What better way to shake off the winter doldrums than to take a walk in the woods? How about a shoreline hike followed by a meal or brew at a local eatery?
Tie up the hiking boots and say bon appétite. Here are my nominations for the best lakeshore walks in Michigan with recommended places to refuel afterwards:
North Bay Trail. North Bay Park is tucked in between I-94 and Ford Lake, yet contains almost two miles of trail. That’s because half of the loop winds across the north end of the lake, via long boardwalks along the shoreline and bridges between small islands, making it a watery hike and a haven for boatless anglers. Afterwards head to Roy’s Squeeze Inn on Michigan Avenue, a hamburger joint leftover from the 1950s, and order the Big Squeeze, a monster of a cheeseburger (ytown.org; royssqueezeinn.com).
Lakeshore Trail. Independence Oaks is the largest Oakland County park at nearly 1,300 acres and its crown jewel is Crooked Lake. The beautiful 68-acre lake is surrounded by woods and wetlands while skirting its shoreline is this 2.4-mile trail where you’re always hiking in view of the water. Nearby is the Clarkston Union: What was a church in the 1840s is now a lively pub with stained-glass windows and pews that serve as benches, a place to carbo-load with an order of Lobster Mac-and-Cheese (destinationoakland.com; clarkstonunion.com).
Island Trail. Ludington State Park is best known for Lake Michigan beaches, but its most scenic trail is nowhere near the Great Lake. True to its name, this 1.6-mile trail island-hops its way between Hamlin Lake and Lost Lake. Combine it with Ridge and Lost Lake Trails and you have a 4.8-mile loop of lakeshore hiking with ridge walking.
That will generate an appetite and a reason to visit Jamesport Brewing Co., Ludington’s only brewpub. You’ve burned enough calories to indulge in the pub’s Jamesport Cheese Ale Soup made with its homebrewed beer and served in a bread bowl (michigan.gov/dnr; jamesportbrewingcompany.com).
Marl Lake Trail. South Higgins Lake State Park is split by County Road 104. On the north side are the park’s developed facilities, including a sprawling, 400-site campground. On the south side are Marl Lake and this 5.5-mile trail that skirts half of it. When you’re not following the lakeshore, you’re in a hardwood forest looking for morel mushrooms.
From the state park it’s a short drive north to Spike’s Keg of Nails in Grayling. Founded by Harold “Spike” MacNeven the day after prohibition ended in 1933, Spike’s is a classic northern Michigan tavern, a log lodge with trophy bucks mounted on the walls, fly anglers in the booths and a fish fry every Friday night (michigan.gov/dnr; spikes-grayling.com).
Power Island Trail. Power Island is a 202-acre Grand Traverse County park located in Grand Traverse Bay, two miles from the Bowers Harbor boat launch on Old Mission Peninsula. The best way to reach it is to rent a kayak in Traverse City from PaddleAway, which also offers guided trips to the island. Once ashore you can enjoy five miles of trails, with most skirting the scenic bay’s west arm.
After paddling back, head over to the Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant and Brewery in Bowers Harbor for a Goat Cheese & Arugula Pizza and a pint of Bam Biere, a golden farmhouse ale (co.grand-traverse.mi.us/departments/parks_rec.htm; jollypumpkin.com).
Ahh. Winter wasn’t so bad now, was it?
BLUE “Top 5” columnist Jim DuFresne is an international travel writer and main contributor to MichiganTrailMaps.com.