Michigan's "Sunrise Side" is blessed with unique hiking trails, remote areas of Lake Huron, and scenery every naturalist dreams about. A hike on these routes is not just a walk down a dirt path, but the means to see some of Michigan's most spectacular natural treasures.
The scenery is as varied as anywhere in the country, and so are the trails. From coastal sand dunes to towering pines and hardwoods, from remote Lake Huron beach to wilderness inland lakes, all of these wonders of Nature can be reached by well-marked hiking trails.
A guiet sanctuary offering the finest backpacking route on Michigan's East Coast is the west loop of the Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area. This 10,6000 acre non-motorized retreat is located 23 miles west of Harrisville and 7 miles north of Glennie at the intersection of highways M-72 and M-65. The scenic trail network encompasses seven small lakes and course through rugged terrain with many hills topping 1,200 feet. Hoist Lakes offers unique opportunities to climb a ridge, sit on its crest, and view an incredible panorama. For backpackers, this area offers some of the most beautiful backcountry campsites in the Lower Peninsula.
The most unusual and unique day hike in northeastern Michigan is the walk out to South Point in Negwegon State Park. Negwegon is an undeveloped wilderness tract comprising 1,800 acres. It is the crown jewel of Michigan's State Park System. It is hard to reach and visited by very few people. And, when they arrive, they are amazed by what they find. Many believe that the most beautiful and possibly the most iolated beaches on Lake Huron lie in this park. Many areas of the 6.5 mile shoreline are lined by pine and cedar and feature wide, sugary beaches in remote bays closed in by rugged rocky points and pits.
The Sandy Hook Nature Trail located within Tawas Point State Park, near East Tawas, is a short two mile trek through an extrememly scenic and unique sand dune ecosystem. Often referred to as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest," the Sandy Hook area is a very important location as a major landfall stopover for songbirds migrating along the Mississippi Flyway. During the Spring and Fall migrations, the point is literally "alive with birds." Often spotted along the beaches are terns and gulls, including Bonaparte's gulls, and Caspian terns, along with shorebirds, such as red knots, whimbrels, and even the rare piping plover. Several inland ponds attract loons and a variety of waterfowl species. Willow thickets, shrubs, and sand cherry bushes attract a large variety of warblers, flycatechers, hummingbirds, orioles, and bluebirds. The trail always offers a splendid view of the historic brick lighthouse which has been in continuous service since 1876.
The Highbanks Trail, along the towering bluffs of the AuSableRiver, near East Tawas and Oscoda, offers incredible vistas of the historic AuSable River Valley. This popular footpath originates at Iargo Springs and extends 6.5 miles to the tiny village of Sidtown. Along the route, hikers pass an active eagle's nest and the interpretive center at Lumbermans Monument. The most popular section of the trail is the 2.5 mile route from Lumbermans Monument to Sidtown. Along this portion of trail, hikers traverse the ridges of the historic towering sandy high banks from which an entire forest of logs were rolled into the river and floated downstream to the mills in Oscoda during michigan's white pine lumbering days. The wind blown sand ridges have created a unique ecosystem found no where else in Michigan. If you opt to park at the Monument area and hike the route to Sidtown, be sure to drive the short distance on River Road to Iargo Springs, and descend the winding stairway down to the namesake springs. Visitors will be astonished at the beauty and the sounds of the small waterfalls and gurgling streams that await them. Three wildlife observation decks and a network of boardwalks will lead visitors to exceptional views of the river and it's exclusive surrounding terrain. Playful otters, soaring eagles, and flocks of waterfowl provide hours of entertainment. The Highbanks area is located 12 miles northwest of East Tawas at the intersection of Monument Road and River Road.
Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway follows the Ocqueoc River in Presque Isle County. Starting at the parking lot of the Ocqueoc Falls, hikers or skiers can take a 3, 4, or 6.5 mile loop through beautiful countryside. The Ocqueoc Falls (Indian for Sacred), is actually two falls with the lower being 300 feet from the main or upper falls. Reached by travelling east on M-68 from Onaway, it is well marked and easy to find.