5 Best Hiking Trails in Michigan

The best hiking trails in Michigan are exciting and varied. They bring us waterfalls, mature forests, canyons, and mountaintops. The countless trail networks’ diverse landscapes and majestic panoramas offer hikers a lot to explore in the Great Lakes State.

Hiking trails in Michigan are a lot of fun, whether you opt for routes of the Upper Peninsula or a casual outing at the major metro areas. The state definitely has lots to enjoy.

Michigan hiking trails have terrain choices from laidback-wooded hikes, old hardwood forests to the more exciting terrains on the islands and shores of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior.

With the various waterways, beaches, lakes, dunes, waterfalls, and forests, the options on the nearly 12,500 miles of state-designated paths and trails are never-ending.

Check these places for some of the best hiking in Michigan experiences.

Best Michigan Hiking Trails

Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail

1. Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail

This trail is thought to be one of the finest places to hike in Michigan and possibly the entire Midwest. The views of the rugged interior will have you gawking. Some visitors opt to drive to get here, but hiking to this point is the way to go. Absorbing it all from a ledge on the Porcupine Mountains is overwhelming.

There are no water refilling areas, so do remember to bring enough. The trail goes up on the rocky bluffs above the Big Carp River Valley and Lake of the Clouds. Awesome views are with you every step.

Be firm footed since there will be areas when the trail comes real close to the edge of cliffs. Bring a light hiking travel backpack with essentials and use a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots. As the trail descends into the woods between the Escarpment peaks, the terrain gets a bit difficult.

Manistee River Trail

2. Manistee River Trail

The trail is an 8.8-mile path along the east shore of the Manistee River. Rolling hills trail crosses bridges intersecting two creeks and several wetlands. Quite popular with tourists is a waterfall near the northern end.

The trail also has the biggest wooden suspension bridge in Lower Michigan. The footpath is dotted with areas where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Manistee River’s surrounding area. I also noticed a few campsites along the trail for those wanting an overnighter.

The great thing about the Manistee River Trail is that it is fun for all hiking skill levels. As I traversed the trail, I found many flat areas along the bluffs overlooking the river. The terrain and elevation changes were brief ones, allowing anyone to move at their own pace.

Vasa Trail

3. Vasa Trail

The Vasa Trail stretches 42.3 kilometers and is located near Traverse City, Michigan. The trail is open all year round and has many activity choices. Dog owners can bring their pets on the course as long as they are on a leash.

Vasa Trail attracts mountain bikers, hikers, and even skiers since it is Michigan’s best ski trail. During winter, those who like to embark on cross-country skiing enjoy the snow-covered terrain. The 26-mile loop features many wildlife encounters, hence in hunting season, bright orange clothes for protection.

The Vasa Pathway has several loops of varying distances of 3K, 5K, 10K, and 25K. As such, it also has a varied rating of easy to difficult. Outdoor enthusiasts, whether hikers, cross-country skiers, runners, bikers, walkers, all enjoy the trail.

Since the trails are, for the most part, in wooded areas and with their fair share of hills, come prepared. I suggest you bring one of the best lightweight hiking backpack bags with you for supplies to ensure many hours of fun. It is surely an escape from the stresses of everyday life.

Jordan River Pathway

4. Jordan River Pathway

The Jordan River Pathway is regarded as a moderately difficult 18.8-mile loop. You should expect to take two days to complete the trial. It is a popular choice for hikers of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula during weekends.

Pinney Bridge State Forest Campground, also known as Penny Bridge, is the most popular camping ground for an overnight stay. It is located at the midpoint of the 18.8-mile loop, making it a perfect rest juncture. There are 15 first-come, first-serve campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, hand pumps, and vault toilets.

I encountered great climbs that were pleasingly difficult. Gazing into the valley while climbing up and down was a great visual treat. You will also find abundant wildlife along the Jordan River, like herons in the water or beavers building dams. (Read What to Bring on a Hike)

If you are here in spring, bring a good insect repellant, as the mosquitos can be irritating. During October, expect to see vivid, beautiful colors of red and golden-yellow.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

5. Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

If you are looking for a paved trail, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is for you. Glen Arbor is the nearest town to the start of the footpath. Wheelchair users or those who prefer to bike, walk, or run on pavement will love this trail, making it, in my opinion, the most inclusive pathway.

In fact, I found out that a marathon is held here every year, providing a scenic trail with lots of shade along the path thanks to the trees. Bikes are for rent in Glen Arbor. Come winter, and during winter, a more civilized hike awaits you and your snowshoes.

The hard-surface trail is about 22 miles from Empire through Glen Haven and Glen Arbor to Bohemian Road. The path is mostly made of asphalt; however, there is a boardwalk over wetland areas in some areas. When you get to the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, the surface is packed, crushed stone.

Are you convinced that Michigan has some of the best and varied hiking trails? I think it is a great state to visit for some unforgettable time outdoors.

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5 Best Hiking Trails in Michigan

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