Head to Lake Dubonnet, also known as Mud Lake, for wildlife sightings galore on these three different types of Northern Michigan hikes and trails in Interlochen’s Lost Lake Pathway.

Most locals call it “mud lake.” (It’s prettier than it sounds, but you would consider this more of a fishing lake than a swimming lake.) Its actual name is Lake Dubonnet. But the actual name of the trail is Lost Lake Pathway. It’s all very confusing. But beautiful, we promise. Even when you see a bear.

This little-known trail is located near Interlochen (you’ll turn north down Gonder Road to get to the trailhead, the same road that borders Interlochen Golf Course). One mile down, you’ll see a huge dirt parking lot on your left. The 6.4 miles of trails includes three loops and can be hiked, biked or cross-country skied. (Note: It is not groomed in the winter.)

Front Loop Family Fun

The front loop of the trail goes by Lake Dubonnet (a.k.a. Mud Lake) and the Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground. This tiny campground is rustic, with campfire rings, dirt roads and vault toilets. There’s also a boat launch for the lake and its 120 acres of fishing. Watch for bald eagles (There’s a nesting pair on the island directly out from the boat launch every year!), calling loons and the occasional coyote, as well as plentiful whitetail deer.

The loop then takes you back to a view of the tiny dam that spills into the Platte River. Here, the Platte is the thinnest of creeks, unrecognizable from its tubing-fame many miles downstream.

As you complete the loop and head back to the parking lot, look for my favorite-name-ever-for-a-lake: Christmas Tree Lake. It’s very tiny on the far west side.

This loop is the most popular, offering an approximate one-hour, 2.4-mile hike through endless maples and pines (with no hills) perfect for families and all skill levels.

Hiking Trail in Northern Michigan

Photo by Kandace Chapple

Related Read: Searching for more hikes, camping tips and activities? Visit our Northern Michigan Outdoors page.

Big Loop Beauty

However, the back two loops (one tiny, one big) are less traveled, more remote and offer a better chance for wildlife encounters—whether you want them or not.

If you decide to head out to the back loops, part of the trail goes along Camp Trail Road and you get to walk right by a little dam. You will likely see a few fishermen on it throwing out a line for smallmouth bass or perch. You’ll also see a road leading to the Lake Dubonnet Trail Camp—a horse camp filled with hooves, hide and horse trailers in the summer.

On the left, the trail ducks back into the woods. Watch for the “tree with a face” near the start of the loop—you can only see it if you start your hike going to the right of the loop.

Either way, you’ll be taken on a beautiful trek on a ridge above the Platte, home to many sparkling white birch trees meshed into a world of green maples and marshy red bog.

Hiking Trail in Northern Michigan

Photo by Kandace Chapple

Hiking the Backside Bear

The “big” back loop is another three miles and takes you past Lost Lake, the trail’s namesake. The lake is a marshy bog area that seems perfect for seeing bears.

After years and years of biking and hiking the trail and never seeing a bear, I broke that record this June. It was about 5 p.m., and I was on my bike.

Cruising along the back loop, I came across a fallen tree. I didn’t dare bunny hop it; instead, I stopped to lift my bike over it. I took a break, pulling out my bike bottle for a long drink, head thrown back, happy to be outside and relaxed, enjoying the quiet of the approaching dusk.

Suddenly, I heard a huge commotion breaking through the trees behind me, and I whipped around to see what it was.

I saw a man in a black sweatshirt—on all fours—running away from me through the trees. I’m embarrassed to say that was my first thought.

In the next millisecond, I realized it was actually a bear, one that had no clothes on at all. The bear must have been standing there, waiting me out, about 20 yards behind me, the whole time. I was in a stand-off I knew nothing about.

Well, off he went, disappearing into the darkening woods away from me in an instant. And off I went, back on my bike and sprinting back to the trailhead, giggling all the while at my initial man-in-black-sweatshirt theory.

Hiking Trail in Northern Michigan

Photo by Kandace Chapple

Photo(s) by Kandace Chapple