Hiking is one of the common reasons people get outside and go camping in the first place. The activity is versatile, low-cost, great for the mind and body, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. These hiking trails are worth your attention in the coming season. Please note that many of these trails are located within state parks, so a Michigan Recreation Passport is required to enter.

Upper Peninsula

Bare Bluff Trail, Copper Harbor: Bare Bluff is a landmark in itself, as it rises 600 feet above the water on Lake Superior’s shoreline. The trailhead can be a bit tricky to find, so it’s important to get your directions straight before heading out, even if you have a GPS (you can’t always rely on getting a signal). You’ll start in a parking area, but from there it’s a half-mile hike along a logging road to reach the start of the trailhead. Since it’s a three-mile loop trail, it’s up to you which direction to go. Keep in mind, however, that previous hikers offer this advice: Clockwise (left) has an easier assent to the bluff on a well-groomed trail than going counterclockwise (right), which has a more challenging assent including some light climbing. For this reason, this hiking trail is categorized as intermediate/difficult. However, you’ll be rewarded with one of the absolute best scenic views in the Upper Peninsula.

Nearby campground: Ahmeek Coppermine Camp, Mohawk

Canyon Gorge Trail, L’Anse: This moderately difficult trail is just under four miles long and requires you to go out and back. Nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of Michigan,” this trail is suitable for the entire family and takes about 90 minutes to complete. Waterfalls are seen early on, about half a mile from the parking lot. Many hikers describe Canyon Gorge Trail as gorgeous, pretty, and a wonderful walk along the shoreline. Much of the trail stretches into the north woods, leaving the water behind, but this offers solitude and opportunities to view wildlife.

Nearby campground: Rippling River Resort, Marquette  




Empire Bluffs Trail, Empire: This is a favorite trail that even locals like to visit once a summer, if they are lucky. It’s only 1.5 miles long, out and back, and even though there are some hills to contend with as you walk through a beech and maple forest, you’ll forget it all once you reach the observation deck. From the deck you can see spectacular vistas of Lake Michigan, South Bar Lake, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Many photographers come here to get the quintessential photo of the Sleeping Bear, and the trail is a common destination on summer evenings to await the sunset.

Nearby campground: Indigo Bluffs RV Park & Resort, Empire  


Nordhouse Dunes Loop, Ludington: Located between Ludington and Manistee near the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, this particular loop at Nordhouse Dunes is 5.7 miles. Backpackers may prefer to explore the entire 13 miles of the extended loop. A decent portion of the trail hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline. Note that the trails and intersections are not always well marked, so bring along a map to help you keep your sense of direction.

Nearby campgrounds: Poncho’s Pond RV Park & Vacation Station RV Resort  




Beach trail and Nagel Beach Loop, Rogers City: This easy, two-mile loop trail is located within Hoeft State Park. It’s a straightforward jaunt through the woods, though the noise from nearby U.S. 23 can be heard at some points along the way; however, the trail is not heavily traversed, offering some serenity to travelers, especially the portion nearest Lake Huron. There is beach access as well, so be prepared if you wish to swim or sunbathe.

Tawas Point Sandy Hook Nature Trail, Oscoda: Tawas Point State Park in Iosco County is unique in that it is small compared to many state parks, mainly because it is located on a peninsula jutting out between Tawas Bay and Lake Huron.  It has one trail in its 183 acres that is short but a treat for birders in particular because of the abundance of shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl. The trail stretches only a couple miles and is comprised of sand and a few boardwalks. In addition to the stunning water views and wildlife, hikers can see the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse from various angles during the walk.

Nearby campgrounds: Oscoda KOA Campground



Saugatuck Dunes South Trail, Saugatuck: Walk off any calories you may have consumed while visiting foodie town Holland on this 5.2-mile loop. Moderately challenging, a couple hours outside will do everyone’s mental and physical health some good. Counterclockwise seems to be the preferred direction if you want an easier hike, as there are some dunes that need to be traversed and this direction allows you to approach them to head downhill. Enjoy the water vistas and forest views, and take your time at the big lake once you reach it. Take a little side trail and you’ll have more of the beach to yourself.

Lost Lake Trail, Muskegon: There’s something mystical and magical about visiting a trail with “Lost Lake” in the title. This easy trail is a 4.5-mile loop within Muskegon State Park. You’ll encounter beautiful wetlands and forests. It’s also not the busiest trail, and it’s more secluded than other trails on our list, which may be appealing. The observation deck overlooks Lost Lake, and there are plenty of wooden benches  and viewing scopes.

Nearby campground: Duck Creek RV Resort 



Crooked Lake Trail, Pinckney: Considered by some to have the best hiking in southeastern Michigan, Pinckney Recreation Area has plenty of options. A popular choice is Crooked Lake Trail – and for good reason. This 5.1-mile loop offers a pleasant walk for hikers across several types of landscapes, including three inland lakes. It’s particularly stunning in the fall due to its vast array of hardwood trees. Hikers must travel in a counterclockwise direction so that mountain bikers can more safely ride clockwise.

Hickory Ridge Trail, Brighton: A new kid on the block, this trail opened in 2017 within Island Lake Recreation Area. The recreation area itself has been around for decades and is one of the region’s largest and most beloved parks.  In fact, this was Detroit’s first state park. There’s a five-mile loop, but you can go on shorter hikes if you choose to. Trout Lake and the Huron River offer the best scenery along the trail, as well as some impressive pine trees (which have a Narnian effect during the winter). Although the terrain is ideal for mountain bikers, they are not allowed to utilize this section of the Huron River, reducing traffic and increasing safety. Before or after your hike through the woods and grasslands, take a promenade along Kent Lake Beach.


One more trail… Montreal Falls on Montreal River is another must-visit hiking trail near Mohawk in the Keewenaw Peninsula. It’s a 5.2-mile out and back trail that features a couple waterfalls and a visit to the shore of Lake Superior.