Michigan is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the USA. With over 12,000 miles of trails, this fact isn’t really surprising.
The Mitten State’s trails take you through diverse landscapes and scenic views that every hiker should experience at least once in their life.
Unforgettable Hikes in the Mitten State
If you’re planning to take a hiking trip to Michigan, this article is for you.
Here you’ll find our suggestions for the best trails in Michigan, what terrain you can expect, and when to visit.
1. Port Crescent Loop: Family-friendly Trail
The Port Crescent Loop is located in a state park of the same name. This 5-kilometer trail has a slight gradient and is generally considered to be intermediate in difficulty. You can visit this trail any day of the year.
Walking this trail leads you through a mixed wooded and sandstone area. The trail’s wooded portion provides shade from the sun. You can catch glimpses of Lake Huron in some spots along the trail and cap it off by taking a moment to enjoy the lakeshore once you get to the trail’s beach portion.
You can shorten this trail to make it more family-friendly. The trail has placards that provide information on the local flora and fauna. You can also bring your dogs along as long as they’re on a leash.
2. Escarpment Trail: Picturesque Views of Lake of the Clouds
The Escarpment Trail is located near Ontonagon, Michigan. This out-and-back trail is 13.5 kilometers long, is quite challenging, and takes about 4 hours to complete. You can access this trail via its three trailheads in Porcupine Mountain State Park.
The westernmost two miles of this trail lead you along the ridgeline to the north of Lake of the Clouds – the most visited and most scenic place on Porcupine Mountain.
The Escarpment Trail is a popular spot for hikers and birders so don’t be surprised to find other people enjoying the trail. Dogs are welcome as long as they’re leashed. The best time to visit is between March and October.
3. Dune Climb Trail: Deceivingly Challenging
The Dune Climb Trail is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Glen Arbor Township, Michigan. Don’t be fooled by this trail’s 5.8-kilometer distance. This out-and-back trail is generally considered challenging and takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete as you’ll be hiking on loose sand the entire way.
Expect to face steep rugged dunes, with some grasses, bushes, and wildflowers along the way. The views of Lake Michigan are a welcome sight, just don’t be too distracted and get lost in the dunes. Make sure to make the most of your hike by enjoying your time at the beach.
It won’t take you long to encounter other people enjoying this popular trail. Unfortunately, your furry friends are going to have to sit this one out as dogs aren’t allowed on the trail. The best time to visit is between March and October.
4. Sugarloaf Mountain: Short Hike, Stunning Views
Sugarloaf Mountain is a loop trail located near Marquette, Michigan. This 2.3-kilometer trail is rated “moderately challenging” and takes about 40 minutes to complete.
The trail is surrounded by ancient rock outcroppings and covered by century-old trees, so the heat won’t be a problem. Getting to the top of the trail rewards you with stunning views of Lake Superior, Marquette, and much more.
This trail is quite popular among hikers, so don’t be surprised when you find other hikers along the way. Dogs are welcome on this Sugarloaf Mountain trail, though, you have to keep them on a leash.
5. Iron Belle Trail: Michigan’s Centerpiece Trail
The Iron Belle Trail is known as the longest designated state trail in the USA. It consists of two trails (one for hiking, one for biking) that traverse the entire state of Michigan. Its hiking trail spans about 1,930 kilometers.
The trail meanders through lush green forests, cold rivers, and several towns. The hiking trail takes you through the west side of the Lower Peninsula and borders Lake Superior in the Upper peninsula.
Despite the trail being beautifully well-kept, be aware that the Iron Belle Trail is only 70% complete as of writing this article (29th April 2022).
6. Big M Trail: Challenging Terrain
The Big M Trail is located in a recreation area of the same name, near Manistee, Michigan. This 27.2-kilometer loop trail is considered moderately challenging and takes around 6 hours and 30 minutes to complete.
The trail itself consists of dirt, grass, and sand. The whole trail system is well kept and nicely groomed, except for the longest loop, which is ungroomed in winter.
Apart from hikers, this trail is also enjoyed by cross-country skiers (during winter time) and mountain bikers. Your furry friends are welcome as long as they’re on a leash.
7. Bird Hills Nature Area Loop: A Great Choose-your-own-adventure Trail
The Bird Hills Nature Area is located near Ann Arbor, Michigan. This 3.7-kilometer loop trail is rated moderately challenging and takes about 56 minutes to complete.
You can choose your own adventure on this trail or walk the entire loop. Expect to find lots of elevation, forested ridges, ravines, and mixed hardwood stands here and there.
While this trail is popular among hikers, trail runners, and birders, there are still times when you don’t encounter anyone at all. You can bring your furry friends as long as you keep them leashed.
8. Empire Bluff Trail: Enjoy the Iconic Double Dune View
The Empire Bluff Trail is an out-and-back trail located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 2.4-kilometer trail is rated moderately challenging and takes around 37 minutes to complete.
This scenic trail takes you through a beech-maple forest full of wildflowers to a high coastal bluff which features the iconic double dune view you often see in postcards and paintings. The observation deck also gives you great views of Lake Michigan and the national lakeshore.
The Empire Bluff Trail is very popular among hikers and birders so don’t be surprised if you encounter other people enjoying the trail. Dogs are welcome as long as they’re leashed. The best time to visit is between March to November.
9. Chapel Loop: Two Waterfalls in One Hike
The Chapel Loop Trail is located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, Michigan. You can expect to hike for about 4 hours if you’re looking to finish this moderately challenging 16.4-kilometer loop.
This loop leads you to both Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls. Feel free to enjoy each waterfall’s beach views as much as you want. Note that roads leading to this loop’s trailhead aren’t plowed during the winter and only reopen in spring when the snow melts.
The Chapel Loop Tail is quite popular among hikers and campers so it’s common to encounter other people along the way. The best time to visit is between April to October.
10. North Country National Scenic Trail: Longest National Trail
The North Country National Scenic Trail stretches about 7,700 kilometers through 8 states from North Dakota to Vermont. The part of the trail located in Michigan spans about 885 kilometers – the most out of all 8 states.
You can start this trail in the trail town of St. Ignace. This trail takes you through diverse landscapes, from hills and valleys to lakes, lakeshores, and grasslands.
This trail is the perfect choose-your-own-adventure trail. That said, some parts of the trail are still being constructed. You can visit the trail any time, although you may want to avoid visiting between May and October when the trail is at its busiest.