The Lower Peninsula and, in particular the northeast side of the state, offers its own special brand of wilderness as hikers with an hour or a week can find a place to enjoy the quiet side of the region. Few trails in the northeast region require top-notch physical fitness, and most can be handled by the casual hiker equipped with more determination than experience. For the most part, all that's needed is a measure of determination and a good pair of hiking shoes.
There is only one major trail in the region, the High Country Pathway (HCP) west of Onaway. Veteran hikers have labeled the HCP the "Hike Assembled By Committee," since the terrain and habitat change abruptly and constantly. The complete loop takes an experienced hiker nearly seven days to complete, provided there aren't too many stops to sample the fishing or take in all the natural beauty along the trail. Wet and wild, flat and hilly are just a few of the possible combinations to be found along the 70-mile pathway...and that's if you discount a few of the side spurs available.
The HCP is accessible from a number of northern Michigan communities, depending on which part of the loop you choose as a starting point. There are also plenty of opportunities to make shorter jaunts into the heart of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The Pigeon River country is the home of Michigan's elk herd.
For more information on this extended hike, contact the Pigeon River Country State Forest Headquarters at (517) 983-4101, or the Pigeon River Country Association, P.O. Box 122, Gaylord, Michigan 49735.
For a change of pace, a leisure pace for that matter, try the trails in the Herman Vogler Conservation Area, located just north of Rogers City. The four loops in this area not only blends a diverse number of habitats in a brief span of less than 2.5 miles, but is a trek that can be easily handled by hikers of all ages and experience levels.
The HVCA is a constantly changing blend of environments that range from high woodlands to marshes and includes a nine-acre flooding that attracts a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. The area was purchased by the Michigan Land Trust Fund, and turned over to the Presque Isle Soil Conservation District to be managed as a conservation education/recreation area.
The multi-use area is a 270-acre tract of public land, nearly one-third of which lies within the city limits of Rogers City. Trout River courses through the heart of the area as do a number of smaller feeder creeks, the most important of which is Hartwick Creek, an important brook trout nursery creek. Forests in the area include ancient stands of cedars, mature hardwoods, and active examples of forest management. The parcel holds more than seven total miles of trails and loops, all used by hikers and mountain bikers. Hunters enjoy outstanding upland bird, snowshoe hare, and archery deer hunting.
For more information on the HVCA, contact the PISCD at (517) 734-4000.
- A one-mile nature hike loop of the Besser Bell Natural Area located east of Grand Lake. The terrain the area is generally flat, presenting no difficulty to hikers of any age or conditioning. The proximity of the eastern edge of the loop to the shore of Lake Huron makes this a popular summer destination.
- Norway Ridge Pathway located 4.5 miles southwest of Alpena offers hikers a chance to experience one of the most popular cross country skiing trails in the region. The three loops of this seven-mile system offer east hiking and a variety of opportunities for the nature lover.
- Chippewa Hills Pathway is located 11 miles west of Ossineke, with a trailhead near Nicholson Hill Road. This scenic pathway is popular with wildlife watchers, and offers plenty of scenic beauty along the nearly seven miles of the system.
- With the Au Sable River as a backdrop, Eagle Run, a popular cross country trail in winter, hosts hikers during the summer and fall. The 10.5 miles of trails in the system are easy to hike, but remember that being farther from the car means a test of endurance for the casual hiker. Plan ahead and carry supplies like water and snacks...and carry out the trash.
- The Highbanks Trail, located 12 miles west of Oscoda, is a point-to-point trail system along the bluffs overlooking the Au Sable River. By the way, point-to-point means retracing steps you already took to get to where you are so you can go back again! It's a beautiful fall hike when the river valley is ablaze with the colors of the season.
- If you are looking for a little camping and fishing with your hiking, try the Reid Lake-Hoist Lake trails located west of Harrisville on M-72. The lengths of the trails in these systems vary from 10 km to more than 33 km, and camping is considered rustic...a polite way of explaining that everything you will need must be carried in and out on your back!
For more information, contact the Harrisville Ranger District, P.O. Box 289, Harrisville, MI. 48740, or call (517) 724-6471.
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