Relax, Reflect, Explore Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

The best seat in the house—and maybe the North—may be inside Thorne Swift Nature Preserve’s open-air pagoda in the woods. Just a quick skip over a footbridge and into the forest from the parking lot, the sweet-smelling cedar nook is surrounded by trees. A roof stands atop tall shingled pillars in case of rain, but even it doesn’t obstruct the forest view; four giant skylights let the sunshine in.

Settle for a spell, then strike out on the Cedar Trail to the shore. The route is easy—a half mile of boardwalk and mulched path—and stunning in fall. Maple, ash, tamarack, dogwood and juneberry trees mix with trickling streams and make for one of the best birding spots in the region. Stop, look and listen as long as you’d like. When you’re ready, continue down the path to the beach. Large boulders sit at the shore’s edge, worn slick as seal backs from Lake Michigan’s waves. Speckled alder and chokecherries ring the beach. Stretch those shoulders with some stone skipping, then finish the loop by hopping on the Beech Trail.  Another half-miler, this one does the lower body good, rising up above the water and the forest floor before curling back to the trailhead.

Find the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve 4 miles north of Harbor Springs on Lower Shore Drive. The preserve and on-site Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center nature center are open daily 10:00 AM to one- half hour after sunset from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

More Links to Fun in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor and the Little Traverse Region!