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Trails for Hiking, Biking, Paddling, and More in West Michigan

Whether you want to get lost in the woods, put your mountain bike to the test, or explore the coastline, you’ll find a great way below to hit the trails. Traveling by foot, bike, or kayak, once you’ve experienced West Michigan’s immersive trails and waterways you’ll have a hard time getting back in the car at the end of the day.

 

Hiking & Biking

Celebrate 100 years of Michigan State Parks this year! There are more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails and pathways in our state, making Michigan home to one of the largest, interconnected trail systems in the country. This inviting network – and the associated quality of life, health, and economic benefits it offers – is fueling Michigan’s drive to be known nationally as “The Trails State.” The trail system offers ample opportunities for bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, and more. Many of these trails are located in Michigan State Parks, and the DNR offers comprehensive trail information and a trail search tool on their website.

Discover Munising’s wonderful waterfalls and hiking trails that provide opportunities for tranquility, relaxation, education and fun, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which offers 100 miles of trails within its 73,000 acres along 42 miles of Lake Superior’s shore. Lace up your hiking shoes, grab a snack, water, map and compass, and head down the trail to adventure.

The Grayling area offers a number of walking, hiking, and biking trails, including a paved pathways system that is over 11 miles long connecting parks and recreation spots around the area, such as Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Hartwick Pines State Park, and Wakeley Lake. The trails offer options for beginner and experienced hikers and bikers alike, along with great scenery. 

Cheboygan County has more miles of trails than any other county in Michigan. Their hundreds of miles of four-season trails bring visitors back year after year. These trails connect Cheboygan to the surrounding cities, lakes, and recreational areas.

Whether a beginner, intermediate, or expert rider, the world-class Copper Harbor Trails System has a ride-of-a-lifetime waiting for you! Join Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor for a professionally-guided tour through flowy-singletrack to lots of elevation changes, bridges & boardwalks, rocky, rugged terrain, and overall sweet singletrack within an incredibly scenic location that will make both mountain bike beginners and fanatics drool.

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings has seven miles of hiking trails throughout the 662 acres of natural area it sits on, and you are invited to explore the trails and take part in two special hiking events. Make hiking sticks and then trying them out on a guided nature-discovery hike in the Hidden Pond Preserve July 16th. Come celebrate trails and the great outdoors with bird watching, fishing, nature art stations, bicycle safety, and maintenance demonstrations, nature journaling, and much more at the “Get Out on the Trail” event August 6th. 

Looking for a great ride/walk/jog in the Petoskey area? There are multiple trails throughout the area with breathtaking views and a mostly paved surface connecting the communities of Charlevoix, Petoskey, and Harbor Springs. For hikers, the Little Traverse Conservancy nature preserves dotted throughout the whole area gives nature lovers perfect spots to get off the beaten path. 

Coolbough Nature Area in Newaygo encompasses the largest natural prairie east of the Mississippi River.  You’ll find several looped paths with unique ecosystems, including a rare oak-pine savanna, prairie, and wetlands. Visitors have the chance to explore ponds and wetlands, hike through white pine and white oak forest, search for butterflies and wildflowers on prairie and barrens remnants, and listen to the bubbling waters of the Bigelow and Coolbough Creeks.  

Hiking opportunities abound at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, located in Hickory Corners. There are numerous trails and other areas open to the public for walking and hiking. The grounds of the Kellogg Estate, which include the Kellogg Conference Center and Manor House, are open from dawn to dusk year-round. Visitors may take self-guided tours of the estate and historic Manor House, and docent-led tours are available by reservation. The W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, in nearby Augusta, offers several trails, some of which are paved and accessible to visitors using wheelchairs. Explore independently, or join one of many events that highlight the Sanctuary’s resident and wild birds. 

For a unique hiking experience, head to Oswald Bear Ranch in Newberry. Fun hiking around the bear habitats can take an hour at a leisurely pace while taking in beautiful Upper Peninsula scenery, and get a family photo with a bear cub! 

Trails and hiking is part of the fun in the Saugatuck area. Home to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, hikers and mountain bikers will love the rugged trails that end on the shores of Lake Michigan. For bikers, Blue Star Trail is growing each year and is a great addition to the already very bikeable towns.

With 5,000 acres to explore, Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire offers a variety of options to just get outside and play. Grab a pair of hiking boots, walking shoes, or even a bicycle to enjoy the on-site trails at the resort. Or, head just 3 ½ miles down the road from the resort to Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area. Enjoy the 750 acres that make up this combined trail system suited for hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.

31.5 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and winter sports trail await you in Bellaire. Whether you are a novice wanting to try something new or an avid trail user, come experience the Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area and discover why it is one of the Midwest’s premier trail destinations. 

Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire is a special place and one of Michigan’s premier nature preserves. Located along Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes, Grass River Natural Area’s wetlands act as a filter for millions of gallons of water flowing into East Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. Seven miles of trails and boardwalk take visitors through cedar swamp, sedge meadow, and upland forest. 

Holland boasts over 1,800 acres of parks for hiking, cycling, picnicking, and playing. With over 150 miles of paved bike paths, eight miles of mountain biking and hiking at the Riley trails, and over one-third mile of beautiful sandy beach at Holland State Park, there is truly something for everyone. Explore two miles of rich wooded dune trails and high bluffs that Mt. Pisgah offers, along with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and lighthouse “Big Red.”

Set in the middle of the US-12 Heritage Trail, Coldwater Country is a haven for relaxation. From hiking and biking trails to two chains of lakes, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the area trails. Take a hike on the paved trails at Heritage Park in Coldwater or on the gravel trails along the Sauk River. 

Whether you are looking for a place to hike, bike, snowmobile, or snowshoe, Mecosta County has the trail for you. From a leisurely stroll while taking in a scenic view to a more challenging adventure, you can find the trail that is right for you. The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail is just under 100 miles long and is perfect for any time of year. During the summer months this trail is great for mountain biking, hiking, and taking in the beautiful sights and sounds of the great outdoors. The Hungerford Recreation Area in Big Rapids has separate trails for people to enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking

Marquette County is continually recognized for having the top trail networks in the state, region, and nation, holding a Bronze-level Ride Center designation from the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). It is only one of two locations in Michigan with this award. In addition, with more waterfalls than any other county in the state, Marquette offers opportunities to hike, run, bike, and just enjoy a day out on the trail.

South Haven has been named one of Pure Michigan’s first Trail Towns. There are two very popular biking and hiking trails: the Kal-Haven Trail and the Van Buren Trail. The Kal-Haven trail stretches from South Haven to Kalamazoo for a total of 33.5 miles, and the Van Buren trail stretches from South Haven to Hartford for 14 miles, and passes through the Van Buren State Park.

There are a number of hiking, biking, and even horse riding trails to check out in the Muskegon area, taking you through paved trails along the lakeshore and sand dunes, pathways through nature preserves, and trails that meander through oak savannahs and marshy fields.

Whether you prefer to explore on water or on land, Hastings has a trail for you. The scenic Thornapple River is adjacent to downtown Hastings and is easily accessible from Bliss and Tyden parks. The Riverwalk Trail follows the Thornapple for three miles and is suitable for walking, biking, and sight-seeing. For those seeking more of a challenge, the recently completed Hammond Hill Trail offers 7-miles of multi-use trails for hiking and mountain biking and more. Avid cyclists may also test themselves on the permanently marked Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race courses (24, 32, and 64 miles) that take in some of the area’s most challenging trails and scenic back roads.

Water Trails

Experience Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Water Trail sea kayaking with the Keweenaw Adventure Company, located on the northernmost tip of the Upper Peninsula in Copper Harbor. Join a guided tour to discover stunning views, Hawaiian-like lava flows, vibrant reefs, & breathtaking boreal forests. Book today with promo code “WMTA$25” for $25 off per booking!

Indian River, named after the river which flows through it, is home to the 40 mile long Inland Waterway which runs through Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake, the Crooked River, Burt Lake, the Indian River, Mullett Lake, the Cheboygan River, and finally into Lake Huron. Truly Nature’s Mecca, Indian River is the ideal location to boat, fish, hunt, camp, bike, kayak, canoe, raft, tube, stand up paddle board, and more. 

With more than 100 lakes in Coldwater Country, a water adventure is a must! Rent a pontoon and enjoy the water trail along either the North or South Coldwater Chain of Lakes or launch a kayak along the Union City Heritage Water Trail to view the mural under the Park Street Bridge or the 28 markers and vintage photos viewable only by paddling the river.

The Pere Marquette River Lodge in Baldwin sits on the banks of the legendary Pere Marquette River, which has been named one of the top trout fishing destinations in the world by Field & Stream magazine. It’s also a popular destination for canoers and kayakers looking for solitude on one of Michigan’s designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The lodge offers a full-service fly shop, guided fly fishing for trout, migratory steelhead, and salmon, and pheasant hunting trips. The fly fishing schools offered throughout the year are a great opportunity for beginners to learn the sport and take in all the Pere Marquette River has to offer. The lodge features a great room, kitchen, and dining area spacious enough for large groups or corporate getaways. The Lodge is located in the heart of the North Country Trail system for those looking for lodging close to some of the best hiking and mountain biking in West Michigan.

For those in search of a more relaxing stroll, enjoy the Big Rapids Riverwalk in Mecosta County, which is accessible to all. The Riverwalk is just under 3.5 miles long and follows alongside the beautiful Muskegon River. This award-winning trail features fishing platforms, benches, bike racks, and picnic areas on either side of the 250 foot wooden bridge that spans the Muskegon River. Perfect for walking, biking, or rollerblading.

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail, planned, coordinated and led by Paddle Antrim, is an extensive trail with over 80 miles of routes through 14 stunning lakes and rivers in Benzie County. This water trail has 81 access sites and stretches through four counties in Northwest Michigan (Antrim, Charlevoix, Kalkaska, and Grand Traverse). From the small upper lakes to Torch Lake, there is an incredible diversity of paddling opportunities, making it a destination for all paddlers. Paddler experiences include wildlife viewing, natural areas best explored paddle craft, sunken ships, island exploration, and great fishing opportunities. The communities of Ellsworth, Central Lake, Bellaire, Alden, and Elk Rapids are located along the trail and make great destinations for launching, exiting, or resting from a paddle while enjoying the towns’ dining, shopping, lodging, and other recreational experiences. 

South Haven is home to the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail, a great route for kayaking or canoeing for 21 miles. There are also a number of places to rent kayaks and other water vessels and accessories nearby. 

Other Trails to Try

Developed by the Mason County Historical Society in partnership with the Mason County Cultural Economic Development Task Force, the Ludington section of the Mason County Maritime Heritage Trail provides a free, interactive, and educational experience for residents and visitors to the community alike. The trail, which can be started at the Historical Society’s Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, will guide you along Ludington’s historic waterfront as you explore the fascinating history that is all around you. The trail features 13 stops, each with an exhibit quality sign explaining the history and significance of that location to Ludington’s maritime heritage. 

Take a tour of West Michigan Wines with the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail featuring 20 wineries in the South West Michigan area, the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail comprised of 23 wineries in the Leelanau Peninsula north of Traverse City, or the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula with ten wineries on the peninsula separating West and East Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City.