Whether it’s a New Year resolution to get more exercise in 2024 or a passion for being outdoors, there is now a new reason to explore the miles of scenic trails in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties. The Southwest Michigan Trails Challenge is underway and is open to all ages throughout the year.

There is a prize incentive to take the challenge. The first 100 adventurers to complete five trail check-ins will receive a branded belt bag and a commemorative sticker celebrating their achievements. Once all the prizes are claimed, the challenge closes. However, after the challenge ends, organizers encourage others to set personal goals to visit as many of the region’s trails as they can this year.

“The Trails Challenge shows off the diversity of our trails, many of which are accessible to our handi-capable residents and visitors,” said Marcy Simpson, executive director of the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, sponsor of the challenge.

Simpson said participants can hike, bike, wheelchair, paddle, snowshoe, cross-country ski, fat tire bike and snowmobile depending on the trail’s designation. They can go along Lake Michigan’s shoreline and rivers, over dunes, through forests and across marshes, prairies, vineyards and treetop boardwalks. Trail experiences range from exhilarating climbs with incredible vistas to wildlife and bird sightings, and in-season wildflowers, gorgeous fall foliage and stunning ice formations. Many of the trails are free, but some require parking or admission fees.

Entering the Trails Challenge is easy. First, participants must download the Visit Southwest Michigan app from the App Store or Google Play. Next, set up an account and click “Start” in the Trails Challenge. Then choose from over two dozen trails. Take a selfie by the trailhead or sign and upload it on the app. Do this on five different Southwest Michigan trails.

“This challenge is fun for everyone,” said Simpson. “It’s something to do outdoors with your family and friends, or on your own in beautiful places. Go once and you will be back again and again.”

For more information about the Southwest Michigan Trails Challenge and to download the Visit Southwest Michigan app, visit swmichigan.org/things-to-do/trails.

Imported Image Photo Caption: The Southwest Michigan Trails Challenge steps off this month to entice locals and visitors to explore the region’s hundreds of miles of scenic trails. Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan (shown), is one of the qualifying destinations. To learn about this invigorating year-round challenge and prizes, visit swmichigan.org/things-to-do/trails.