The Ultimate Travel Guide to Hell Michigan
‘Hell on Earth’ is real, and it’s in Hell Michigan.
You might have wondered if Hell freezes over, and we don’t need a weather station to tell you that this tiny town near Whitmore Lake in Livingston County, Michigan does, indeed, freeze in the winter.
The town named Hell has long intrigued visitors, who are often surprised to discover that there are some fun things to do on their trip to Hell. If you like to cross country ski, canoe or kayak, you can do it in Hell. If it’s fall in Michigan, you’ll find pumpkin patches and cider mills to visit near Hell.
Read on to discover the history of Hell and start planning your trip to this unique Michigan town.
About Hell, Michigan
Established on October 13, 1841, Hell, Michigan is an unincorporated community, so it’s not under a local governing body. There are no boundaries or population records, either.
You’ll be surprised at how beautiful Hell is: more than 400 acres of hiking and biking trails that wind through a picturesque chain of lakes. The 17-mile Potawatomi Trail stretches through marshes and wetlands, and the sprawling Pinckney Recreation area is naturally beautiful.
There are fun things to do in town, too, which play upon its rather unfortunate name.
The tagline on Hell’s website sums up the place perfectly: “More people tell you to go to our town than anywhere else on Earth. Come out and visit us, then the next time someone tells you ‘go to Hell,’ you can tell them you’ve already been there and had a HELL of a good time!”
How to Go to Hell Michigan
Hell is located in southeast Michigan in Livingston County, about three miles southwest of Pinckney and about 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. If you’re a Michigan resident, your best bet is to reach Hell by car. If you’re visiting from out of the state (or even out of the country) there’s an airport nearby.
By Car: If you’re visiting from north or south Michigan, you can take US-127. From the east, take I-96 E and from the west take M-14 W or I-96 W.
By Air: Michigan’s largest international airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, is about 50 miles from Hell. Once you land at DTW, you can rent a car, hop on I-94 W and reach your destination in less than an hour.
History of Hell Michigan
Hell’s origins started when George Reeves, a native of the Catskills, New York region, relocated to the area in the 1830s. Along with a sawmill on Hell Creek, he also purchased 1000 acres and built a sawmill, distillery, and tavern.
Reeves businesses flourished. Local farmers were growing wheat and Reeves used his distillery to process the extra grain into whiskey, which he sold to local taverns as well as selling it himself.
Soon, he added a ballroom on to his tavern and built a horse racing track around his millpond. His successful business ventures attracted the attention of the government following the Civil War, which sent tax collectors out for an assessment.
According to the Internet Archive, Reeves and local townspeople hid the hooch by pouring the whiskey into 200-pound barrels to which long ropes were affixed and sinking them to the bottom of the lake until the coast was clear. Reeves died in 1877 and his land was sold to a group of Detroit investors, who raised the level of the dam to create Hi-Land Lake.
How Hell Michigan Got Its Name
There are a few theories as to how Hell got its name, according to the Archive.
Theory One: Hell got its name after a pair of German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, “So schoene hell.” ‘Hell,’ in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors’ comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals.
Theory Two: George Reeves, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the origin of Hell, was asked just what he thought the town should be named. George reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.”
Theory Three: The third theory is that the town was named after the “hell-like” conditions encountered by early explorers including mosquitos, thick forest cover, and extensive wetlands
Best Things to Do in Hell Michigan
Hell is quirky town with attractions as unique as its name. From shopping, eating, sightseeing and more, you’re guaranteed to have a “Hell of a time” in this little community.
Get Married in Hell
If you’re engaged and looking to host a wedding to remember, Hell’s Chapel of Love, might be the venue for you. The chapel has doors painted blue to ward off evil spirits and a question mark on the steeple.
The venue holds up to a dozen people, but if you’re looking to invite more loved ones, the outdoor park named Hell’s grounds can hold 150 people.
The chapel and grounds are available for rent at $125 for the first hour and $100 for each additional hour. Couples are responsible for their own marriage license, but included in the cost are a reading of your wedding proclamation in Hell, Michigan, two wine glasses, and a United in Hell magnet.
The website says it best: “A marriage that begins in hell has no place to go but up.”
Visit the Post Office and Send Mail from Hell
While you visit, send you family and friends a postcard from the Official Hell Post Office, which is located inside the Hell Hole Diner on Patterson Lake Road. Every piece of mail is burned and singed making the experience all the more fun.
Earn a Degree from Damnation University
Have you ever heard the saying “hotter by one degree” from a high school or college graduate? Well, visitors can earn a degree from Hell’s Damnation University and get “one degree hotter.”
Bachelor’s degree packages can be purchased for $66.66 and graduates can pick from 56 programs at Dam U.
Become the Mayor of Hell
Whether it’s for a day or an hour, all visitors have the opportunity to become the mayor of Hell. Candidates can elect themselves or someone else and they don’t even have to be human – animals and objects are eligible too.
Mayors for the day receive gifts including horns, a t-shirt, coffee mug, badge, wallet card, property ownership in Hell, dirt from hell, and proclamation certificates for being mayor and impeachment. Mayor for an hour receives both certificates and the mug.
If you’re interested, fill out the application before you visit to request a date and time.
Buy a Piece of Hell
If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of hell, you can. Visitors can purchase a square inch of land in Hell. When you do, you become a part of the Hell Landowner’s Society. Buy a piece for yourself, or gift one to someone else for $9.99.
Kayak or Canoe Through Hell
If you’re looking for a nature attraction when you visit Hell, kayaking or canoe through the Chain of Lakes at Pinckney State Recreation Area is a great option.
Hell Canoe and Kayak Rentals is open seven days a week. Canoe rentals are priced at $46/day, while kayak rentals are $36/day for single or $46/day for tandem kayaks. Visit the website for special discounts.
Play Putt-Putt Golf in Hell
Another fun outdoor attraction in Hell is putt-putt mini-golf at Screams Souvenirs from Hell & Helloween. This red course is unique and handicap accessible.
Adults can play for $6, while tickets for children under 12 are $4 and children under 4 are free.
Go on a Bus Tour of Hell
If you’re looking to visit Hell with a group, look into taking a bus tour of the town. For more information, Call (734) 878-2233.
Eat (and Drink) in Hell MI (Hell MI Restaurants)
Hell Hole Bar & Diner
4025 Patterson Lake Rd., Hell, MI 48169
Known for its homemade pasties and burgers, the Hell Hole Bar and Diner is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or drink. Be sure to check out the hell-themed decor while you wait for your food.
Smitty’s Hell Saloon
4095 Patterson Lake Rd., Pinckney, MI 48169
This bar and restaurant offers fun and tasty meals with sandwiches like the “Helter Skelter Club Melter” and “The Hellhound,” a “Hellwaiian Deluxe” pizza or a Hades or Skelly’s Saloon salad.
If you’re in the mood, try a Bloody Mary named after the owner – a Bloody Smitty. Smitty also has a line of his own barbeque sauces and seasonings for visitors to taste test.
If you’re looking for nightlife on the weekends, Smitty’s has lots of live music.
Screams Souvenirs from Hell & Helloween & The Creamatory at Screams Ice Cream
4045 Patterson Lake Road, Hell, MI 48169
Whether you’re looking for a tasty treat or some Hell-themed merchandise, Screams has it all. The Creamatory at Screams offers Hershey’s premium ice cream with fresh homemade waffle cones, shakes and sundaes. Be sure to try the Gravedigger Sundae” to earn your “death certificate.”
On the souvenirs side of the shop, make sure you check out the Hell-themed apparel. Screams from Hell and Helloween offers t-shirts, hoodies, accessories, stickers, decals, signs and much more. Pick something out to remind you of the time you went to Hell!
So no matter who you are or where you’re from, Hell is a fun and different, small town with a little something for everyone.
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About the Author-
Madeline Warren is a content writing intern for mymichiganbeach.com. After growing up in the Lansing area, she now attends Michigan State University where she majors in Journalism with a minor in Public Relations. In additon to My Michigan Beach, she has bylines in The State News at MSU and The Lookout at Lansing Community College. In her free time, Madeline loves spending time with her family, friends and dog, attending concerts and sporting events and of course, finding new places to travel.