Hiking in Emmet County
By Jeff Wellman
Life in Northern Michigan is all about easy access to the outdoors. What better way to get out and experience the beauty of the area than going out for a hike? Emmet County has miles of trails that are a great way to immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the beauty of our area. Gorgeous views of Lake Michigan’s clear blue water, fresh air among the trees, and rolling hills make for a beautiful way to enjoy some scenery and exercise outside. Here are some of our favorite trails to explore in Emmet County:
Offield Family Viewlands Working Forest Reserve
Formerly Little Traverse Bay Golf Club, this expansive property has been acquired and protected by the Little Traverse Conservancy. The near 4-mile trail network meanders through old fairways and two tracks and is perched high up in the hills with beautiful views of Little Traverse Bay. Bring your dogs (on leash) and explore the mix of open meadows, vernal pools, and wooded forests. Nestled between Harbor Springs and Petoskey, this trail is both beautiful and conveniently located.
The Headlands International Dark Sky Park
This 550-acre old-growth forest and county park preserves nearly 2 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Located a short distance from downtown Mackinaw City, the park contains woodlands and many species of rare and endangered plant life. Spotting wildlife is common, so you may see whitetail deer, bald eagles, coyote, osprey or even an occasional black bear! This unique park includes 4.3 miles of trails, two rental houses, and outstanding views of Lake Michigan. Its “Dark Sky Park” designation means that it has the darkest of night skies, undiluted by light pollution.
Wilderness State Park
Open year round, this park is one of the largest in Emmet County with plenty to explore! Trails wander along 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, through coniferous and hardwood forests, and across open (sometimes wet) meadows. It can be easy to get turned around in its expanse, so it is advised that you carry a map and a compass. Make a pit stop at one of the beaches to cool off on a hot summer day. Your furry friends can accompany you so long as they are on leash – there is even a dog beach for them to enjoy.
The Little Traverse Wheelway
Looking for something low impact? The Little Traverse Wheelway is an easier trail option with a mostly paved path that runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Charlevoix to Petoskey to Harbor Springs. Bikers, walkers and runners all share the 28-mile route, and several parks line the shores along the way. Plus, it passes right through Downtown Petoskey, so be sure to make a pitstop for lunch or a little shopping.
Petoskey State Park
Stroll through the sand dunes and lakefront forests on the 2.2-mile trail, or dip your toes in Lake Michigan as you walk the 1.2 miles of beach searching for a treasured Petoskey stone. The waterfront park is nestled in the back of Little Traverse Bay between Petoskey and Harbor Springs. The highest point in the park, Old Baldy, has an observation tower that boasts beautiful views over the bay. With beautiful views and easy access, this is a great local stand-by.
Whether you’re out for a strenuous workout, or looking for a more casual walk with views, Northern Michigan truly has a trail for everyone.