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18 of the Best Hiking Trails in Michigan

By | Last Updated: 6th June 2022

Michigan is a beautiful state filled with pristine lakes, waterfalls, mountains, old-growth virgin white pine forests, and beaches. More than 13,000 miles of trails meander along diverse terrains, offering hikers endless opportunities to enjoy the Michigan scenery. Here are some of the top hiking trails in the Lower and Upper Peninsula of the state that is worth hiking for a breathtaking experience.

Hiking Trails in Michigan

Best Hikes in Upper Peninsula of Michigan

1. Chapel Loop Trail

Chapel Loop Trail in Upper Michigan

This scenic trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a favorite among almost every Michigan hiker. It takes you through diverse terrains boasting spectacular views of waterfalls, rock formations, beaches, and Lake Superior all along the way. Though hiking the trail can be completed within five hours, you might require an extra hour to pause and admire the natural wonders. There are some sections that pass along the cliff edge where you will have to be extra cautious. Once you complete the loop, you can enjoy a refreshing dip and a relaxing time at Chapel Beach. Also, do remember to leave your pups at home as they are not permissible on the trail.

Length: About 10.4 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to October

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2. Iron Belle Trail

Iron Belle Trail in Upper Michigan

The nation’s longest designated state trail, Iron Belle Trail, stretches from Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle Park in Detroit. Traversing through 48 counties, the trail comprises 1273 miles of hiking route and about 791-mile paved biking route. The numerous access points allow hikers and bikers to choose any section to explore the white pine forests, rivers, lakes, and charming towns. Your furry friends, too, are welcome on the trail. Do remember to download the trail map before planning to hike it.

Length: About 1273 miles (point to point)

Difficulty: Varies

Best time to visit: All year long

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3. The North Country Scenic Trail

The North Country Scenic Trail in Upper Michigan

This national trail route extends across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. The Michigan section is ideal for a backcountry adventure as it runs along the uninhabited and wilderness areas.

The Fallasburg County Park segment would be perfect for a day hike for novice hikers and families. It traverses through a dense forest and along the Flat River on relatively flat terrain. Several shaded picnic spots on the route make it perfect for taking a break and enjoying a meal in the scenic and serene setting.

Hiking enthusiasts planning a backpacking trip can consider hiking to the Timber Creek Campground from Freesoil Trailhead near the city of Irons. The elevation gains at various points might be challenging, but the scenery is sure to keep you treading along till the end.

Length: Fallasburg County Park Trail (about 2.1 miles, out and back); Timber Creek Campground via Freesoil Trailhead (about 18.6 miles, point to point)

Difficulty: Fallasburg County Park Trail (easy); Timber Creek Campground via Freesoil Trailhead (moderate)

Best time to visit: April to October

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4. Escarpment Trail

Escarpment Trail in Upper Michigan

Escarpment Trail is a well-traversed trail set within the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park. It mainly winds up on the rocky bluffs overlooking the Lake of the Clouds and the Big Carp River Valley. From sugar maple forests to mountain peaks, the trail boasts picturesque vistas that are rewarding during the strenuous hike that gains an elevation of about 1,690 feet along rocky terrain.

If you want to hike a shorter and easier trail with gorgeous views, you could hike the 1.8-mile out and back Lake of the Clouds Trail. It takes you through the woods to an overlook to the escarpment, from where you can enjoy the enchanting view of the beautiful lake that sits below.

Length: About 8.4 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

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5. Rock Harbor Trail

Rock Harbor Trail in Upper Michigan

You could plan your next trip to the less-visited Isle Royale National Park for a relaxing getaway. It’s reachable only by ferry or private seaplane or boats and is home to many trails that run through pristine forests. Out of these, the Rock Harbor Trail is a preferred trail. It spans along the Lake Superior Coast on a rocky route that would require some effort to access it. However, as the views of the wilderness throughout the hike are captivating, you certainly will not regret hiking it. A backcountry trip would be ideal for a wilderness experience with numerous campsites sitting on the way to rest for the night. However, you will have to park a vehicle at the trail’s endpoint in Moskey Basin Campground if planning a day hike.

Before you plan a visit, do note that no dogs are permissible on the trail. Also, there is an admission fee of about $ 7 per person.

Length: About 20.6 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April through October

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6. Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls Trail

Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls Trail in Upper Michigan

This moderately challenging trail has excellent payoff as it leads to two equally gorgeous waterfalls. The path mostly follows the Tahquamenon River and eventually meets the Upper and Lower Falls. Make sure to put on sturdy waterproof shoes as you will come across some muddy and slippery sections. Besides, the rough terrain and exposed roots on the way require extra caution. It’ll take about 4 to 5 hours to complete the entire hike. In case you don’t feel like hiking the whole round trip, you can also opt for a shuttle on your way back. Dogs, too, are allowed in the shuttle. To enjoy staying overnight here by the waterfall, you will find primitive campsites near the Lower Falls.

Length: About 10.2 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to October

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7. Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail in Upper Michigan

If you’re looking for a quick yet adventurous hike around Marquette, the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail should be on your list. The steep stairs and rocky terrain with exposed roots make it a moderately challenging route, but the 360° views of Lake Superior from the mountain top are well worth the effort. The forest, through which the trail passes, also offers picturesque vistas all along the way.

Length: About 1.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to October

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8. Hogback Mountain Trail

Hogback Mountain Trail in Upper Michigan

This well-marked trail takes you to the top of Hogback Mountain. Its first half is flat and fairly easy to hike through the woods, with some exposed roots and rocks being the only exceptions. However, as you near the end, it becomes pretty strenuous due to the steep incline. Despite the challenge, the incredible 360° view of the Massanutten ranges and the dense foliage from the top will surely leave you spellbound.

Length: About 3.1 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to October

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9. Mt. Baldy Trail

Mt. Baldy Trail in Upper Michigan

Mt. Baldy Trail is fun and challenging to hike as it comprises different terrains. While some parts contain sandy surfaces, others feature rocky paths. With a steady uphill climb, you will reach the top from where the panoramic views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula are spectacular. You could do the entire out and back hike within 4-5 hours.

Length: About 5.1 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

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Best Hikes in Lower Peninsula of Michigan

1. Empire Bluff Trail

Empire Bluff Trail in Lower Michigan

Empire Bluff Trail is a must-hike if visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The trail consists of wide paths and a boardwalk that traverses through a dense forest and along bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Despite the elevation gains, hikers of all skill levels can access it without much effort. With two lookout points and benches at the trail’s end, you can enjoy soaking in the views of the Lake Michigan shoreline and South Bar Lake. Many hikers hike a little further up to be away from the crowds while enjoying a better vista. A favorite among families with children, Empire Bluff Trail is beautiful to visit in the spring and fall and ideal for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in winter.

Do remember to come early as the parking lot fills quickly. The parking fee is about $ 25 per vehicle, $ 20 per motorcycle, or $ 15 per visitor arriving on foot or by bicycle.

Length: About 1.5 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: March to November

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2. Au Sable River Foot Trail

Au Sable River Foot Trail in Lower Michigan

Hartwick Pines State Park boasts some of the most picturesque views in the state. Among the many trails meandering through the old-growth forests here, the Au Sable River Foot Trail is one of the most hiked paths. It is well-marked and offers peace and tranquillity as it runs parallel to the Au Sable River. Some muddy sections and exposed roots on the way can be challenging to access. However, the views of towering white pine trees, hemlock groves, and wildflowers make the hike worthwhile. Do wear waterproof hiking shoes as you will have to cross the river twice. As the hike does not take more than an hour or two, you could consider accessing the nearby 1.2-mile Old Growth Forest Trail or the 3-mile Aspen Loop Trail to enjoy more visual treats.

Length: About 3.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to November

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3. Pyramid Point Loop Trail

Pyramid Point Loop Trail in Lower Michigan

If visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, do make sure to hike the less-traveled Pyramid Point Loop Trail. The path takes you to Pyramid Point, a spot at the top of a dune, through dense hardwood forests and meadows filled with wildflowers. Many hikers recommend accessing the trail backward or counter-clockwise. The steeply inclined dunes at the starting require a strenuous climb, but you will be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Michigan towards the end.

Length: About 2.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: September to November

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4. Potawatomi Trail

Potawatomi Trail in Lower Michigan

A half an hour’s drive from Ann Arbor in Southeast Michigan will take you to the Potawatomi Trail. Known for its pristine landscape and tranquil paths, the trail leads through deciduous forests dotted with maple, hickory, and oak trees. You will also pass along many pristine lakes, streams, and rolling hills. With only the sweet chirps of various birds to break the silence, hiking this trail is an excellent option for a quick escape from the nearby urban areas.

Despite the elevation changes and length of the trail, many hiking enthusiasts attempt to complete the hike within a day. However, with many access points and campsites on the way, you could choose to shorten the loop or enjoy an overnight backpacking trip. Before you plan to hike the trail, do remember that you will be sharing it with many mountain bikers as well.

Length: About 17.6 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to November

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5. Manistee River Trail

Manistee River Trail in Lower Michigan

Manistee River Trail in Northern Michigan provides hikers endless opportunities to explore the natural wonders as the trail passes along the eastern shore of the Manistee River. It’s one of the most popular backpacking routes in Lower Michigan. The creeks, forested ridges, suspension bridges, and a lovely waterfall are worth admiring as you tread along the trail. Carrying a hiking pole might come in handy for accessing the numerous uphill and downhill paths.

You could hike the 23-mile loop that the trail forms with North Country Trail for a longer hike. Several camping options are available here. If bringing your dogs, don’t forget to check for ticks on them at the end of the hike.

Length: About 19.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

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6. Bird Hills Trail

Bird Hills Trail in Lower Michigan

As the name suggests, Bird Hills Trail is a paradise for bird lovers. It’s located near downtown Ann Arbor making it a perfect place for relaxing after a busy day. Hiking along the uphill and downhill sections and muddy points require a decent workout. However, as the trail runs along the River Huron and through a dense forest, you can enjoy pausing at regular intervals to soak in the beauty while catching your breath.

Length: About 2.3 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

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7. Saugatuck Dunes South Trail

Saugatuck Dunes South Trail in Lower Michigan

This trail traverses along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. While one half of the trail meanders on a relatively flat terrain through dense woods, the other half winds up and down along sand dunes. Trudging along the sandy terrain can be challenging, due to which it has been rated moderately difficult. Besides this, the lake views and peaceful setting are a bonus to enjoy the hike.

Length: About 5.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

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8. Mt. Tabor Trail

Mt. Tabor Trail in Lower Michigan

This trail in Southern Michigan offers a different kind of experience to hikers as they can enjoy tasting wine, beer, or any beverage while exploring the scenery. The trail connects Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery, taking you through forested areas and wineries. Those seeking a shorter hike can choose to hike along a 1.5-mile out and back trail that leads straight to the wineries. Do remember to purchase a day pass to access the route, which would cost you around $ 5 per person, or a season pass for about $ 15 per person.

Length: About 3.5 miles (round-trip)

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

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Best Waterfall Hikes: Manistee River Trail, Chapel Loop Trail, Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Best Camping Hikes: Chapel Loop Trail, Potawatomi Trail, The North Country Scenic Trail

Best Winter Hikes: The North Country Scenic Trail, Chapel Loop Trail, Empire Bluff Trail

Best Dog-Friendly Hikes: Manistee River Trail, Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls

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