Take a victory lap on a Northern Michigan trail at one of these properties, saved from development forever by local area land conservancies—and people just like you.

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Whether it’s Earth Day or any day, an easy-access hike in the Northern Michigan landscape restores the body, mind and soul. What makes these hikes so special? They’ve been preserved by massive community efforts, led by area land conservancies that identify critical habitats, view corridors, watersheds, waterfront and just plain unparalleled natural beauty, and then fight like crazy to protect them in perpetuity so that the Northern Michigan we love stays wild.

So if you head out for half an hour or half a day, breathe a little sigh of relief knowing these precious areas are forever protected, and pop in on your local conservancy website for ways to help, volunteer and donate.

Waldeck Island Nature Preserve Trail

This 11-acre preserve located on Stone Ledge Lake is open to the public for quiet sports such as hiking and snowshoeing. It is located a short distance south of Cadillac off M-115. The entrance is off the end of Friedrich Strasse Court. Once there, easy trails lead you through quiet woods, bio-diverse swamp land and to Stone Ledge Lake

Lower Woodcock Lake Nature Preserve

Lower Woodcock Lake is a true gem within the Platte River watershed. In addition to a picturesque 22-acre lake surrounded by forest, the 230-acre nature preserve also contains streams and a half mile of frontage on the Platte River. Newly built trails offer spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities.

Peaceful lake, Northern Michigan images from Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Photo by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Maplehurst Natural Area

This 389-acre natural area in Antrim County’s Milton Township has enjoyable and diverse trails with a view—visitors have excellent views of Torch Lake, Elk Lake, and Grand Traverse Bay.

Arcadia Dunes: The C.S. Mott Nature Preserve

Arcadia Dunes is the largest nature preserve in our region (more than 3,800 acres) and offers visitors everything from hiking to birding to mountain biking and features more than 15 miles of trails. Arcadia Dunes is home to the very popular Overlook Trail, a universally accessible trail that leaves from the Baldy parking lot and takes users to a stunning overlook of Lake Michigan.

The multi-use Dry Hill Trails are widely known for fantastic hiking, trail running and mountain biking. The Camp Trail is another multi-use trail built on relatively flat ground, making it a delightful hike or beginner mountain bike ride. Pete’s Woods is a wonderful little hike with an unparalleled wildflower display in the spring.

arcadia dunes, manistee, nature

Photo by David Weidner

Birge/Mertaugh/NYE Nature Preserve Complexes

The Birge Preserve embraces cedar wetlands, hardwoods, a small lake, and almost three miles of Lake Huron frontage, which includes some of the most biologically productive habitat in Michigan. The trail to Loon Lake is home to beaver bald eagle, osprey and throughout the property you’ll stumble on orchids, lady slippers, gentian, asters, marsh marigold, Indian paintbrush, and dwarf lake iris.

Seven Springs Nature Preserve

Numerous springs along this wide swath of Burt Lake shore provide habitat for endangered species. Beautiful upland forest graces this preserve’s upper portions, while densely forested wetlands can be found below the bluff that runs across the property just back from the water’s edge. The long stretch of shoreline consists of cobble beaches and beds of emergent rushes that provide abundant habitat.

Goodhart Farms Nature Preserve

The Goodhart Farms property is a mix of meadows, hayfields, maple, beech, and ash forest. Old orchards and pine plantations are found on the property, and the scenic rolling fields offer Lake Michigan views. Three parking areas are available, offering access to 6½ miles of marked trails (3½ miles are groomed in winter) that are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and cross country-skiing.

Photo(s) by Nate Richardson