The Mackinac Bridge Walk held annually on Labor Day celebrates the construction of the bridge, which connects St. Ignace in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula. This marvel of engineering is an iconic Northern Michigan attraction. It’s the world’s fifth longest suspension bridge and the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

The Bridge Walk is the only time people are allowed to walk on the Mackinac Bridge, which stretches 5 miles across the Straits of Mackinac. We checked in with Bob Sweeney of the Mackinac Bridge Authority about what you need to know about the upcoming event.

“Take time and enjoy the beautiful scenery,” Bob says. “When you walk on the open steel grating you can see the water and freighters passing below. It’s an interesting perspective.”

7 Things to Know About the Mackinac Bridge Walk

  1. There is no registration and no fee. You can show up that day and participate in the walk.
  2. It takes about two hours to walk across the bridge.
  3. Participants should prepare to walk about 7 miles (walking to the start line, crossing the bridge and getting back to your vehicle). There are restaurants and shops in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace where you can stop for lunch.
  4. There are NO restrooms on the bridge, but portable toilets are located at both ends of the bridge and at the bus loading area.
  5. The National Guard and other official personnel will be available in the event of an emergency.
  6. Up to 60,000 people participate in the Mackinac Bridge Walk. Because of the crowds, cellphone coverage can be spotty. Make a plan before the walk begins with a time and place to meet in Mackinaw City after the walk. Pancake Chef, Mama Mia’s Pizza and Keyhole Bar & Grill are popular spots. Click here for more Mackinaw City restaurants.
  7.  A shuttle bus is available in Mackinaw City to take you to the starting line in St. Ignace. Tickets cost $5. They go on sale and buses begin transporting walkers at 5:30 a.m. There is increasing demand for the buses, so you may want to plan for your own transportation.

Before the bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957, the state of Michigan operated a car ferry to transport vehicles and people across the straits. The ferry could transport about 1 million vehicles per year, Bob says. In 1955, the ferry fee was $3.50 per vehicle. With inflation, the cost would be over $30 today. However, the toll to cross the bridge costs just $4 per car with an average of 4 million vehicles making the trip each year.

Click here for a map of the Mackinac Bridge Walk area including shuttle loading areas. 

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Photo(s) by Mackinac Bridge Authority