5 Energizing Hikes in Michigan

By Steve Anderson

5 Energizing Hikes in Michigan

When the beginner hike is too easy, it’s time to try a new challenge. Don't worry, Michigan's got you covered. There are more physically-demanding hikes across the state that will get your muscles moving and leave you feeling accomplished at the end of the day. Lace up your boots and grab your water bottle before you tackle these five energizing hikes in Michigan. 

1. Manistee River Loop Trail

Not far from Brethren, the Manistee River Loop Trail is considered a moderate-difficulty hike running 23 miles. Traffic is comparatively light due to its length, mainly, and is considered both kid-friendly and dog-accessible, though dogs will need to be on a leash. The scenery out here is impressive, including the Manistee River for which the trail is named. A waterfall, a creek, suspension bridge, huge amounts of forest, and staggering availability of camping spots along the trail makes this one a highly-versatile winner for an intermediate hike. 

2. Empire Bluff Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

This 1.5-mile hike roundtrip has terrain described as hilly, which makes it a bit more of a challenge than your average hike. Once you reach the end of the trail, you will be treated to high-up views from the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Proceed with caution—do no descend the bluff because it can be very dangerous. 

3. Escarpment Trail in Porcupine Mountains

The Porcupine Mountains near Ontonagon represent a perfect opportunity for hikers thanks to one main reason: an abundance of hiking trails, all of which are interconnected. Thanks to this, hiking through the Porcupine Mountains can be about as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, and can incorporate just about any kind of scenery you could ask for. Commonly regarded as a moderate challenge, though, is the Porcupine Mountains’ Escarpment Trail, running roughly four miles in length—eight miles roundtrip—which offers peaks, lakes, and some impressive 400-foot cliffs.

4. Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuse

A national wildlife refuge near Saginaw, Shiawassee contains three trails within its purview: The Woodland Trail, the Ferguson Bayou Trail, and the Wildlife Drive, a seasonal trail that's accessible by car. The Woodland Trail and Ferguson Bayou Trail should provide a more challenging experience that won't tax hikers too greatly. Both trails run about 4.5 miles worth of walking, and the Woodland Trail is somewhat more primitive. The Ferguson Bayou Trail features graveled roads and several beautiful views. While your definition of “moderate difficulty” may be fluid, the variety of choice seen here should accommodate it, whatever it may be.

5. Paint Creek Trail

Paint Creek Trail, near Rochester in Oakland County, is something of a rarity in Michigan trails: A trail both owned and managed not by the state, but by a private entity, the Paint Creek Trailways Commission. The first “non-motorized rail-to-trail” in Michigan, it runs 8.9 miles, and was formerly part of the Penn Central Railroad. Now a hiking, biking and walking trail of moderate difficulty due mainly to its length, it will offer a smooth, eight-foot-wide trail that goes through several towns and provides plenty of sights to see along the way. 

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