Before I moved to Michigan, I never considered it to be the best hiking destination in the Midwest. One thing about this state that blew me away was the lakes and beaches. Michigan has 3,288 miles of shoreline. That’s more freshwater shoreline than any state in the US, and second in overall shoreline only to Alaska! Since moving here last year, I have spent my free time traversing the state in search of the best views. Here’s what I’ve found:
1. Saugatuck Dunes State Park
This is one of my favorites for many reasons. First of all, it’s very close to Grand Rapids. Being only a 40-minute drive, this park is super accessible to those who live in West Central Michigan. Secondly, there’s a beautiful hike to the beach! The perfectly vertical pine trees are great for hammocking, and the smell of fresh pine is prominent in the air on a warm day. It can be tiring to walk through the woods to the beach in the summer, but once you arrive at your destination, the beautiful warm waters of Lake Michigan await you! The long walk also means fewer people are willing to make the journey through Saugatuck. I see this as a win because the beaches are almost never crowded! Definitely worth the hike. The park also boasts one of the highest rated Disc Golf courses in the area, but I recommend looking at a course map first because I found the arrangement a bit confusing. After your day at the State Park, head to downtown Saugatuck for a pint at Saugatuck Brewing Co. and enjoy a walk along the little beach town!
2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The views from the top of the main lookout are unbelievable. I mean it- truly, incredibly beautiful. It’s almost impossible to even wrap your head around the vast dunes that stretch as far down the coast as you can see. There’s nothing else like it in the Lower Peninsula. However, there are signs posted everywhere warning visitors about getting stuck at the bottom of the dunes. If you make the trek down to the water from the main dune overlook, it is very possible you will get stuck at the bottom. My boyfriend and I were almost helplessly stranded, but we summoned the strength to climb the mountainous, vertical dunes; about a 45-minute climb. Was it worth it for the quiet, pristine beach with spectacular views? Yes. Would we do it again? Probably not. I recommend just finding one of the many trails throughout the park with beach access if you want to be by the water. Stranded or not, the scenery at Sleeping Bear is still out of this world!
3. The Night Sky
Did you know Michigan is home to one of 30 certified International Dark Sky Parks in the world? Grab a telescope and head out to the remote regions of Northern Michigan for a spectacular view of the night sky. I never thought it was possible to actually see the Milky Way in such detail, but it’s true- you can! On a clear night between September and April, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from the Lower Peninsula.
4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising
If you’ve been to the Upper Peninsula, you probably know about Pictured Rocks. Sandstone cliffs lining the Northern UP have been carved out by waves of the Superior. Colorful mineral oxides paint the cliffs, giving Pictured Rocks its name. This place is definitely worth the journey North. There are several ways you can view the collosal rock formations, such as boat tours and hiking along the North Country National Scenic Trail. But I think the best way to view them are via kayak. I reserved a kayak tour through Uncle Ducky’s . It’s a bit pricey, but seriously worth it. I usually stray away from guided tours, but the guides at Uncle Ducky’s are great to have nearby. They can answer almost any question you have about the geology and history of the area, and they give you the freedom to explore the cliffs at your leisure. My guide also showed us some tunnels and obstacles to navigate! My favorite part was looping through Lover’s Leap. It’s a rush to see these incredible formations so close!
5. Douglas Houghton Falls
DISCLAIMER: Private property and dangerous cliffs. Hike at your own risk.
Douglas Houghton Falls has got to be in my final 5. At about 1000 ft in height, this beautiful waterfall is a sight to behold. But not only will you have to travel all the way to the Keweenaw Peninsula for this beauty, you will also have to navigate unmarked trails on private land. The property doesn’t seem to be closed off, but there aren’t any signs as you’re approaching. The only giveaway was the handful of cars parked along M-26 near the trailhead. I love this hike because of the secretive element, and the implied danger of climbing steep trails near cliff edges. I love a good challenge, and I always feel like an explorer when searching for hidden landmarks! This area is projected to open as a Michigan State Park in the near future, so if potentially breaking the law or dangerous trails aren’t your thing, keep an eye out for the official opening of this future park!
Thank you for checking out my list of top five favorite views in Michigan! Do you have a favorite spot I didn’t mention? Drop a comment below and let me know what it is! Follow along for more posts on various topics about art, nature, and more.