There’s no better way to experience the stunning beauty of a Michigan autumn than by hiking your way through it.
Michigan provides hundreds of hiking trails, allowing hikers the privilege of seeing nature up close rather than from the distance and confines of a car.
The colors have been great, according to Jim Case, supervisor at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, midway between the city of Fenton and village of Holly. Last week, he estimated that the trees were at about 40 percent peak color. “There are a lot of oranges, reds and yellows already. The way it’s going with cooler weather, peak color at the park will be coming early.”
These vibrant colors and cooler temperatures make fall a perfect time to hike in Michigan. There are fewer crowds at most parks, yet patrol officers are still in force, according to Case. “The park is very safe this time of year,” he said. “Because we’re open for hunting in the early morning and late evening, we suggest that hikers choose mid-day to hike, and wear bright colors.”
For hikers who want to enjoy a full afternoon of hiking, michigantrailsmap.com suggests that they consider taking Seven Lakes State Park’s 1.8-mile Red Trail Loop from the Meadow Ridge Shelter to the Dickinson Boat Launch, and then continue to the Green Trail Loop for a short distance. Depart at Post #8 to skirt the south end of Big Seven Lake, looping back to the picnic area and beach along its west shore.
This would provide a 3.8-mile hike that would skirt the park’s three largest lakes and cover some of the most scenic sections of the trail system.
To enjoy a beautiful view from the summit of Seven Lakes State Park, Case suggests that hikers take the Dickinson Trail west at the Boat Launch, cross the footbridge then take it toward a very tall hill — the highest peak at the park. “It’s a beautiful view even after the leaves have fallen, because you get an unobstructed view of the entire Holly area,” said Case.
Nearby at Holly Recreation Area, Wilderness Trail provides hikers with a 5.75-mile loop amidst McGinnis Lake, wetlands and hardwood hills.
Hikers will find the trail delightful in October, according to Michgantrailmaps.com. Fall and spring are the best times for hiking this trail, and hikers will enjoy the natural beauty of numerous ponds and marshes. The main trailhead is located south of McGinnis Road in the Heron Lake day-use area.
For shorter hikes and walks closer to home, check out Genesee County Park’s Linden County Park/Clover Beach’s 1½ miles of walking trails, with Byram Lake as a scenic backdrop. These paved trails lie just a half-mile south of Linden’s city limits.
The Dauner-Martin Nature Preserve off Dauner Road in Fenton is also a hiker’s perfect fall destination. With 4.5 miles of marked trails dotted with benches for relaxation, hikers will also enjoy deer sightings, bird watching and plenty of color. In addition to pine trees — some 50 years old and more — oak, elm, cherry, maple, and ash are prevalent on the property.
People who want to take their families on a hike might want to check out the For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum in Burton. Featuring a well-mapped trail system with shorter segments, families can adjust their outing to their abilities. The longest trail is a 2.5-mile loop, followed by a two-mile Edge of the Wood trail, then shorter walks, a .7 mile Maple Walk and .8-mile Lilac Walk. For more information on their schedule, check out genesseecountyparks.org.
For more information about hiking in Michigan, the website hikingmichigan is dedicated to all levels and all ages. Many of their weekend events are held close to the tri-county area, including upcoming Fall Color Hikes at Seven Lakes State Park (date to be announced).
Additional Michigan scenic hikes
1) Virgin Pines Foot Trail
One-mile loop at Hartwick Pines State Park, just north of Grayling.
2) Highbanks Trail
Seven-mile linear trail, which skirts the high bluffs above the Au Sable River in the Huron National Forest.
3) Warren Woods Natural Area
This is a 200-acre tract in Berrien County. Hike begins at footbridge across Gailen River, then 3-mile loop past giant trees.
4) Lighthouse Park
Four miles of footpaths at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula 20 miles north of Traverse City.
5) Pierce Stocking Scenic Hike and Drive
In Leelanau County, this overlooks Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Picturesque covered bridge leads to 200 ft. dune overlook with a panoramic view of Manitou Islands, Pyramid Pt., Sleeping Bear Bay and Dunes, Glen Lake and historic D.H. Day Farm.