Happy Memorial Day weekend! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay for Saturday:)
As Memorial Day approaches (still can’t believe it’s already that time of year again?!), I’ve started thinking about summer and beginning to research and solidify some of our plans. I’ve mentioned before that my fiance and I have a summer road trip tradition of heading to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to camp for a week. We are planning a shorter trip this year to accommodate our busy summer, but still can’t wait to get away for a long weekend. We are beginning to solidify some details for our trip, and that got me thinking about all the other great outdoor activities I want to fit in this summer.
I was actually born in Tennessee, but moved to Michigan when I was 2 years old. I have lived in Michigan ever since, and grew up with very active and ‘outdoorsy’ parents. My childhood was filled with bike rides, camping trips, hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, boating, sand dunes, skiing, beaches, bridges, and lighthouses. You name it, and they introduced me to it. Since I’ve gotten older I’ve really discovered the unique kind of joy and peace that comes from these outdoor activities. They really create a meditative experience for me; even if the activity is physically intense, there is something different about a vacation spent outdoors.
I thought I would share some of my favorite outdoor activities in Michigan (and many that can be duplicated in other states)!
- Visiting lighthouses
- Oh boy, Michigan has so many lighthouses to offer. I love walking out to the lighthouse because they are usually right on the beach and are all so different. We have visited quite a few but still have so many more to go! Each lighthouse is different and I love how unique they are.
- Mackinaw Bridge
- It bums me out how many people live here who have never once been to the Upper Peninsula. We used to walk the Mackinaw Bridge on Memorial Day weekend – it is five miles long. On a day when it is sunny you can see right into the water, it’s beautiful.
- Mackinaw Island
- I couldn’t talk about Michigan without mentioning Mackinaw Island. Mackinaw Island is so unique, and I love that people actually live, work and go to school there year round. There is awesome hiking, shopping, fudge, horses, and scenery to see here. If you walk all the way around the island it is less than 10 miles, or you could take a ride behind some horses to see the sights. Not to mention that it is known for it’s amazing fudge!!
- The Great Lakes
- Holy cow, the Great Lakes are amazing. We are absolutely spoiled to live less than half an hour from some of the best beaches in the country. Lake Michigan is my favorite, but every single one has something to offer. The beaches are spectacular and of course, filled with ice cream shops and light houses. They also are usually situated right by some incredibly cozy and busy beach towns with great downtowns!
- Sand dunes
- Mmmm Lake Michigan is known for some amazing sand dunes. Sleep Bear Dunes is a once and a life time experience up by Traverse City, and if you ever have the chance to visit you absolutely need to go here. There is a whole park that shows the history of these dunes, and if you’re brave enough you can run down the dunes and burn a million calories climbing back up!
- Snorkeling/scuba diving
- These Great Lakes come with so many opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving. When I was younger, we would always snorkel and not have to drive far to find somewhere to go. Once I got my scuba diving certification, I discovered just how many shipwrecks there are close to shore. We’ve seen a lot of cool wrecks that were within swimming distance from the beach! If you’re not into scuba diving, there are also lots of glass bottom boats that take you right over the wrecks.
- Love, love, love hiking. I didn’t fully appreciate it until I left for college, but talk about an inspiring and calming experience. While you are burning energy and calories, hiking always has a way to clear your mind. There are SO many trails to hike in Michigan. Some of the best are up in the Upper Peninsula, but these trails are all over the state. Pictured Rocks has a famous backpacking trail that runs through the entire park. We hiked parts of it last summer and saw so many groups of backpackers!
- I know I’m biased, but I also think Michigan has some of the best state parks. My favorites have to be those on Lake Michigan, namely Traverse City and Petoskey, but there are some great campgrounds on inland lakes like Higgins Lake, Mullet Lake, or Houghton Lake. I absolutely love pitching our tent and knowing that we’ll be grilling camp food and making smores under the stars for dessert.
- Bike Riding
- Along with hiking, there’s also so many different bike trails. In each major city there seems to be a stretch of paved trails that were built recently, connecting surrounding cities for miles. I’m not much of a mountain biker, but those trails are just as easy to find too. Biking riding is a classic and you can’t go wrong! My favorite is the Kal-Haven trail that stretches for about 30 miles, connecting Kalamazoo to South Haven. You can ride your bike right to Lake Michigan and stop along the way for dinner and ice cream!
- Pictured Rocks
- We went to Pictured Rocks last year on our camping trip, and were overwhelmed with so much to do. I had been there when I was younger, but didn’t remember too much. We camped, hiked, visited town, drove to all the different stops, saw all the waterfalls, and kayaked, and still didn’t cover it all. These rocks are so unique in their coloring that it literally looks like they are painted. Definitely a sight to see!
- There are many, many waterfalls on these hiking trails that they are easy to find as well. The state’s most well known waterfall is Tahquamenom Falls in the Upper Peninsula. It is in Paradise, Michigan and contains two main sets of falls. There is an upper and lower falls, and you can do the five mile hike between the two to see each. We did the hike last summer, expecting it to be relatively easy and something that we could do out and back, but it was definitely more challenging than we expected. There is a brewery at the Upper Falls which was awesome!
- I feel like a broken record, but there are also so many different rivers that run through Michigan! It’s easy to find one to kayak or canoe. While many are slow moving and not that exciting, being on the water is always a fun experience. Two years ago we went up north to Indian River and canoed that river – we were nervous because they told us that about 80% of people tip their canoe/kayak at some point because the river is so fast moving, but we were proud to say that we made it with no tips!
Although I am a firm believe that Michigan is an incredibly beautiful, versatile and unique state, and that about 90% of the people who live here still have no idea what all it has to offer. I love that you can do any of these activities in each state and they are completely different. A hike in Michigan will bring many things that you don’t see anywhere else. Love where you live and get out there to experience nature. There are so many beautiful things in this world.