If you’re looking to go hiking in Michigan, you’ll soon discover that there’s no shortage of excellent trails. You’ll see more diversity in scenery and animals in Michigan than in most other states. From the mountains and cliffs of the Upper Peninsula to the dunes and sandy shores along the Great Lakes, there’s something for everyone who loves the great outdoors. This article will look at a few personal favorites and other top hiking trails throughout Michigan.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook Trail
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located along the shores of Lake Michigan. The trail is only around one mile and is an out and back trail. However, most people don’t make the journey to this part of Michigan for the hike but rather for the sight that awaits them at the end.
The overlook of the lakeshore is roughly 200 feet high and offers an unparalleled view of Lake Michigan, the dunes, and the beaches below. Once you’re finished with this hike, you should head over to the Dunes themselves and perform the several hundred-foot dune climb. Next, head down to Sleeping Bear Beach for a day of relaxation.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls via Chapel Loop
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
If you can only ever do one hike in Michigan, it should be this one. The Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls via Chapel Loop is a mouthful of a name, but it’s one of the best trails in the country. This 10.2-mile loop isn’t overly difficult, but it does have a few elevation changes and some rough terrain. While you can do it in a single day, there are plenty of camping spots along the route.
You’ll start your hike in what feels like an enchanted forest before making your way to the shores of Lake Superior. You can hear the crashing waves hitting the sides of the cliffs from a mile away, and you’ll swear it’s a thunderstorm.
However, the pride and joy of this trail are the incredible Pictured Rocks about halfway along the loop. It’s a sight that you can only see on this trail and is something more becoming of Ireland or Scotland than northern Michigan. People come from all around for the sole purpose of viewing the legendary Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: The Manistee River Loop Trail
Manistee National Forest
If you’re looking for a more strenuous hike, check out the Manistee River Loop Trail in Manistee National Forest. You’ll encounter a suspension bridge, a waterfall, and more on this strenuous 19.2-mile hike. It’s consistently rated as one of the best trails for hiking in Michigan, especially in the lower peninsula.
No matter what time of year you hike this trail, you’ll have staggering views of the Manistee River and its surrounding valley.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Greenstone Ridge Trail
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is one of the best-kept secrets of northwestern Michigan, just south of the Canadian border. It’s an island in Lake Superior closer to Wisconsin or Canada than to the rest of Michigan. The Greenstone Ridge Trail runs the length of the island and is just under 40 miles long.
The trail is meant as a weekend task, and there are plenty of campsites and grounds along the way. If you don’t feel like doing the entire length, there are also off-trails for shorter day hikes. The trail’s full length will offer breathtaking views of Lake Superior from various heights of up to 4,000 feet. It’s also popular for birders, backpackers, and campers.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Pyramid Point Trail
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Pyramid Point Trail in Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a longer version of the overlook trail previously discussed. While there are over 100 miles of hiking trails running throughout Sleeping Bear Dunes. Pyramid Point Trail is a three-mile hike that will offer you the best of what the Lakeshore offers.
There’s a ton to see on this trail, from meadows of wildflowers to birch forests to rolling sand dunes.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the best day hikes you can do in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At just 1.4 miles in length, it’s a relatively easy hike that climbs to the 1,000-foot peak of Sugarloaf Mountain. You’ll have some of the best views of Lake Superior and the Sugarloaf Valley. While the views are the highlight of the trek, don’t miss out on the dense forest views along the way.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Big Carp River Trail
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
The Big Carp River Trail in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is one of Michigan’s most challenging and reclusive hikes. The trail is located in the remote Upper Peninsula and is 9.6 miles long, but it’s an out and back trail which means the entire hike is closer to 18 miles. Not many people attempt this venture because of how remote the park is.
However, those that do are blessed with some of the most unique views in Michigan. Much of the trail overlooks the Porcupine Mountain valley and the dense forest of trees and rocks therein. You’ll start at the shores of Lake Superior and trek through the mountains overlooking Lake of the Clouds.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Old Baldy Trail
Petoskey State Park
If you’re lucky enough to make your way to the lakeside village of Petoskey, which is where the legendary Ernest Hemingway spent a great deal of time, you should check out the Old Baldy Trail. The trail is in Petoskey State Park and is only a half-mile loop, and is the definition of short and sweet.
The trail is a slow climb to the top of Old Baldy Dune. This climb is one of the most popular dune climbs in Michigan due to the scenic views that the climb provides. Once you’re finished, make sure to take some time to adventure the town of Petoskey and check out all of the hotspots that young Mr. Hemingway enjoyed.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Potawatomi Trail
Pickney Recreational Area
The Potawatomi Trail near Pickney, MI, is the longest of the three trails in the Pickney Recreational Area. It’s a 17.4- mile loop trail that runs through a series of marshes and wetlands for which the area is famous. It isn’t an overly difficult or scenic trail, but it’s great for a one or two-day escapade into the wild. This trail is also popular with birders and mountain bikers.
If you don’t feel like doing the Potawatomi Trail, you can also try the Algonquin or Chippewa Trails nearby.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Great Warren Dune Trail
Warren Dunes State Park
Most of the hiking in Michigan we’ve looked at so far consists of cliffs, lakes, forests, and wilderness. However, the Great Warren Dune Trail is nothing like any of these. The Warren Dune Trail is located in Warren Dunes State Park in the southern part of Michigan, close to Chicago. It’s a 4.9-mile loop that takes you through what feels like a desert and culminates at the top of a hill.
The view above the top of Warren Dune is breathtaking. On a clear day, you can even see the edge of Chicago across the waters of Lake Michigan. Much of the trail runs along the lake, and there are various lookouts and bluffs periodically. Make sure to take the classic roll or tumble down the side of the dunes onto the beaches of Lake Michigan below.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: The Iron Belle Mackinac Island Segment
The Iron Belle Trail is the longest state trail in the United States and extends for over 2,000 miles. Only the most avid hikers will attempt the entire trail in their lifetime, but there are plenty of smaller sections worthy of mention. One of these, the Mackinac Island Segment, is one of the most popular hikes in the state.
While the entire length of this segment of the trail is paved, much of the trail is desolate and rugged. The Mackinac Island Segment is great for families, bikers, and day-hikers and is even wheelchair accessible. You’ll enjoy views of Lake Huron and the shops of Mackinac Island when you venture along this trail.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Au Sable River Foot Trail
Another delightful day hike that you should consider is the Au Sable River Foot Trail near Harwick Pines, MI. This is a peaceful and serene hike through an enchanting forest along the Au Sable River. There are several historical structures and cabins along the way, and you’ll have a good feel for how the timber harvesters lived who once inhabited the forest.
Though the trail is only 3.2 miles long and only takes about an hour to hike, it’s a trek that you won’t forget.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Mount Baldy Trail
We’ve looked at the Old Baldy Trail, but now it’s time to check out Mount Baldy Trail in Eagle Harbor, MI. This trail is a well-kept secret that few people even know about. It’s a five-mile out and back trail that will take you through Mount Baldy and give dazzling views of the valley below. You’ll also catch glimpses of Lake Superior along the way.
One of the reasons that so few people hike this trail is because of where it’s located. It’s about as far north as you can go in the Upper Peninsula before you have to take a boat to Canada. However, don’t let this deter you, and make sure to check out the Mount Baldy Trail.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Eben Ice Caves
The Eben Ice Caves Trail in Hiawatha National Forest is another hidden gem that Michigan seems to have so many of. This is a 2.2-mile out and back trail that you can do any time of year, but winter is the best time to see the incredible ice caves. They look like something out of a winter wonderland, but be careful not to get stuck by any of the hanging ice cycles that can grow taller than you!
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Escarpment Trail
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Let’s head back to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park for another incredible hike. The Escarpment Trail is just over eight miles long and is one of the most scenic hikes in the Upper Peninsula. The trail picks up where the Big Carp River Trail ends and acts as a continuation. Hiking the Escarpment Trail alone is a great time, and many people use it to get to other trails within the park.
However, if you can only pick one trail to hike, you should consider this one. It’s known as the “crown jewel of hikes” for a reason and offers views of Lake Superior, Lake of the Clouds, the Porcupine Mountains valley, and miles of dense forest.
Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan: Tahquamenon-Clark Loop
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
The Tahquamenon-Clark Loop is in Tahquamenon Falls State Park near the aptly-named town of Paradise, MI. This 5.4-mile loop is part of a larger 13+ mile trail system and is the best. It’s extremely popular for animal lovers who want to see moose, black bears, foxes, and more, but it’s also loved for the changing leaves during the fall.
However, make sure that you check out the Upper Falls of the Tahquamenon River, which are the largest falls east of the Mississippi River.
Wrapping Up The Best Trails for Hiking in Michigan
As you can see, excellent hiking in Michigan is definitely not in short supply. There are hundreds of incredible trails and tens of thousands of miles of wilderness waiting to be explored. Whether you’re in the mood for lake views, mountain views, waterfalls, dunes, or cliffs, there’s something for everyone in Michigan.
Looking for more natural wonders to discover in Michigan? Check out our list of 13 Amazing Destinations for Free Camping in Michigan and 6 Beautiful Destinations for Boondocking in Michigan!