Writer and Photographer: Kim ChartersIn Michigan, we are surrounded by not one, not two, but four huge freshwater lakes. Every time I head to the Upper Peninsula for mountain hikes and waterfall chasing, or travel throughout the Lower Peninsula for lake vistas and lighthouses, I fall more in love with Michigan’s charm. Here are some of the views that most inspire my adventurous soul.
1. Empire Bluff Trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
A 1.5 mile round-trip hike along the Empire Bluff trail leads to one of the most spectacular views in the Lower Peninsula. Once you reach the top, take a seat on a wooden bench in the viewing area. Make yourself comfortable because you won’t want to leave for a long time.
2. Grand Portal Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
A little-known path off the Lakeshore Trail in Pictured Rocks will take you to one of my favorite places in Michigan. At Grand Portal Point, gaze out at Lake Superior’s crystal blue-green waters and an eye-catching stretch of rock formations. Lake Superior is our coolest (and deepest) lake!
3. Miners Falls, Munising
I love the incredible waterfalls scattered across the Upper Peninsula. Along the quick hike to Miners Falls (1.2 miles round-trip), you can hear the water cascading down as you stroll through the woods. Check out the waterfall from the viewing area above or take the steps down to get up close and personal at the base.
4. Inspiration Point, Arcadia
Head to the small town of Arcadia for a striking view of Lake Michigan. Traveling north on M-22 from downtown Arcadia, you will see a “scenic overlook” sign. Admire the view from the parking lot area, or work your way up 120 steps to get a better look. I promise the stairs are worth it.
5. Arch Rock, Mackinac Island
Hop on a ferry at Mackinaw City or St. Ignace to get to the car-free island of Mackinac. You can tour by horse-drawn carriage, walking or biking. I'm all for renting a bike and pedaling the 8.2-mile circle around the island. Along the way, you'll want to stop and climb to the viewing platform for Arch Rock, a rare natural limestone arch. It's one of the most-photographed sites on Mackinac.
6. Torch Lake, Antrim County
Known for its sandbars, turquoise color and water sports, Torch Lake is often compared to the Caribbean. Nineteen miles of crystal-clear waters make it Michigan’s longest inland lake, with close to 50 public access areas.
7. Turnip Rock, Port Austin
To see one of Michigan’s greatest natural wonders, journey to Port Austin at the very tip of Michigan's “thumb,” rent a kayak and paddle to Turnip Rock—about a 7-mile round trip. Formed over thousands of years, Turnip Rock was eroded by water and now takes the shape of, well….a turnip, sitting in the shallow shoreline waters of Lake Huron.
8. The Mackinac Bridge
Connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Driving the 5-mile suspension bridge can take your breath away – whether because of the beautiful view or because you looked down. On Labor Day you can leave your car behind and join the Annual Bridge Walk – tens of thousands of people will be also be walking, including, traditionally, the Michigan governor.
9. Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse
On a recent day of travel, my last stop was this lighthouse. You had to take a long walk out onto a pier to get close to it. I did that about five times. Michigan lighthouses never fail to captivate me; the beauty and the history behind them are amazing.
10. Lake Michigan sunsets
One thing that will never get old to me are the sunsets that set fire to the sky over Lake Michigan. It doesn't matter what city you're in—find a spot on Lake Michigan, kick back and enjoy. There's a free show every night.
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