Through forests of towering trees and along the sandy stretches hugging Lake Michigan, these Northern Michigan hiking trails in Benzie County and the Ludington State Park are practically infinite. Savor the warm sand and sweet smells of flowers blooming this summer, but also remember these wondrous trails for fall-color strolls and wintertime cross country skiing.
Betsie River Pathway
This 10-mile hiking and mountain bike trail is located within the cool, dense hardwoods and pines of the Pere Marquette State Forest in Thompsonville. Immerse yourself in nature on this off-the-beaten-path trail, situated six miles west of Thompsonville via M-115, King Road and Longstreet Road.
Lake Ann Pathway
Challenge yourself on this 3.5-mile rollercoaster of trails. Pedal or amble past Shavenaugh and Mary’s Lakes to the reward of the gentle stretches along the beautiful Platte River and Lake Ann shorelines. Watch for indigenous wildflowers like the lady’s slipper orchids along the way. From U.S. 31 and Reynolds Rd., go north on Reynolds about 4 miles. Parking on east side of road.
To find enchanting trails along rivers and lakes, you can’t beat this 5,300-acre park with exploration options aplenty. For a family-friendly hike, try the half-mile long Skyline Trail, running over a boardwalk toward memorable views of Lake Michigan and grassy dunes. Ten rustic sites have been set aside for backpackers wanting the solitude of a hike-in spot. 231.843.2423. visitludingtonstatepark.com.
The fresh feel of your hike, bike or cross-country skiing time is amplified by this art gallery in the woods—a serene 1.6-mile series of trails interspersed with 43 major works of art and poetry stones with names like “Clan Symbols” and “Fairy Ring.” Works connect visitors with a landscape that qualifies as art in itself and to the history and culture of Michigan. 231.378.4963, michlegacyartpark.org.
Hikes preserved into perpetuity
The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has protected more than 5,232 acres of Benzie and Manistee County’s land and viewscape. Open for your gentle use are trails like the Green Point Nature Reserve, where wildflowers and native plants line three miles of looped trails. Another must-wander is the massive 3,600-acre C.S. Mott Preserve, where trails of varied lengths wind through shady evergreens, orchards and flower-filled meadows, and some reach mesmerizing bluff-top views of Lake Michigan. gtrlc.org.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore presents more than 100 miles of designated trails through woodland, wetland, meadow, shoreline and sand dune terrain unique to the region. Several trails explore the crest of an ancient shoreline—now high above the water—formed by glaciers. The Otter Creek loop, a 4.6-mile segment of the Platte Plains Hiking Trail System, is relatively flat and a favorite for wildlife watching along the shores of Otter Creek and Otter Lake. Trail maps at the park visitor center and online. 231.326.5134, nps.gov/slbe.