Whether you’re a local or a warm weather visitor, summer in the Great Lakes is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. From the majestic sand dunes of Lake Michigan to the rocky cliffs of Lake Superior, the Great Lakes are rich with hidden gems for those looking for a challenging, beautiful summer hiking trip. Here are four of our favorite Great Lakes hikes.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Lake Michigan
Named “Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America, Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes offers intrepid hikers roughly 100 miles of trails, each with its own special beauty and challenges, such as climbing dunes over 200 feet high. Some trails overlook lakes, hills and dunes, where others guide you through fields of vibrant wildflowers. Those looking to get off the mainland can take a ferry from the dunes to the North and South Manitou Islands for even more hiking trails.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Lake Superior
More than 42-miles long, with 90 miles of trails and 73,000 acres to its body, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has been a mecca for outdoorsmen for decades. Its southern portion spans 13 miles—Munising Bay to Twelvemile Beach—and is home to the famous Pictured Rocks cliffs, arguably the region’s biggest draw. Aside from the towering sandstone cliffs, there’s Twelvemile Beach, a span of untouched beach that offers hikers a new level of solitude and serenity, as it features only a handful of backcountry campsites and the nearest campground is located at the beach’s northern end.
Bruce Peninsula National Park – Lake Huron
Nestled in the heart of a World Biosphere Reserve, thousands of visitors make the sojourn to Canada’s Bruce Peninsula to experience the park’s massive, rugged cliffs, thousand-year-old cedar trees, and crystal clear waters of the Georgian Bay. Hikers can explore the grottos and caves hidden among the shores, take in views of Lake Huron from the tops of rocky cliffs (or cliff dive from them), and challenge themselves to rugged hiking trails, or relax in the Bruce’s small harbor town of Tobermory between hikes, all of which—I can attest to from personal experience—make for an exciting and memorable trip.
Isle Royale National Park – Lake Superior
Voted one of Fodor’s 10 Most Beautiful Hikes in the U.S., Isle Royale—the largest island on Lake Superior—may not be as well-known as some of the Great Lakes’ other trails, but this destination is home to some of the best hiking in the region. Backcountry hikers can spend days exploring Isle Royale’s Greenstone Ridge Trail, a high ridge in the center of the island that runs from one end to the other. From here, hikers can gaze out over the rocky shoreline to view the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan and the 400 smaller surrounding islands. Bonus: As one of the lesser-known national parks, you’re likely to not have much company on Isle Royale’s trails, or even have them all to yourself.