BEST Hikes in Michigan: 11 Hiking Trails to Explore
Hiking in Michigan can mean many things. It can mean wandering sandy paths through dune grass moving gently in the lake breeze.
Or it can mean hiking the rolling hills of a river trail leading to limitless vistas. Or maybe it means carving a path through the thickly-forested woods of a national lakeshore.
These are just some of the endless miles of trails for hiking in Michigan year-round.
Hiking is among the most popular outdoor activities in pure Michigan. From Grand Marais in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Hartwick Pines in Michigan’s lower peninsula and beyond, there’s a scenic hiking trail for everyone.
Read on to discover 11 of our favorite hiking trails; you can also find “hiking trails near me”.
Beautiful Hiking Trails in Michigan
The state’s diverse terrain – both in the lower and upper peninsulas – combined with the naturally beautiful forests and shoreline provide a rallying call to all: find a trail, get outdoors and enjoy the beauty that Michigan has to offer.
Whether its the peaceful call of the trees and the wind rustles through the leaves or the sound of waves gently lapping at the shoreline, you’re certain to find your perfect hiking trail in Michigan.
The best news? Michigan has trails for hikers of comfort level and ability. With thousands of trails from which to choose, you’re sure to find one perfect for you.
Some of the most scenic trails in Michigan’s thumb can be found in Port Crescent State Park along coast of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.
The 2.3 mile Day Use Trail is stunningly beautiful trail takes in views of the Pinnebog River and Channel, wind-swept Lake Huron sand dunes and a chimney monument recalling the old lumbering days. You’ll find cut-offs along the way if you want to shorten the hike.
You’ll find many other trails here of varying length and difficulty, and most are easy-to-moderate. Pick up a trail map at the park’s entrance.
PRO-TIP: Port Crescent State Park is also a Michigan Dark Sky Park, a designated area free of light pollution, that is to say, without any artificial light to block your view of the stars. Plan your visit around a meteor shower for a memorable hiking trip.
Right in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the country’s most beautiful places, you’ll find the Pyramid Point Trail.
This three-mile hiking trail is busy: you’ll most likely join others on their way to see one of the most beautiful views in the state: a scenic overlook of an aqua-blue Lake Michigan with the Manitou Islands in the background.
This overlook is just a half-mile from the trailhead, up some sandy hills that are easy-to moderate. Continue on and enjoy the quiet beauty of Lake Michigan and wide open lake vistas along this three-mile trek.
You’ll pass through wildflower-strewn meadows and forests of paper birch and other hardwoods as you continue through the rolling sand dunes.
PRO-TIP: Pyramid Point Trail is just one of many of trails in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. You’ll want to plan a few days to a week to explore these spots. Learn more about Sleeping Bear Dunes here.
Part of the Great Lakes dune system, the area includes more that a 2.2 mile loop of meandering trail through high wooded dunes and a wide, sandy Lake Michigan beach.
We like the .7 mile mile trail that lead over smaller dunes, up 360 steps and directly to a beautiful Lake Michigan beach.
Both Grand Haven and nearby Holland are great places to vacation or visit for a weekend getaway.
PRO-TIP: Bring your camera: you’ll climb 1,000 feet of stairs for stunning views of Lake Michigan.
This 10-mile long paved trail in downtown Traverse City around alongside Grand Traverse Bay is a great way to explore Traverse City.
You’ll share this non-motorized trail with cyclists and in-line skaters, but you’ll also pass through some of Traverse City’s best beaches including Clinch Park, West End Beach and Traverse City State Park. Plan some time into your hike to savor these amazing views of Grand Traverse Bay.
Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula is where you’ll find the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, a 60,000-acre thickly-forested park with mountains, bluffs, waterfalls, rivers, streams and one of the most picturesque lakes in the state.
It’s also home to the Escarpment Trail, one of the most beautiful of all of Michigan’s trails. It’s an almost 9-mile hike that provides amazing panoramic views of Lake of the Clouds, Lake Superior and the Upper Carp River Valley.
An added bonus is that dog are allowed along this trail as long as they are kept on a leash.
PRO-TIP: This is not loop trail, it’s about 4.5 miles in and 4.5 miles out. Plan accordingly.
Hartwick Pines State Park the largest state park in Michigan: a sprawling 9,500 acres that include lakes, the Au Sable River and an old-growth forest with towering white pines.
The whole area is a pristine tribute to Michigan’s rich logging history, and filled with opportunities to get outside and into the heart of Michigan’s natural world.
The highlight of Hartwick Pines is the Au Sable River Foot Trail, a 3.2 trail loop along the east bank of the Au Sable River, a 138-mile long Lake Huron tributary. It’s not as traveled as the others and offers an opportunity for peace, solitude as you wander over a ridge and across the river a couple of times; under pines and over the path.
The AuSable meets Lake Huron at the popular beachtown of Oscoda, and it’s a fun spot to explore. the beachfront park is stunning.
There are other trails in Hartwick Pines, but this one is a favorite.
California’s Redwood forests better step back.
Way up at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, in Copper Harbor, is Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, where you’ll find 300-500 year-old white pines measuring as much as 3 to 5 feet across.
This 500-acre nature preserve (one of the prettiest nature sanctuaries in Michigan) offers spectacular hiking trails, including a moderate, 1.5 mile trail loop, where you’ll see rare ferns, wildflowers and birds.
Leased dogs are allowed, too, which is always a bonus.
Four More Don’t-Miss Michigan Hiking Trails
Empire Bluff Trail – Hike this 1.5-mile round trip dune trail and you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views of Lake Michigan. You’ll hike though a beech forest, open fields and through dunes before coming to the observation deck.
Potawatomi Trail – You’ll share southeast Michigan’s Potawatomi Trail with bicycles, because this sunning trail 17.6 trail loop is very popular with mountain bikers, too. You’ll pass lakes and streams as you travel through this hardwood forest with towering maples and oaks overhead.
North Country National Scenic Trail– The North County Scenic Trail is an almost 5,000-mile national trail route that starts in Vermont and travels through the northern United States to North Dakota. About 1,500 miles of this trail route are in Michigan, from southeast Michigan, across the straits of Mackinac and on through the western U.P.
Michigan Hiking Trails F.A.Q.
A. Michigan is home to almost 14,000 miles of hiking trails that take you though old-growth forests; towering sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan and Lake Superior; through national forests and alongside rushing streams and rivers.
A. Michigan’s diverse terrain includes more than 3000 miles of Great Lakes coastline; towering sand dunes, mountain ranges like the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s upper peninsula; rushing rivers and national forests and more. All of this makes Michigan a spectacular place for hiking throughout all four seasons