Step Outside - Michigan WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 Step Outside - Michigan 144 144 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 19:52:09 -0500 Camping Done Right: 5 Essential Outdoor Stores in Michigan When it comes to camping, it can't be done without a certain amount of hardware. Whether you're going full-on glamping or getting back to nature, you'll need some tools to get the job done. Michigan's got a wide variety of camping retailers in both local shops and national chains, so here's a rundown of five of Michigan's best to get you on your way.

Bill and Paul's Sporthaus in Grand Rapids puts its focus on knowing its customer's needs. Whether you're looking for bug-repellent clothing for a simple summer campout, a Big Agnes two-person tent, a Nocturne sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for a winter excursion, or something as simple as a lineup of Clif Bars, Bill and Paul—routine guests on local television stations like Fox 17—will be ready to help you get properly equipped. 

Ann Arbor's Bivouac can cover you on a variety of fronts for camping. Birdwatchers will appreciate the Nikon binoculars and Nemo shelter-tents. Hardcore campers, meanwhile, will welcome Benchmade knives and Liberty Mountain shelf-stable meals complete with flameless heating elements. There's all that plus GoPro cameras to help ensure that you'll never miss a moment of your big excursion. If you're not the type to go camping often, Bivouac can even offer gear rental services so you're not sinking a lot of cash into something you won't use often.

There are several Field & Stream locations throughout Michigan, but the one in Kalamazoo is a recent addition that is worth noting. It's got several of Field & Stream's major Field Tech services built right into it, including gun, bow, and tackle specialists. There's also a camping specialist on hand to cover all your questions about various product offerings. There will be plenty of product offerings here, including a host of products from Field & Stream itself like cots and lanterns. It's not just Field & Stream's own material, though, as we'll also have Mr. Heater space heaters, several entries from Coleman, and a world of products beyond.

REI is one of the best-known camping goods suppliers around, famous for its high-impact clothing. The store will offer actual classes for those who want to learn more about the camping craft. For those who don't need education but are just looking for the hardware, REI won't disappoint. How about a Tepui tent that incorporates your car in the design? Keen and Merrill hiking shoes and boots for those long hikes? Or perhaps an Osprey or REI-branded bag to carry it all in? No matter your purpose, REI will cover you.

Pinconning, just a bit north of Bay City, isn't too far from some of the best camping the state can offer. That in turn means a great opportunity to supply those folks looking to take advantage, and Northwoods Wholesale Outlet should fit the bill nicely. Whether you're looking for a variety of miscellany under the Coghlan's mark—everything from solar-heated camp showers to soap holders—or Coleman tents for a variety of conditions, you'll be covered right here. There are even hunting, fishing, and footwear-specific items to round out your camping plans.

]]> Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Michigan Michigan is one of the greatest destinations around for backpackers, and with good reason. After all, with so many lakes, rivers and forests, there's just about every hike you can imagine here. So pack up, pack light, and get ready for five of the most beautiful backpacking trips Michigan has to offer!

Michigan's Jordan River Valley in Antrim County is home to the river of the same name, the Jordan River. It's one of Michigan's oldest protected rivers, making it a sight to see in and of itself. That's before the wildlife comes into play—from herons to mink to otter and more. Some have even noted bear sightings in the area, proving that large parcels of Michigan are still very much ruled by the wild. From spring wildflowers to fall foliage, you'll have your choice of breathtaking sights in the land the Bible gave a name to.

Just east of Grayling, and part of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, sits the Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area, a site situated around one of Michigan's many lakes. Forested land is the name of this game, with trees aplenty ranging from the oak and alder to pines in red, white, and jack varieties. Those who show up between March and mid-July will be able to catch loons nesting, and it's even known as a habitat for eagles. Best of all, at least for some, is the well-known catch-and-release fishery that's produced bass up to six pounds and bluegill around a foot long.

Near Mecosta, the Tubbs Lake State Forest Campground offers two campgrounds for backpackers to enjoy, the Tubbs Lake Mainland and the Tubbs Lake Island campgrounds. With only 33 campsites available on a first-come basis, you'll have to be careful about when you go here. Those who do, however, will have access to a wide array of water activities from fishing to boating thanks to a chain of lakes in the area, as well as the sheer unique nature of the Tubbs Lake Island campground. Tubbs Lake Island is a small island specifically built as a waterfowl habitat after the construction of Winchester Dam, a unique parcel of land by any standard.

Ludington Canoe Trail, not far from Grand Rapids, offers an unusual experience for backpackers, particularly for backpackers who want to try their hand at canoeing. Geared toward those with little, if any, experience, the Ludington Canoe Trail runs four miles, and features three points at which you'll have to carry your canoe. Featuring a host of wildlife from swans to herons and plenty of trees and water to see, the Ludington Canoe Trail will ultimately produce an experience like few others you've had backpacking.

Near Traverse City, you'll find the Sand Lakes Quiet Area, home to a feature that's going to be a big deal for rock hounds: marl lakes. Marl, also known as marlstone, is an unusual feature of either a calcium carbonite or lime-heavy mud. That's worth seeing in and of itself for the geology buff, but beyond that, there are huge hills of oak and pine, and a pervasive silence in the atmosphere because of a complete lack of motorized activity in the area. For peace, quiet, amazing scenery, and rocks like no tomorrow, head up to the Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

]]> Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Michigan With longer, warmer days comes thoughts of family camping trips. Packing up the kids for a weekend and heading out into nature makes for a memorable experience. And in Michigan, there is plenty of natural beauty to explore. From comfortable family campgrounds, to fun RV parks, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at these five awesome family-friendly campgrounds in Michigan. 

Silver Lake's Dunes Harbor Family Camp focuses very closely on providing experiences for the family. Featuring not only a string of amenities ranging from the full-on RV camper to the most basic tent camper—including a full ice cream shop as part of the camp's store—Dunes Harbor covers the waterfront nicely. The fact that it's only a few minutes from the actual waterfront of Lake Michigan doesn't hurt either, and with a wide variety of community activities, young families will love this spot.

Head for Glen Arbor to try out D.H. Day Campground. Geared toward the more primitive camping experience, this campground is a stone's throw from the Sleeping Bear Dunes, one of the greatest natural wonders Michigan can offer. Whether enjoying the beach, hunting for the official Michigan stone—the Petoskey stone—or just enjoying a campground steeped in tradition, D.H. Day Campground will offer a wonderfully family-friendly experience for campers.

One beautiful place to spend the weekend!

A post shared by Claire Niergarth (@claireniergarth) on

Lake Leelanau not only provides an excellent space for RV campers, but it can also support regular tent campers as well, offering a playground, a clubhouse, laundry facilities, and more. Oh, and don't forget it's right there on Lake Leelanau, and the entirety of the Leelanau Peninsula is open to you as well. Traverse City isn't even that far, and that means a lot of exciting options.

Family-owned and operated, Logan Hills Campground not far from Hale offers an incredible natural setting, complete with a lake for fishing, boating, and all around fun. Offering tent sites—with either “primitive” or with water and electric options—as well as your choice of three cabin types and RV parking, you'll have plenty of options for a place to lay your family's collective head down when all that fun comes to an end for the day.

Out in Hopkins lies Sandy Pines, a campground whose biggest focus is fun. Activities aplenty pack this campground, starting with a complete water park. No really, a water park. That's just the start—there's a complete 18-hole golf course on hand here as well, so you can camp not more than several hundred feet from a golf course. Throw in several different ball games—from tennis to basketball to the comparatively new gaga ball—and a complete ropes course along with readily-accessible beach, and family fun will be the name of the game at the accessible Sandy Pines.

So good for the soul.

A post shared by Katie Klunder (@katieklunder) on

Maridav/ Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Michigan Everyone knows that camping can be a great way to escape back to our roots—closer to nature. For those who miss their creature comforts and want something a little less rustic, try out RV camping! The recreational vehicle is one great option to avoid mosquitos, get a good night of sleep, and access all the amenities you might need on your trip. In Michigan, you’ll find plenty of excellent places to park your RV. Here are five awesome spots. 

Ludington State Park near Ludington is regarded as one of the most popular parks in Michigan. So much so, in fact, that it's commonly advised you plan to reserve one of the over 300 campsites at least six months in advance. Featuring fishing, boating, swimming, a lighthouse—the Big Sable Point lighthouse—and a host of other activities, it's not surprising that campgrounds here fill up so fast. 

An all-ages resort—great for the family—that features not only themed weekends but its own arcade, along with fishing, a pool, fitness rooms, shuffleboard, pickleball courts and more, Hidden Ridge RV Resort will give you a variety of options readily accessible from your RV. Throw in the town of Hopkins itself nearby—and the fact that it's between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids—and you'll have plenty to see and do.

Talk about your no-brainer: an RV park that's part of a casino resort in Michigan means plenty to see and do. Little River Casino Resort RV Park in Manistee will offer that in spades, including access to an indoor and an outdoor pool. Go swimming regardless of the weather outside! Better yet, there's a free shuttle running to the casino itself, and all the park's sites include access to water, electric, and cable television hook-ups. Some will even boast sewer hook-ups, though there's a full restroom with shower facility available in the park itself. Just to top it off, the RV park even offers coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at no extra charge, so for those needing a bit of a jolt before setting out, stop on in.

Out near Lake St. Clair, a recent addition to the RV campground slate has opened up, and it's Northpointe Shores RV Resort. You’ll find the RV resort is conveniently located in close proximity to Port Huron. There are bathhouses on-site as well as pet facilities, and full hook-ups. One thing to note: Northpointe prefers newer RVs only, and will only accept RVs no older than 20 years on its grounds. 

Head up to Irons to check out the Irons RV Park & Campground, regarded by many who've been there as one of Michigan's best. The basics are well in hand here, including 45 by 65 pull-through sites complete with full hook-ups. Those who want back-in electric and water, meanwhile, will get those here as well. With several nearby attractions from the Blessing of the Bikes in May to July's Trout-o-Rama, and plenty of activities from kayaking to golf and hunting to check out, there's plenty on hand to see and do. 

Aleksey Stemmer/ Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Michigan If there's one thing Michigan is known for, it's lakes. Between the five huge ones that ring the state to the host of smaller ones located throughout, there's a lake almost everywhere you look. For those who want to spend a little more time with our lakes, there are a wide variety of waterfront camping alternatives for you. So grab your tent and let's check out five of the most gorgeous waterfront camping spots in Michigan.

According to a “Good Morning America” poll, Sleeping Bear Dunes is the single most beautiful place in the United States. Glen Arbor's world-famous beach offers a commanding view of Lake Michigan, and with camping available, you can literally fall asleep in the most beautiful place around. If you're in need of something to do before you get sleepy, don't worry—attractions abound from lighthouses to wineries, and with plenty of dining options, you'll be able to get a good meal before you hit the sleeping bag.

If you're looking for camping that isn't on a Great Lake, then consider the next best thing at Young State Park. Close to Boyne City, and on Lake Charlevoix, Young State Park offers access to terrain from fields to cedar swamps for you to check out. But this isn't just a shot at primitive camping—there are 240 different campsites to consider, complete with electricity, and even two miniature cabins. While you're there, try out kayaking and canoeing, along with extensive hiking, metal detecting, and even cross-country skiing in season. Your individual definition of beauty will likely find something to match it here.

Out in Lakeport, along the shore of Lake Huron not far from the Canadian border, sits Lakeport State Park. Lakeport State Park has the unusual distinction of being split into two parts, with the village of Lakeport separating the two. There are 250 separate campsites to make use of, along with a camper cabin for those without tents or campers who still want to camp. Enjoy a variety of attractions in the immediate area like swimming, hiking, and even metal detecting. 

Sunset Bay RV Resort and Campground near Ahmeek has its share of distinctions to go along with it. Not only is it one of Michigan's oldest continuously-operating campgrounds—it's been up and running since 1944—but it's also one of the farthest north campsites in the state. That means you're saying hello to Lake Superior, Michigan's most massive lake. It may be a smaller site—just 11 tent-only sites, 23 combination RV and tent sites, and two cabins—but what it lacks in size it will make up for in beauty and grandeur. And yes, the sunsets are indeed as gorgeous as the name implies.

There's not much of Lake Erie that actually comes in contact with Michigan, but that little strip of ground is actually home to some of the most exciting real estate the state has to offer. William C. Sterling State Park, meanwhile—in Monroe—is one of the best campsites around for those who want to see Lake Erie firsthand. With 1,300 acres to see and 256 campsites immediately on the lakefront, there's plenty of room to go around. Fishermen, meanwhile, will find absolutely breathtaking catches around here thanks to fishing lagoons and the Lake Erie coast fishing. 

Dean Drobot/ Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

]]> Fri, 10 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Making the Most Out of Rifle River Recreation Area To truly appreciate the nature that surrounds you, immersing yourself in a state park or national forest is the way to go. From its giant shimmering lakes to its densely-wooded forests, Michigan boasts glorious natural spaces that would be any outdoorsperson’s dream. Begin your exploration with Rifle River Recreation Area. With its trails, ponds, and campsites, here’s how to make the most out of your adventure.  

If you've never heard of the Rifle River Recreation Area, not too far away from Lupton, then you're in surprisingly broad company. You're also, however, not yet privy to one of Michigan's best-kept recreational secrets. Home to over 4,400 acres of woods, campsites and more, this wonder has no shortage of natural and man-made excitement waiting for you. Grab your camping gear and hiking boots, because it’s time to start exploring. 

Those looking for a place to hike within the Rifle River Recreation Area will have two worthwhile choices here. The longer of the two is the Rifle River Multi-Use Trail, a 14-mile trail that allows for not only hiking, but also mountain biking and, when the weather cooperates, cross-country skiing. Hikers here will be able to catch views of several bodies of water, as well as proceed past several different campground sites.

The second hiking option for the Rifle River Recreation Area—one that doesn't involve mountain biking, for those who'd rather not run the risk of sharing the trail—is Pintail Pond, a three-quarter-mile nature trail that features as its primary scenic vista the pond of the same name. Home to a wide variety of natural features, from carnivorous plants to trees of impressive magnitude like the Black Spruce, you'll be able to see a wide variety of scenic views herein.

The Rifle River Recreation Area has several places to camp—there are about a half-dozen at last report. With so many options, you'll find just what kind of camping experience you want, but perhaps the best in the camp goes to Devoe Lake Rustic. Featuring swimming and a boat launch thanks to the proximity of the lake, this spot looks to offer an authentic camping experience. There's a handicap-accessible vault toilet here as well, so it won't be completely rustic, but just rustic enough to let you know you've been camping. Several sites are available within, so finding a place to camp here likely won't be a challenge.

Going just beyond the recreation area into Mio, you'll find one of the area's most unusual attractions: a monument set up for a bird. Not so much for one bird, but for a species. Specifically, we're talking about the Kirtland Warbler, and the Warbler Monument it engendered. Said to be the first monument to a songbird ever established on Earth, it features a four-foot-high replica of a Kirtland Warbler, an endangered species of songbird. The bird was carved from fiberglass and plastics, and received a dedication when it opened in 1963 by National Audubon Society member Roger Tory Peterson.

After a long day of hiking and scenery viewing, you'll be needing a good hearty dinner. LumberJack Food and Spirits in West Branch should fit that bill nicely, offering up a selection of fare that's perfect for the outdoors in Michigan. Ribs, steak, and more will set things up nicely, and a wide array of drinks are available as well. LumberJack puts its focus on local blends, including area microbrew beer and local wine from, among others, the Rose Valley Winery.

]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Unbeatable Hiking Retailers in Michigan Hiking is both wonderful exercise and great adventure. And what’s better than that? Michigan offers a host of opportunities for hiking, but as most hikers know, it's simply not accomplished without the right gear. Michigan retailers understand this point just as well. Next time you’re looking to go on a trek, check out these seven unbeatable hiking retailers in Michigan. 

Lee's Adventure Sports has been bringing its patrons “fun and adventure since 1954.” Particularly these days, with retailers always coming and going, that's no mean feat. Lee's Adventure Sports got to where it is by understanding its market and providing high-end gear. Whether you're looking for a fleece jacket from the North Face or for the more specific Mountain Athletics line from North Face, you'll be able to get what you need for a long, comfortable hike here.

With several locations throughout Michigan, chances are there's a DICK's Sporting Goods not too far away from where you're inclined to hike. That's good news, because DICK's has most of the material any hiker could ask for. From dry bags and other storage gear from Geckobrands to a Kelty carrier for your infant—why not start your little one off loving hiking from an early age—you'll have all the material you need to ensure a great hike.

This is nothing like Camp-It! #TentDoorOpen

A post shared by Terry Johnston (@phototj) on

With locations in both Traverse City and Birmingham, Backcountry North serves as an excellent supply point before taking on some of the greatest hiking the state can offer in the Upper Peninsula. While Backcountry North's location makes it a unique find in hiking supply, it also offers plenty of the brands that customers require to get the most out of a trip. Keep yourself hydrated with an Osprey hydration pack or keep yourself dry with an Outdoor Research rain jacket. Wet or dry, Backcountry North stands ready.

Grand Haven is home to Earth's Edge, a hiking supply store that delivers on several fronts. Sure, Grand Haven is probably better known for its beach life and water fun than hiking, but you'll have ample opportunity to hike here as well. Get set up for those hikes with Keen footwear or Thule bags to carry your various bits of gear around, making sure your hike is as comfortable and safe as you can make it.

Demo tents don't set themselves up πŸ˜‰β›ΊοΈπŸ• #JakeMovesAtSuperSpeed #TimeLapse #TentSetup

A post shared by Earth's Edge (@earthsedgeusa) on

Linwood’s entry into the hiking store, Frank's Great Outdoors, has been continuously running since 1945, and that's a downright testament to how closely Frank's follows its customers' needs. This dedication shines through nicely with the sheer range of gear Frank's can offer, starting with coolers from Orca and STABILicers footwear designed to give you excellent traction even in icy conditions. Whether your hikes are warm-weather or cold-weather, Frank's will give you the leg up you need.

With locations in Marquette and Houghton, Down Wind Sports is an excellent place to get your hiking gear right in the midst of the great Upper Peninsula, which is pretty much the king of hiking spots in Michigan. Offering customers a slate of special events and even some trip reports—as well as a selection of used gear for the more budget-conscious hiker—you'll be able to incorporate a wide variety of materials into your hikes. Check out the La Sportiva footwear line, or the Mountain Hardwear line of jackets and other clothes to keep you warm and comfortable while hiking.

Ann Arbor may not seem like a likely place for hiking, but its Sierra Trading Post will deliver all the value a hiker could ever ask for. Whether you're needing some Marmot outerwear for the colder hikes, or some Asolo boots for most any temperature hiking, you'll be ready for whatever conditions the trail can throw at you. That gives Sierra Trading Post a nice leg up on many of its competitors thanks to its sheer versatility.

]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Michigan Michigan is known for its beautiful natural spaces and abundant wildlife. Make the most out of your next trek through Michigan wilderness by bringing along a pair of binoculars. From trumpeter swans, to orioles, to some special bald eagle sightings, here are five of the most wonderful birdwatching hikes in the state.  

The Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, near Rockwood, offers 4,040 acres worth of ground to cover, sufficient to rank it among the largest freshwater marsh restoration projects on Earth. While there, you'll not only have one major hike on your hands, but also the ability to see a host of different bird life, from black billed plovers to glossy ibises. You'll even be able to spot bald eagles, and that alone could make the trip worthwhile for some birders. There's some hunting allowed in the area, so be sure to check things out before your trip. 

The Sleeping Bear Birding Trail is actually too large to be near any one town, as it encompasses 123 miles of Highway M-22, running from Manistee to Traverse City. Naturally, that's way too much to hike, but you'll have plenty of choices along the trail to set up a hike most anywhere you’d like. The real high point of the trail, however, is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is not only a national park, but also has been designated an Important Bird Area. The area has seen several different birds, including trumpeter swans, American pipits, and even double-crested cormorants.

The best part about the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail is that you'll have a staggering array of options in terms of where you want to stage your birdwatching hike, because there are no less than 28 separate hot spots along this run. The Sunrise Coast extends all the way from East Tawas to Mackinaw City, and in 2014, was found to be home to 188 different bird species. The sheer variety of the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail helps ensure that, no matter what you're looking for, it's a pretty safe bet that it can be found here. There are even some special events like the spring Raptor Watch, where you can see thousands of great lakes piping plovers engaged in seasonal migration.

If you're looking for a more contained hike, then head to Pleasant Lake and the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. This sanctuary encompasses fully 1,000 acres of land, and offers two miles of trails therein. It's also home to better than 200 separate bird species, which is impressive enough. However, for those looking for a place to see Michigan's sandhill cranes, the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary will provide in a big way, as it's known to attract several thousand of these birds in the midst of migration.

Eagle lake πŸ’š #twighlightzone #Michigan

A post shared by Eve Sarris 🍏 (@evesarris) on

Those looking for a more cosmopolitan birdwatching hike will love to know about Grand Traverse Commons, with a 500-acre campus and miles of trails. Birdwatchers will be able to catch an array of species depending on the season; it's said to be home to one of the state’s best spots to catch an oriole or an indigo bunting. That by itself is worthwhile, but even birdwatchers need to eat and rest. So, after all that birdwatching, hit the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, home to an equally broad array of shops and dining options to satisfy those needs for creature comforts.

Beautiful exploration hike with Lucas around the Grand Traverse Commons

A post shared by Jameschawley3 (@jameschawley3) on

]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Yankee Springs Recreation Area Did you know that 20 percent of Michigan's forested land is state forest? Throw in the assortment of non-forest state parks and you've got a recipe for finding great state parks all over. We're going to take a look at one excellent location in particular—Yankee Springs Recreation Area—and run down not only what to do when you're there, but what you can do in the immediate area to make a full day, or longer, of your trip. Let’s get started. 

Middleville's Yankee Springs Recreation Area comes with a wide array of options. Not only is there a kettle formation that was carved glacially—known as the Devil's Soupbowl—but there's also fishing, horseback trails, 12 miles of mountain bike trails, 30 miles of hiking trails, and nine separate lakes contained within its bounds that makes for a host of summer fun activities as well as some winter ones. With over 5,200 acres total to its credit, you'll have plenty to do here. Since it's situated almost halfway between both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, there will be even more awaiting once you've enjoyed your time at the park.

A post shared by Liz Snavely (@lvnmuziq) on

If you were the type to hit the park early, breakfast likely came to mind. On the Grand Rapids side, stop into Real Food Cafe for some of the best such breakfast you'll find in town. Featuring such marvels as the gingerbread French toast—topped with walnuts, caramel and whipped cream—and the buttermilk brined chicken with two eggs—yes, for breakfast—you'll have a dizzying array of options to work with here and just what you need to recover from that early morning hike or fortify you for it.

If you decide to travel south of the park, breakfast is best personified with Portage’s Cafe Meli. Featuring huge omelets and heaps of fresh fruit—along with more diverse choices like crepes, waffles and French toast—you'll have a breakfast here that will keep you happy well toward lunch, and potentially even beyond. 

Smoked salmon Benedict 🍳 photo credit: @tina.poon

A post shared by Devon Rushton (@food_ilysm) on

Grand Rapids' public museum of the same name delivers some absolutely amazing exhibits, great for when you're in the mood for a more indoor hike. Featuring exhibits related to dragons and fantasy creatures, the human brain, a puzzle room, and an exhibit involving two live lake sturgeon, you'll be able to experience a host of disciplines and learn much about not only Michigan proper, but about the wider world beyond as well.

If you're looking for something more competitive to the north of the park, then try Clique Lanes in Grand Rapids. An old-fashioned 16-lane affair on two levels, Clique Lanes offers a bowling experience of the kind that might have been engaged in years prior. But it's not just old fashioned fun—it's also got some updates to it. A complete roster of menu options and craft beers also accompanies the experience, and provides a way to keep going even when you've been bowling for some time.

#cliquelanes #bowling #grandrapids #michigan

A post shared by Lauren Rose Beale (@laurenrosebeale) on

You've just had one big day in Grand Rapids, so it's a great time for some dinner. One of the best such dinners in the entire city comes from the Electric Cheetah, a restaurant that will pursue eclecticism with such fervor that you'll barely know if you're coming or going. Whether you're looking for something small like the hot goat dip—featuring goat cheese and cream cheese together in a dip—or to compete for a shot to win a free Yahtzee sandwich—roll a Yahtzee in three rolls or less, yell Yahtzee, and get a sandwich featuring turkey, pork belly, cheddar and Granny Smith apple—you'll have most anything to satisfy your tastes here.

Zazio's, for dinner on the Kalamazoo side, takes one unique concept—the “open kitchen” format—and applies it to the Italian restaurant. Pasta of all types are on hand—from Pappardelle to Agnolotti—to dishes of chicken and shrimp. There's even a chef's table for up to 36 people where you can watch the meal prepared in an even more interactive fashion. So, no matter what you've got a hankering for, you can watch it prepared in front of you, and potentially even sit mere feet from the chef engaged in such activity himself.

]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Michigan Michigan is a state packed full to the brim with natural beauty, from the bottom of the mitten to the northernmost peak of the Upper Peninsula. Hiking trails abound in Michigan, and offer a great place to stretch the legs, check out some of nature's greatest wonders, and spend some time together as a family in the midst of it all. So lace up those hiking boots and check out five of Michigan's greatest hiking trails. 

Head to Watersmeet to check out the Sylvania Wilderness, a massive 18,237-acre affair that's part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Featuring 50 campsites, hikers can come for a day or stay for a while. With 34 named lakes, and everything from rivers to waterfalls to massive amounts of forest, the result is a package of natural beauty so sweeping, intense, and awe-inspiring that it's practically tailor-made for families. The area has even been home to a set of Ojibwa artifacts, so it's entirely possible your hike may turn up exciting new insight into Michigan's past.

Not far from Bessemer is the North Country Trail, home to the Porcupine Mountains waterfall hike. It's called that for the obvious reason: there's a lot of waterfalls located on this trail. How many waterfalls? Try one every mile. Naturally, there's more here than just a whole lot of waterfalls, so for anyone wants forests, mountain views, or just several different lengths of hiking trail, North Country Trail will have just what you need.

A trail measuring four and a half miles one way, hikers will be able to follow said trail from the Upper Falls all the way to the Lower Falls along the Tahquamenon River. While walking the trail, hikers will be treated to a rolling path that actually changes elevation over the course of the route several times, ensuring not only variety in the scenery, but also variety in the topography as well.

Hiked some places. Got bit by mosquitoes. Saw some stuff. Great weekend πŸ•πŸ‘πŸΌ

A post shared by Tommy Jacobs (@tommy_jacobs92) on

It's been called the “crown jewel of Lake Superior,” and with a comment like that to recommend it, it's easy to see why some might consider this the best hike around. For those who want a little more substance, the high points of this hike might be too good to pass up. A combination of dune, swale, and forest covering 430 acres and an 8.6-acre island, there's most everything here from rocky cliffs to sandy beach to wilderness timber. There's a little bit of everything at Little Presque Isle, and that makes this hiking destination one for the books.

Isle Royale National Park, found on an island in Lake Superior itself, represents one of the biggest chunks of pure, uninterrupted wilderness that Michigan can offer. Surrounded by water, it's a great place for a swim in the hotter months—typically, Superior is the last lake to fully melt—but there's a lot more than that here. Featuring some of the most impressive views around, Isle Royale is home to not only wolves, but also moose, both of which roam the island freely. Reports suggest it's also the single least-visited national park in the lower 48 states thanks to the fact it can only be reached by seaplane or by boat, which—for those who want to see true wilderness untrammeled by man—makes this a natural winner.

ehrlif/ Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Michigan Michigan's state motto is, in the original Latin, "Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice." Translated to English this means, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you." Essentially, you don’t have to look very far to see something beautiful here in the Great Lake State. Michigan is home to a wide array of natural beauty that can best be absorbed on a beautiful, scenic hike. Here are five great trails to soak in the stunning nature of the state. 

The Escarpment Trail, part of the Porcupine Mountains near Ontonagon, is a comparatively short track with a four-mile pace but a surprisingly steep elevation change. This combination makes it considered moderate in difficulty, but the views are amazing. Between views of Lake Superior, Lake of the Clouds, and the Carp River Valley, one of Michigan's comparatively few mountains will provide some of its best hiking.

Want to see what just over 18,300 acres of woods looks like? Take a step into the Sylvania Wilderness near Watersmeet. Formerly a private hunting preserve until its purchase by the US Forest Service in 1967, Sylvania features some of the most extensive forest in North America. Home to a host of tree species and wildlife, as well as a variety of lakes, you'll have just about any kind of view you could ask for waiting for you here.

Not all the great hikes can be found in the Upper Peninsula. The Jordan River Pathway near Mancelona is regarded as one of the more popular weekend backpacking options the Lower Peninsula can offer. Featuring cedar trees, a trout stream, and plenty of shade, it's a great look at not only woods and water, but also some excellent wildflower growth as well. Since it's a loop, it makes transportation a comparatively easy venture, and a built-in campground at the halfway point makes it a perfect weekend hike with the kids. 

One of the southernmost hikes in Michigan, and part of Warren Dunes State Park near Sawyer, the Mt. Randal Loop is a four-mile hike over sand dunes. With an amazing view of Lake Michigan, some bits through local woodland, and even a chance to check out pretty much every different kind of sand dune there is—and yes, there's more than one kind of sand dune—you'll have an exciting time afoot running the Mt. Randal Loop. It's heavily visited in summer months, though, so it's suggested to come in April when the wildflowers are starting to bloom. October, when the leaves change color in the region, is also recommended.

Described on its website as a, “sanctuary for hikers,” the Bird Hills Nature Area is the largest park in Ann Arbor. Covering approximately 160 acres, Bird Hills is comprised of marsh areas, wet forest, mesic forest, among other ecosystems. You will find five trailheads here, all of which are easily accessible: Down Up Circle, Bird Road, Beechwood Drive, and two near the Newport Road parking area. These trails are unpaved, and they twist through magnificent forestry affording views of beautiful oaks, hickory, and spring wildflowers. 

Alexey Stiop/ Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Paddleboarding Spots in Michigan Join in on the paddleboarding craze. With so much water around, it's easy to find places to paddleboard in Michigan. You'll need flat, relatively calm water to paddle on, but there's plenty of that around here! So grab your paddle and get ready for a slow, scenic trip down some great natural territory with five great paddleboarding spots in Michigan!

Easily accessible from Detroit, but closest to Milford, the Huron River offers plenty of public land surrounding it. Connected to a wide range of parks, and offering a moderate current—there are Class II rapids near Delhi Rapids, so watch out for that—along with a comparative lack of obstacles and plenty of natural scenery, the Huron River will be one of the simplest and nicest paddleboard trips you can get.

Northern Michigan is falling in love with stand-up paddleboarding, and Sleeping Bear Point represents an excellent location for it. Not only is it likely familiar territory for many thanks to its Lake Michigan connection, but it's also been voted one of America's best beaches. It's also not readily reached by foot, so you'll get a look at sights not commonly seen by beachgoers. Throw in the proximity to Traverse City and all that entails, and you'll have a great time paddleboarding and beyond out at Sleeping Bear Point.

The Pere Marquette River near Baldwin offers both intense natural beauty and great accessibility. Excellent for beginners—the greatest challenge will come from a Class I rapids segment—and offering the sights provided by the Manistee National Forest, the Pere Marquette River will provide a wide range of things to see with very little challenge. Some of the best sights will come toward the end of the season as the colors change in Michigan trees.

This one's almost a no-brainer, but for anyone who wants a new look at a familiar Michigan landmark, you're going to have a real winner afoot with Mackinac Island. Several options are on hand for this one. Try a sunrise run just before breakfast to check out the wonder of a non-mechanized island in the early morning sun, or look into a two-hour guided tour to take you around and introduce you to some of the most noteworthy points to check out in person later.

Grand Rapids is one of Michigan's biggest cities, and it's also got one of its greatest paddleboarding excursions too. The Rogue River—which really isn't that rogue at all—is regarded as a beginner course of primary flat water that runs 21 miles. With two dams nearby, there's quite a bit to see. Once you get past Sparta, the river gets extra force from several nearby tributaries—that could be worth exploring in their own right—to make this trip fun and worthwhile.

zeljkodan/ Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Michigan The jet ski is perhaps the ultimate assertion of speed and water fun in Michigan. With so much water readily available, there's no shortage of places around to hit the water and enjoy the exhilaration of jet skis. Some places are better than others, of course, so it's worth doing some advance research to see which places are the best for the run. So, fill up your gas cans, hitch up your trailer, and get ready for some excitement on the water with five great places for jet skiing in Michigan!

Houghton Lake, a little north of the middle of Michigan, represents the largest inland lake in Michigan at last report. In a state famous for its lakes, that's saying something—it's been estimated that a 20-30 mph cruise would take better than two hours to completely navigate the lake. Houghton Lake will offer plenty of room for cruising at good speeds, and the lake is almost never smooth except for the calmest days. So you’re in for an exciting ride! 

The third largest lake in Michigan, which has been called the second-best lake in the United States according to USA Today, offers some terrific options in jet skiing. Coming in second only to Lake Tahoe, Lake Charlevoix offers “...several small, tourist-adored towns” along with “...some of the world's finest sunsets, beaches, boating and gastronomy.” Sounds impressive, but reports from jet skiers in the area suggest Lake Charlevoix will offer opportunities for experienced riders to “catch some nice air.” With several boat launches and large boats putting out impressive wakes, a day of fun is right at your fingertips.   

Burt Lake near Cheboygan is said to offer some excellent opportunities for jet skiing. It stays comparatively warm throughout the summer, reports note, and scarab beetles are a routine presence on the lake. The presence of scarabs has likely perked up some jet skier ears, as these bugs commonly mean big wakes and big waves. With very little in the way of obstructions—much of the lake is deep except for sandbars—and very few days in which the lake stays smooth, it’s no surprise Burt Lake is a well-loved destination for riders. 

Cass Lake in Oakland County is actually part of a closely-connected range of lakes. Affording two square-miles of surface area, it also immediately connects to the Clinton River, to nearby Loon Lake which is upstream, and downstream is Sylvan Lake. Elizabeth Lake also connects to Cass Lake, which means Cass Lake can be an effective destination by virtue of its sheer variety. One truly unusual feature distinguishes this lake from many others: there's an in-water gas station on hand that allows for rapid refueling even in the middle of a session on the water. The roughness of the water varies, so check out what the conditions are like before you head out!  

Kalamazoo County’s Long Lake is a popular jet skiing destination, making it a highly-populated area on beautiful days. Thanks to its solid conditions and comparative excellence in the immediate area, plan to show up early to this spot if you’re looking for a fun-filled day on the water. There are no refueling capabilities in the area so riders, come prepared! Every moment on the glistening waters of this 575-acre lake will be a special one.    

Sergey Sukhorukov/ Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Michigan Kayaking can be a difficult sport for those without experience, but Michigan is a kayaker’s paradise. Surrounded by the Great Lakes, you can expect to find some seriously stunning spots to get your feet wet. The state offers not only opportunities for those experienced, but plenty of places to get started. Before heading out for the first time, try taking some lessons or bringing along a guide. Here are five awesome spots for beginners to kayak in Michigan.  

Quiet World is considered to be one of the best kayak schools in the state of Michigan. With kayak classes running from beginner to intermediate, private instruction available, and instruction in several other sports also on hand, Quiet World Sports will develop skills and give new kayakers the ability to better enjoy the sport. Once your classes are done, apply your newfound knowledge with five lakes and the Grand River that connects all five, allowing for a thoroughly unique experience.

Liquid Therapy in Three Rivers offers its kayaking focus on several major area rivers, the St. Joseph, the Rocky, the Prairie, the Portage and the Fawn River. With several rivers to choose from, it's a safe bet that beginners will be able to find something appropriate for their skill level right here. That's good news for anyone who's planning to get started in kayaking. The St. Joseph is suggested particularly for beginners, and those confident enough can step up to rivers with some whitewater portions as well. Since all boats are required to be off the water by 6 p.m., there's a much greater chance of not getting lost.

we sunk 3 times 🚣... Not therapeutic lol

A post shared by Hunter Terrell (@hunter_terrell11) on

Fennville’s Velocity Adventures gives first-time paddlers access to kayaks, and some seriously great kayaking territory. Beginners will be able to go out with a much more experienced kayaker in a bid to not only get better acquainted with the craft, but also to see what's in the area. Tours are available in three or six-hour variants. Be sure to stick around for the sunset on the nearby Kalamazoo River—it’s breathtaking!

Up in the Upper Peninsula is one of Michigan's great rivers: the Tahquamenon. Not far from Newberry, meanwhile, is the Woods Canoe Rental, or Tahquamenon River Canoe and Kayak Rental. It's not just a rental operation, of course, but also a great starting point for beginners and even small children. They offer what's called a “Short Trip,” which comes complete with delivery of equipment and shuttle service to and from the base. Featuring good fishing, excellent variety of wildlife—everything from birds to bears and beyond is right here—and varying levels of difficulty, kayakers from beginners to experts should be able to find a challenge worthy of their skills. 

Out in Tecumseh, which isn't far from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and several other major Michigan cities, there's the Tecumseh Paddling Company. Located right along the River Raisin, the company can start users out as simply as short hops around their own internal kayaking area known as “The Ponds” to access to the river itself. Options are the key to producing the best kayaking experience for beginners, and there will be plenty of those at the Tecumseh Paddling Company.


A post shared by @karahbowman on

Stas Volik/ Fri, 03 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500