Hike through seven miles of trails at Grass River Natural Area and then make the short, ten-minute drive south to set up shop at Alden’s hardly busy public beach on Torch Lake.
A 1,400-acre Antrim County oasis and self-proclaimed “eco-guardian project,” Grass River offers visitors a peek into the upland, wetland and aquatic ecosystems of the Chain of Lakes. Seven miles of easy walking trails meander along meadows, woods and streams; one section of trail includes a wheelchair-accessible “perception pathway” for visitors with special needs. The interpretive center offers lots of classes and guided hikes, such as the weekly 1 p.m. “Sunday Stroll”—a leisurely walk led by a naturalist. 6500 ALDEN HWY., BELLAIRE, 231.533.8576, GRASSRIVER.ORG.
Among the select few public access sites on Torch Lake is this cute little patch of frontage and sandy-bottomed swimming spot in Alden, next to the pier. You won’t find volleyball nets or lifeguards, but you’ll likely have it all to yourself—and you’ll be just seconds from the shops and eateries downtown. With the shoreline here facing straight west, this is the perfect place for a sunset dip. Find it in downtown Alden at the sharp dog-leg on South East Torch Lake Drive (County Highway 593). VISITALDEN.COM.