhikes
What are Michigan’s most scenic hikes? Let the debate begin. And then this summer make an effort to walk at least one of them. This issue of Trail Mix is devoted to what many hikers feel are Michigan’s most scenic paths.
And if your summer adventures include North Manitou Island don’t forget our latest Classic Trails of Michigan map covers the wilderness island in Lake Michigan and can be ordered from our e-shop.
Michigan's Most Scenic Trails
By Jim DuFresne
Rob and Amy Follebout were polite but firm. Hikers are like that; civilized but unwavering.
I once stated that the Escarpment Trail in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park was the "crowning jewel of trails not only in Michigan but possibly the Midwest." Big mistake. I was immediately contacted by hikers who had a difference of opinion including the Follebouts from Richmond.
"While we absolutely enjoyed the Escarpment Trail, the trail to Chapel Beach (in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) offers tough competition for views," Amy Follebout wrote. "Well, that's our opinion."
Ask a half dozen hikers for their favorite hike, you'll end up with a list of half dozen favorite trails. That’s because in Michigan we’re blessed with huge expanses of public land featuring outstanding natural scenery that are accessible by a second-to-none system of hiking trails and foot paths.
Click on the map to the right to view a larger version or print.
Spring is here and this is the time to plan your summer hikes to Michigan’s most scenic trails. Here are six that veteran hikers think should be on your list:
Escarpment Trail: I've said it before and I'll say again; this 4-mile trail in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the best hike in Michigan.
The trail begins at the end of M-107 with a panorama of Lake of the Clouds, one of the most photographed spots in Michigan.
From there you head east along the edge of the Escarpment, a towering rock bluff that provides more views of the famous lake and the rugged interior of the park. If that wasn't enough, the trail provides access to the remains of two copper mines dating back to the mid-1800s.
Manistee River Trail: Dedicated on National Trails Day in 1996, this 11.5-mile path skirts the Manistee River from Seaton Creek National Forest Campground to Red Bridge on Coates Highway southwest of Mesick.
The trail features not only good views of the river but also passes one of only two waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula and is a surprisingly easy walk in this rugged section of the Manistee National Forest.
"I really like the Manistee River Trail," said Dick Naperala of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club. "It's very scenic, has beautiful campsites and is well maintained."
Chapel Loop: Follebout's favorite hike is a 10-mile loop from the Chapel parking lot 20 miles east of Munising in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Within 1.5 miles you pass impressive Chapel Falls, a cascade that drops 90 feet into a steep gorge, and then emerge at the white sands of Chapel Beach. The loop is completed by following a 4.4-mile portion of the Lakeshore Trail across the sandstone cliffs of Grand Portal and then heading inland along the Mosquito River, past Mosquito Falls, to the trailhead.
Sleeping Bear Point Dunes Trail: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers a variety of trails, including this 2.8-mile loop that begins near the park's maritime museum.
This is a trek around Sleeping Bear Point where you enjoy excellent views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands, climb windswept dunes and pass through ghost forests, stands of trees that were killed by migrating sand.
Cascade Falls Trail: This is a 1.8-mile loop in the Ottawa National Forest with a trailhead located eight miles northeast of Bergland. Cascade Falls may be a short walk but includes the picturesque cascade and a pair of high points overlooking this rugged Trap Hills and the West Branch of the Ontonagon River.
"It's one of my favorite hikes because the vistas were totally unexpected," said Roger Storm, author of "Hiking Michigan". "The views made feel like I was in West Virginia."
Highbanks Trail: Located in the Huron National Forest east of Oscoda, this 6.3-mile, point-to-point trail skirts the towering bluffs on the east side of the AuSable River from Iargo Springs to a trailhead at Sawmill Point.
The best stretch is the 4-mile segment from Lumberman’s Monument to Iargo Springs. Along the way you can descend a stairway to the gurgling springs, look for eagles at Canoers Monument and learn about 19th century loggers and step aboard a wanigan at Lumbermen's Monument.
"There are good views of the river along most of the trail," said Mike Ugorowski of the Flint Chapter of the Sierra Club.
For a trail map to the Escarpment Trail go online to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. For Chapel Falls and the Lakeshore Trail contact Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Go online to MichiganTrailMaps.com for trail maps to Sleeping Bear Point Dunes Trail, Manistee River Trail or Highbanks Trail.
Contact the the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (906-885-5275); Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore at (906-387-2607); Ottawa National Forest (906-932-1330); or the Huron-Manistee National Forest (989-739-0728).