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Top 10 Longest Hiking Trails in Michigan

Woman walking on trail in Porcupine Mountain State Park during autumn.

Michigan hiking trails boast amazing views of crystal clear lakes, snow-capped mountains, untouched shorelines, lush forests, and an abundance of streams and waterfalls. You can experience all four seasons in Michigan, but summer’s best hiking weather runs from June through August. During this time the temperature averages 84ºF with blue skies and sunny days.

There are estimated to be over 14 billion trees in the state of Michigan, with roughly 20 million acres of forest covering just over half of the entire state. On top of this, there are over 11,000 inland lakes attached through a network of streams and rivers laced with stunning waterfalls.

All of this together makes Michigan one of the best places in North America to go on a long-distance hike.

Top 10 Longest Hiking Trails in Michigan

Hiking trail to Munising Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore during autumn.

What is the Longest Hiking trail in Michigan? Here are Michigans 10 longest hiking trails starting with the longest:

Iron Belle Trail

  • DISTANCE: 1273 miles / 2050 km
  • START: Ironwood, Upper Peninsula
  • FINISH: Belle Isle, Detroit
  • DIFFICULTY: Intermediate

The Iron Belle Trail is the longest hiking trail in Michigan by over 1,000 miles. Starting in Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula you follow the route along and down to Belle Isle in Detroit. This is a pretty big undertaking for anyone and so you better know what you are getting yourself in for and have some decent trail hiking boots.

The trail is around 69% complete made up of existing routes and new connections which makes this route suitable for people of all ages and experience levels. Thru-hiking the trail will take around 6 to 16 weeks depending on your fitness and competitiveness however most complete the trek in around 12 weeks.

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There is also a shorter biking route if you don’t fancy the hike but both take you through a showcase of 48 Michigan counties.

North Country National Scenic Trail – Michigan State

Footbridge over a river on the North Country Trail in Michigan.
  • DISTANCE: 1150 miles / 1850 km
  • START: Eastern boundary of Craig Lake State Park, Wisconsin/Michigan state line
  • FINISH: Ohio/Michigan state line
  • DIFFICULTY: Intermediate

While the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) is neither begins nor ends in Michigan, it does pass through it for over a quarter of the entire.

The NCT is the longest of America’s National Trails and is an incredible 4,600-mile route that includes 1150 miles across Michigan alone. Nobody ever just completes the Michigan section but you can pick it up and hike for hundreds of miles if you want a long walk in Michigan but not the full NCT.

If you were to just complete the Michigan section of the NCT you would start at the Wisconsin/Michigan state line and finish at the Ohio/Michigan state line.

You would need to dedicate at least 2 to 3 months of time to complete the Michigan section of the NCT at an average pace of 20 miles per day. Does this count as one of Michigan’s longest hiking trails? We’ll let you decide.

Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail

A weathered wooden walkway on the Empire Bluffs Trail overlooking the Lake Michigan,
  • DISTANCE: 220 miles / 350 km
  • START: Empire on Lake Michigan
  • FINISH: Oscoda on Lake Huron
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy

The Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail (Sometimes called Michigan Riding and Hiking Trail) is over 220 miles long and connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. The route was developed by horseback riders in 1962 and is still predominantly used by horse riders today although hikers have also adopted the trail – as is the way.

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You travel through a variety of conifer and hardwood forests that have public campsites scattered every 25 miles as well as some epic places to pitch your tent in nature. You can expect to complete the trek in around 8 to 16 days depending on your fitness levels and choice of campsite.

The trail is shared between hikers and horseback riders, but not bikers, so it is important to pay attention to trail etiquette.

Fred Meijer White Pine Trail

Japanese lake in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • DISTANCE: 92 miles / 150 km
  • START: Comstock Park, Grand Rapids
  • FINISH: Cadillac, Wexford County
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy

The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail is around 92 miles long and runs the entire length of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park.

Horses are not allowed on the trail but somehow snowmobiles are but not many people will be hiking this trail in winter. Even in the summertime this trail is very lightly used in comparison to some slightly shorter treks.

The route can be hiked either northbound or southbound starting however most people choose to enter the trailhead from Comstock Park, Grand Rapids, and end in Cadillac, Wexford County. Hikers of all age groups and skill levels can usually complete this hike in 5 days but most choose to take a full week to take it all in.

High Country Pathway Hike

  • DISTANCE: 78 miles / 125 km
  • START: Pigeon Bridge Campground
  • FINISH: Pigeon Bridge Campground
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy

The High Country Pathway Hike is the only circular route in this guide to the longest hiking trail in Michigan and it is a beauty. Designed to give backpackers and hikers a place to adventure into the wilderness for a week without having to arrange transport at the end.

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You can drive into the campsite car park, pay for your parking stay and be on the trail minutes later knowing you will be walking right back to your car in 4 or 5 days’ time.

The route is between 75 and 81 miles long by all accounts however the most accurate measurement seems to be from a Garmin watch that measured 77.9 miles. The route is moderately flat with a few ups and downs but nothing to worry about for inexperienced hikers.

If you plan on hiking the trail in June then be sure to pack some bug repellent as the biting insects are out in force.

North Eastern State Trail

North Eastern State Trail in Alpena, Michigan overlooking the beach.
  • DISTANCE: 70.8 miles / 114 km
  • START: Alpena
  • FINISH: Cheboygan
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy

The North Eastern State Trail is just over 70 miles long and is lightly trodden in comparison to other 100+ km trails. The route is perfect for beginners as the trail is well maintained, level, and very wide for cyclists to pass or to use with a snowmobile in winter. You also gain very little elevation the entire hike and only climb a total of 277 meters which is easy on the knees.

You begin the trek at the Alpena trailhead and are faced with a moderate first day of 16+ miles to the 1st stop so be sure to arrive early so you aren’t chasing daylight at the end of the day.

You can then choose to break down the next few days in any number of ways to suit both your fitness and schedule. You complete the trail in Cheboygan where you can treat yourself to a frosty beer in the local brewery or a big steak in your choice of restaurants.

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Minong Ridge Trail

Minong Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park.
  • DISTANCE: 52.2 miles / 84 km
  • START: Rock Harbor
  • FINISH: Windigo
  • DIFFICULTY: Difficult

The Minong Ridge Trail is located in Isle Royale National Park which is a small island on Lake Superior and the trail runs from one end to the other. The route is a little over 52 miles and can be challenging in places but nothing too dangerous if you fancy pushing yourself.

You will need a permit to hike the trail and camp, with advanced notice being required for groups over 7. You will of course need to arrange transport to and from the island docks.

You can start the trail at either end however most seem to choose to start at Rock Harbor and catch a boat out from Windigo. Once you head inland and gain some elevation you are free to wild camp where you like and there are some superb spots with 360-degree views of the lake.

You can enter the island via plane or by ferry which you catch from Houghton, MI, Copper Harbor, MI, and Grand Portage, MN.

Iron Ore Heritage Trail

  • DISTANCE: 46.6 miles / 75 km
  • START: Ishpeming
  • FINISH: Lake Kawbawgam
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is what is known as a ‘rail trail’ because it follows several old train tracks and has been recreated in places to showcase the area’s rich mining history.

With all the exploring and looking around you do on this trail you will end up walking close to 50 miles which can be done in two days but are better spread over a long weekend. The trail is open all year round but is used as a snowmobile track from December 1 to March 31st

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Rated as easy, this walking route is over 50% complete with about half being paved and the other half using crushed granite and limestone to make the path. The Iron Ore Heritage Trail starts in Ishpeming and finishes just above Lake Kawbawgam on the snow trail.

Transport in and out is fairly stress-free and doesn’t take much planning but if hiking with another person you can both leave a car at the car park at each end.

Grand Marais to Munising via North Country Trail

Grand Sable Dunes near Grand Marais, Michigan.
  • DISTANCE: 42.2 miles / 68 km
  • START: Grand Marais
  • FINISH: Munising
  • DIFFICULTY: Intermediate

The Grand Marais to Munising Trail is actually just a short section of the massive North Country Trail but is said by many to be the prettiest 42 miles of the entire 4600-mile walk. As the name suggests, it begins in Grand Marais and finishes in Munising which is just over 42 miles walking distance. The challenge is to complete it in two days but if you get a headstart on Friday evening after work, you can knock off 5 or so miles before you really begin.

The route is challenging in places but mostly well maintained and perhaps part of the difficulty is walking over 20 miles two days in a row if you aren’t prepared.

There are stunning views the entire way and you get to experience sand dunes, epic cliff faces, lots of dense forest, and rivers with waterfalls. The trail has some foot traffic but not too much and is best between early spring and summer however you can visit up to late fall. Try and avoid June if you can when the flying insects are at their worst.

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Feldtmann Lake Loop Trail

Windigo, the start lane in Feldtmann Lake Loop Trail.
  • DISTANCE: 33 miles / 53 km
  • START: Windigo, Isle Royale National Park
  • FINISH: Windigo, Isle Royale National Park
  • DIFFICULTY: Difficult

The Feldtmann Lake Loop Trail is another route on the Isle Royale National Park island which means that again you need to arrange to arrive by boat or plane and gain a permit in advance.

It is a loop trail which means you start and end in the same place – the Windigo Visitor Center or campground a bit further up if that is where you spend your first night. At just 33 miles long this is the last in our top 10 longest hikes in Michigan and can be completed in 2 days if you wanted to.

There is an abundance of wildlife to spot including moose, beaver, and lots of birdlife but be sure to bring some protection against bugs as it can be quite bad. The trail is not used too often as most people choose to hike the entire length instead of the loop which means it can get very overgrown which will soak you through if the tall grass is wet. A sure-fire way to get off the beaten trail if that’s what you are looking for.

What is Michigan’s Longest Hiking Trail?

Winding beach trail through the forest in Saugatuck State Park.

The longest thinking Trail in Michigan is the Iron Belle Trail which is approximately 2050 km end to end. Coincidently the longest of America’s National Trails runs through Michigan for one-quarter of the total route. With so many forests and lakes to explore there are endless hiking trails that would take years to complete.

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Is Michigan Good for Hiking?

A path down to Tahquamenon Falls Michigan lined with a fence and autumn trees.

Michigan is amazing for all kinds of hikers, trail runners, mountain and road bikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate the variety of scenery. The state actively promotes hiking and is constantly funding new projects to maintain and build hiking trails. If hiking isn’t your thing you don’t have to look very far to find plenty of other activities and attractions.

How Many Hiking Trails are in Michigan?

Hiking sign at a trail entrance in Michigan.

Michigan has a growing number of hiking trails as the old hiking routes become connected through new hiking routes to create even newer hiking routes! There are over 12,500 miles of permitted hiking paths in Michigan with potentially thousands more unmarked trails and routes that only the locals know about.

How Many Lakes are in Michigan?

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.

The state of Michigan has well over 26,000 inland lakes that are 1 kilometer or greater in size. Of these lakes, only 10,031 are greater than 5 kilometers. The largest lake in Michigan is Houghton Lake which has over 30 miles of shoreline to hike around and explore.

Can You Walk Across Michigan State?

Hikers walking along the famous Lakefront Trail along Lake Michigan.

While not many people walk across Michigan alone, many people do complete the North Country National Scenic Trail every year which runs right across from state line to state line. Walking across the entire state of Michigan will take at least 2 months and is a massive undertaking but absolutely possible.