Thanks to Outside Magazine for creating this:

Michigan Activity Guide

Chose an activity to see the trails highlighted on the map.

  • All
  • Hike
  • Bike
  • Paddle

HIKE

Trailbuilder: Andrea Ketchmark
Volume 90%

SOUTH MANITOU ISLAND, SLEEPING BEAR DUNES

Once you hit the island—a 90-minute ferry ride out of Leland Harbor—you’ve got options. Set up a sunshade at The Bay beach/campground and spend the day swimming, climbing to the base of the historic lighthouse, or hiking to see a sunken ship whose hull still rises above the waves. Want solitude? Hoof the flat and sandy trails 3.7 miles to the north shore’s Popple Campground, where you can scramble to the top of massive 450-foot-tall dunes. Ferry: Manitou Island Transit.

HINES PARK TRAIL, DETROIT METRO: DEARBORN-NORTHVILLE

Tracing the Rouge River valley, the 17-mile-long Hines Park Trail charts a slender, wending path from Northville to Dearborn. The city still buzzes all around you, but the green seclusion created by dropping into the shallow valley and 100-plus years of park-forest care creates an unexpected and rich outdoor immersion. On an early-morning hike accompanied by birdsong, it’s easy to forget you in are a metro area of four million people.

MANISTEE RIVER TRAIL AND NORTH COUNTRY TRAIL, MESICK

The Manistee River, one of America’s greatest trout rivers, is also home to one of the state’s most beautiful hikes. On the east side is the 11-mile Manistee River Trail; on the west side is a 12-mile section of the North County Trail. Combine them and you’ve got a rugged 23-mile loop with steep climbs, waterfalls, and seven backcountry campsites to choose from. A must-see: the 245-foot wooden suspension bridge (the largest in the Lower Peninsula) a short walk from the Hodenpyl Dam trailhead.

AU SABLE RIVER HIGHBANKS TRAIL, OSCODA

With easy, mostly flat terrain and big views, the Highbanks Trail is perfect for families looking for an entry-level backpacking or hiking outing. The entire trail, which mostly sticks to the bluff above the river, is seven miles each way. If it’s a day hike you’re after, the four-mile section from the Iargo Springs trailhead to Lumberman’s Monument is the most scenic. If you’ve got time for an overnighter, camp at Monument Campground before backtracking to Iargo Springs the next day. Either way, bring your suit and rod: Several spur trails lead down to the river for fishing and swimming breaks.

JORDAN RIVER PATHWAY, MANCELONA

Pack a fly rod and food for an overnight, and you’re set for the weekend on this 18-mile-long iconic Michigan trail. Your plan of attack: Start at the ridgetop trailhead at Deadman’s Hill, which serves up sweeping views of the forest below, and then drop into the Jordan River Valley. Your destination for the night is 10 miles away at the Pinney Bridge Campground, the only camp in the valley. Don’t forget the bug spray: Much of the terrain along the river is low and wet, and the bugs can be fierce in spring and early summer.

WILDERNESS STATE PARK, MACKINAW CITY

Gracing the northernmost tip of Lower Michigan’s mitt, Wilderness State Park runs along the Mackinac Straits and is laced with nearly 40 miles of trails. The best way to experience it all? Stay at the main campground (250 sites, six cabins) and then load packs with beach supplies and walk the waterline seeking solitude for you and your crew. Come nightfall, drive five miles east to the Dark Sky Park and explore the heavens through a mighty telescope.

HOIST LAKES FOOT TRAVEL AREA, GLENNIE

Neither motors nor bicycles are allowed in the aptly named Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area. Plan an easy weekend with family ambling the 20 miles of trails that meander among 11,000 acres of kettle lakes and classic Michigan forest. Be sure to allow plenty of time to linger at the lakes and spend the night if possible: The backcountry campsites at Hoist Lakes see very little use and the state stocks South Hoist Lake with rainbow trout.

ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK, LAKE SUPERIOR

Sitting in the northwest corner of rugged Lake Superior, this 45-mile-long, nine-mile-wide wilderness is tough to reach. Thanks to its remote location—getting there requires a 90-minute ferry ride from the nearest harbor—it’s home to the most pristine boreal forest in the lower 48, some 1,300 moose, and, according to last count, just two remaining wolves. Book a room at the Rock Harbor Lodge to plot your day hikes or use it as a basecamp for a multiday backpacking trip: The park has 170 spectacular miles of flat to moderately hilly hiking trails and 36 backcountry campsites. Tip: Go in late August when the bugs have decreased.

PORCUPINE MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS STATE PARK, SILVER CITY

One of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest, the Porkies—a 60,000-acre park of ancient mountains rising 1,300 feet above Lake Superior—are rugged and wild, with nearly 110 miles of trails. Translation: Everything from easy day hikes to five-day backpacking loops is in play. There are 63 backcountry campsites, 19 rustic cabins, and three yurts in the park, but if you’ve only got a few hours, head for the Escarpment Trail (4.4 miles easy way), which traces a high rocky bluff and serves up panoramic views of both the park and lake.

PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE, MUNISING

It might be best known as a paddling destination, but Pictured Rocks also features some of the most stunning lakeshore hiking in all of the Midwest. Hike the whole park if you can: The 42-mile trail—which starts in Grand Marais and finishes in Munising and doubles as the North Country National Scenic Trail—is the crown jewel of Michigan hikes, passing by lighthouses, shipwrecks, giant sand dunes, and, of course, its signature standstone cliffs and rock features. If you can’t swing the whole burrito, head for the heart of the park by hiking the 12-mile loop connecting Mosquito Beach and Chapel Beach.

BIKE

Trailbuilder: Aaron Rogers
Volume 90%

FORT CUSTER RECREATION AREA, BATTLE CREEK

Hardpacked, fast, and fun is the best way to describe this network of 21 miles of singletrack just east of Kalamazoo. There are no epic climbs, but the trails are extremely well maintained, flying through open fields, weaving through oak forests, and zipping past small, pretty lakes. They’re also conveniently color-coded. Families and newer riders: Start on the blue and green loops. More intermediate and advanced folks: Head straight for the more technical red trail. Everybody: Kick back post-ride in nearby Kalamazoo, which has a thriving restaurant and brewpub scene. No bike rentals nearby, so bring your rig.

POTAWATOMI TRAIL, PINCKNEY

Just 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, the Potawatomi Trail is as good as it gets in southeast Michigan, with fast and flowy trails, punchy climbs, and screaming technical descents. The full 17-mile loop traverses everything from deep forests to broad wetlands, with views of shimmering lakes along the way. It’s classic Midwestern riding: tons of roots and a never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs through the woods. Rentals: Dexter Bike & Sport.

WHITE PINE TRAIL, GRAND RAPIDS TO CADILLAC

Following the old rail bed for 90-plus miles and snaking through five counties, the White Pine Trail forms the backbone of the state’s extremely popular and well maintained rail-to-trail system. Part crushed limestone, part paved, and 100 percent car-free, the White Pine is the perfect setting for worry-free multi-generational riders. Gravel-grinder types might want to rally it in one push, but there are plenty of options for shorter rides and several towns along the way, which make it easy to sample the trail in smaller chunks. Rentals: McLain Cycle and Fitness.

LITTLE TRAVERSE WHEELWAY, CHARLEVOIX TO HARBOR SPRINGS

Four of the Great Lakes’ most charming small harbor towns—Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Bay Harbor, and Charlevoix—link up on this 26-mile rail-to-trail route that shadows the Lake Michigan coast. The entire route can easily be ridden in a leisurely day, but it’s also the ideal two-day trip. Pack a credit card, swimsuit, and sandals and spend the day pedaling one way to your hotel. Eat lunch and shop in funky Petoskey, swim where the trail nears the lake, and stop often to soak it all in. Stay overnight in Harbor Springs or Charlevoix and then pedal back to your car the next day. Rentals: Latitude 45.

THE VASA PATHWAY, TRAVERSE CITY

The Vasa Pathway is at the center of the hive of TC’s buzzing mountain-bike culture. A combination of hand-cut singletrack and wider skate-ski trails, the Vasa system winds through hardwood forests and rolling hills. It’s accessible enough for new riders, there’s enough terrain (21 miles) to wear out experts, and it’s got tons of off-the-map bootleg trails for the adventuresome set. (If this sounds like your thing, we recommend packing a compass or heading out a with a local.) Afterward, tap into TC’s nationally renowned food scene (Mario Batali summers here) and then kick back in one of the city’s handful of beautiful beaches. Rentals: Einstein Cycles.

LEELANAU PENINSULA

Road riders, this is your place. Jutting out some 30 miles into Lake Michigan, the peninsula is a bucolic mix of orchards, vineyards, and, of course, stunning lakeside vistas. The road’s shoulders are wide. The traffic is light. And there are small towns with ice cream stands, tiny restaurants, and marinas for bucolic rest breaks along the way. Where to start? Park in Lake Leelanau Village and roam the roads north of M-204. Rentals: Suttons Bay Bikes.

GLACIAL HILLS, BELLAIRE

Situated in the heart of northern Michigan vacation country in a region known as Chain O’ Lakes, Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area has more than 22 miles of IMBA-engineered trails. Mapped out with the family in mind, the trails range in difficulty from beginner-friendly (flat, wide, and easy) to gut-busting (steep, technical, and speedy). The best part? The trails start just more than a mile from the cool little town of Bellaire, the perfect multisport weekend basecamp for everything from fishing and paddling to biking and beer drinking (iconic microbrewery Short’s Brewing Company is based here). Rentals: Paddles & Pedals.

BIG M, MANISTEE

Laid over the slopes of a long-defunct downhill ski area, the trails at Big M offer up 40 miles of riding laced with monster climbs and adrenaline-juiced downhills. Strong riders will find the biggest terrain mix and flowy fun on Catamount Trail—be sure to take the spur to Capper’s Corner for a see-forever view of Manistee National Forest’s treetops. The area also features several mellower, more family-friendly trails. Post-ride, brews and eats for everyone are just 15 minutes away in Manistee. Rentals: Crystal Lake Adventure Sports.

THE NOQUEMANON TRAIL NETWORK, MARQUETTE

With gorgeous waterfront parks, Marquette, a handsome 19th-century mining-turned-college town on the shore of Lake Superior, is ground zero for the Upper Peninsula’s vibrant mountain-bike scene. The Noquemanon Trail Network has 50 miles of beautifully maintained trails, everything from gap jumps and ramp drops to kid-friendly flow trails. And that’s just the start: There are 90 more miles of singletrack within an hour’s drive of town. Our favorite trail: the Down Dogger trail, a ripping 350-foot descent. Rentals: Quick Stop Bike Shop or Lakeshore Bike.

COPPER HARBOR TRAILS, COPPER HARBOR

At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor’s 15-plus miles of trails scored a Silver Level Ride Center ranking from IMBA—one of just 10 in the U.S. And with everything from wood-plank corkscrews and cliffy, technical descents to rolling, buffed-out singletrack and family-friendly loops, it gets a gold medal for variety. The best part? The trails start right “downtown” in this 100-resident burg, where hotels, camping, restaurants, a microbrewery, and rentals can all be had. Before you go, check out the Copper Harbor Trails Club’s website for interactive maps, upcoming events, and all the other beta you could ever want. Rentals: Keweenaw Adventure Company.

PADDLE

Trailbuilder: Sam Crowley
Volume 90%

SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, EMPIRE

With dune bluffs rising 450 feet from the waterline, 35 miles of undulating dune grass, and windblown white pines, Sleeping Bear has been rightly voted as one of the most beautiful places in America. Families can find calm paddling on the sleepy Platte River or on the park’s inland lakes, like Shell or Bass Lakes. For even more solitude, ferry your boats from Leland harbor to South or North Manitou Islands and paddle 35 miles of sandy isle shore. Boat rentals: Crystal River Outfitters. Rentals: Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak. Guide: Uncommon Adventures.

DETROIT RIVER, DETROIT

While the resurgence of Detroit has been well documented, there’s one comeback story that’s received very little ink: the cleaning up of the Detroit River, which is now home to a walleye fishery and naturally reproducing sturgeon. The two best options for a quick and easy paddle: Rent a kayak or SUP on Belle Isle Park (designed by Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted) and cruise around the island, or book a guided trip with Detroit River Sports for a tour of the lower Detroit River near Grosse Isle, including Humbug Marsh.

HURON RIVER WATER TRAIL, ANN ARBOR

The only designated Natural River in southeast Michigan serves up an easy flow, with only a few not-too-tricky rapids, as it meanders past historic water mill sites and some of Michigan’s classic small towns. Anglers, feed out a line for largemouth bass, walleye, catfish, and more. A pro tip for overnights: Campgrounds are plentiful along the 104-mile trail’s upper stretch but scant as you reach the urban areas near the mouth at Lake Erie. Rentals: Argo or Gallup Canoe Liveries, Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation.

KALAMAZOO RIVER, SAUGATUCK

The Kazoo River might only be a few hours from Chicago, but it feels worlds away. Our favorite all-day excursion: Rent a kayak or SUP and float the 23-mile section serpentining from Lake Allegan to the Lake Michigan town of Saugatuck, one of the Great Lakes’ liveliest harbor towns. Be sure to pack your fly rod, because thanks to a plenitude of rocky-bottom structure and a cold ground-fed flow, there’s trophy smallmouth bass fishing along the way. Rentals: Running Rivers.

CHAIN O’ LAKES, BELLAIRE

Kid Rock’s teenage heart swooned on Torch Lake, and his dreamy memories conjured a love ballad: All Summer Long. Whether the tune is mega or meh for you, Torch and the Chain O’ Lakes it connects to—14 lakes, 75 miles long—are undeniably awesome. Explore massive (30 square miles) Torch Lake on calm days, look for bald eagles along the shores of Skegemog Lake swamp preserve, or head to the protected waters of St. Clair Lake or Six Mile Lake if the wind kicks up. Rentals: Paddles & Pedals.

THUNDER BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, ALPENA

This protected area in Lake Huron contains some of the world’s best-preserved shipwrecks. The bonus for paddlers is that many ships sank in the shallow waters not far from shore—dubbed “Shipwreck Alley”—meaning easy day-trip distance. Grab the sanctuary’s handout, which includes shipwreck tales and a map, and aim for the marker buoys to gaze down on tall-masted schooners, sidewheel steamers, and other wrecks from the glory days of Great Lakes shipping. Kayak rentals aren’t available in town, so it’s BYOB.

AU SABLE RIVER, GRAYLING

Trout Unlimited was founded on the banks of this classic Michigan stream back in 1959, and it still ranks as blue-ribbon trout water. The clean, cold, surging current keeps trout healthy and makes for sublime paddling, too. Reserve a canoe at a livery in Grayling for a few hours’ paddle. For a longer, more secluded float, ease into the Au Sable’s South Branch, specifically the Mason Tract: 11.5 miles of preserved river with few houses and plenty of muscular brown trout (flies only, catch and release). Rentals: Carlisle Canoe Livery.

PINE RIVER, CADILLAC

Nestled in a deep river valley and flowing predominantly through the Huron-Manistee National Forests, the Pine River has something for everyone. The section from Dobson Bridge to Low Bridge has tons of Class I and II rapids, making it popular with rafters, tubers, and canoeists looking for a little adventure. It’s also one of the state’s premier trout streams and, thanks to its Natural River designation, is bounding with wildlife, making it a great spot for birders and any budding naturalists in the family. Rentals: Pine River Paddlesports

PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE, MUNISING

With Mediterranean-like green waters, sea caves, stone arches, and 200-foot sandstone cliffs painted with green, blue, and red mineral stains, Pictured Rocks deserves a spot on any paddler’s bucket list. (It’s no wonder that the National Park Service designated the area, on the southeastern shore of Lake Superior, the first national lakeshore in America.) Seasoned kayakers: Put in at Miners Castle Beach and head to Chapel Beach. Everyone else: Lake Superior is cold and powerful and probably best experienced with a guide. Northern Waters Adventures offers everything from half-day trips to multi-day paddles along the 42 miles of park shore.

TWO HEARTED RIVER, GRAND MARAIS

Hemingway’s famous short story, Big Two-Hearted River, lodged this river into the national consciousness, even though the literati says he was describing the nearby Fox River. Either way, the Two Hearted is a gem: slow and mellow enough to canoe with the kids, beautiful enough for Instagram snaps, and home to enough hefty brown trout to satisfy anglers. Rock hounds in the family? The take-out where the river empties into Lake Superior is prime agate-hunting area. Rentals: Grand Marais Outfitters.

Leave a Reply