Category Archives: Trails

The Garden Peninsula’s Best Places for Fall Foliage

It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school, football is back on TV, and it’s only a matter of time before we break out the winter coats and snowblowers. Before that happens, though, we get to indulge in a classic U.P. tradition that draws visitors to Delta County from all over the Midwest: leaf peeping.

Few places in the U.P. offer a better range of fall color experiences than the Garden Peninsula, which boasts an impressive range of deciduous trees, secluded roads, stunning vistas and miles of shoreline. Let’s take a look at five of the peninsula’s notable foliage-viewing spots.

M-183: a Classic Shoreline Drive

The Garden Peninsula’s busiest road, M-183, also leads to its only proper settlement, Garden. M-183 splits off from US-2 about 15 miles west of Manistique. It heads south along the shore of Big Bay de Noc, rarely straying more than a quarter mile from the shoreline. For the first part of the drive, you’re surrounded by a gently rolling landscape of maple, basswood, oak and birch. These trees turn vibrant yellows, electric oranges and even deep red during the first couple weeks of October.

Though M-183 doesn’t have a lot of stretches right on the bay, you’ll catch glimpses of the water on your right as you drive south. The contrast of the deep blue (or slate gray, depending on the clouds) water against the stunning leaves is always welcome. Later in the season, as more leaves fall, these views open up and frame the remaining foliage even better.

Hidden Shores Drive/Road

On the opposite side of the peninsula, Hidden Shores Drive is a hard-to-find but rewarding treat. To get there, take County 435 south from US-2 — the split is just a couple miles west of Manistique — along the shore of Lake Michigan. You’ll get occasional views of the lake’s open waters as well as rich foliage displays in the surrounding birch-and-maple forest.

After a few miles, the road narrows and cuts left (east), turning into Hidden Shores Drive. Upon reaching the shore, it cuts right (south) again, offering stunning water-and-foliage views. Note that this road can be a bit treacherous during periods of inclement weather or after wet stretches, so it may be a good idea to bring a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It eventually peters out along the store, but plenty of hiking trails crisscross the woods here (just be wary of private property lines and wear bright colors if it’s hunting season).

Shingleton State Forest Area

At the “top” of the peninsula, the southern section of Shingleton State Forest Area is easily accessible from US-2. This is a great area for a leisurely hike with the kids or dogs and is fun in virtually any weather. One of the nice things about this protected area is that its forest isn’t 100 percent deciduous – with hemlocks and spruces mixed into the equation, the deep green provides a great contrast with brilliant oranges, yellows and reds.

Fayette Historic State Park

At the southern terminus of M-183, you’ll find Fayette Historic State Park, an often-overlooked gem in Michigan’s state park system. Although the main attraction here is the faithful recreation of an old-time logging and manufacturing town, Fayette is surrounded by deciduous forest that turns brilliant hues in the fall. Thanks to its prime location on Big Bay de Noc, it also offers stunning foliage views up and down the shoreline. And while it’s hard to make out the colors on the distant islands that connect the Garden and Door Peninsulas, that part of the view doesn’t hurt either.

Garden Grade Road and Manistique River State Forest

Garden Grade Road runs through the heart of Manistique River State Forest, a little-visited section of protected woodland in the west-central Garden Peninsula. The land here isn’t very rugged, but a handful of watercourses are pleasant to look at (and hike along). The real attraction here is the embrace of the seemingly endless maple and birch forest, which turns vibrant yellow and orange early in the season. Don’t forget the hiking boots and camera!

Cool Beaches to Check Out in Delta County

The Escanaba municipal beach.

The Escanaba municipal beach.

Beaches come in all shapes and sizes. On the serene shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find everything from secluded swimming holes and out of the way sand spits to bustling city beaches with modern amenities galore. And because this part of the world is big on the changing of the seasons, you’ll have something to do at these places throughout the calendar year. If you’re ready to explore the points where Delta County’s rolling landscape meets seemingly boundless Lake Michigan, check out these beaches – and the two or three dozen other spots that welcome members of the public all year long.

Sac Bay Beach

Located just off County Road 438, near the end of the Garden Peninsula, Sac Bay Beach is just one part of beautiful Sac Bay Park. This 65-acre expanse includes a mature mixed forest of pines, hemlock, spruce, fir, maple, basswood and birch. After you’ve had your fill of the trails that wend through the tract, pitch your tent at the nearby campground and bring your cooler down to the secluded beach on beautiful Big Bay de Noc.

If you squint just hard enough, you might be able to see the lights of Escanaba in the distance – but, more likely, you’ll be gazing out on the broad expanse of Lake Michigan as the sun winks over the horizon. There’s not as much sand here as at some other Lake Michigan beaches, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break out the towel and soak up some rays after taking a dip in the cool, clear water.

O.B. Fuller Park and Campground

O.B. Fuller Campground

O.B. Fuller Campground

One of the most popular non-city parks in Delta County, O.B. Fuller Park and Campground occupies a choice location on the Lake Michigan shore, in the county’s southeastern corner. Much of the 85-acre campsite is taken up by modern campsites that can accommodate full-size RVs, but there’s a sizable amount of well-preserved forest land as well. And visitors to this beautiful spot get two great bodies of water for the price of one: The Bark River, with its excellent fishing and wildlife-spotting opportunities, passes right by on its way to Lake Michigan. The mouth of the river lies at the campground’s beach, which is a family-friendly swimming hole that warms up (fairly) quickly in the summer.

Escanaba and Gladstone City Beaches

Delta County’s biggest settlements both lie on Little Bay de Noc, within easy boating distance of larger Green Bay and the open expanse of Lake Michigan. Both have beautiful, popular municipal beaches that attract sun-seekers during the warm months and winter sports junkies during the cold season. Escanaba’s sits in the heart of Ludington Park, Escanaba’s most popular city park. You can easily spend a few hours here and then head downtown or a bite at one of Ludington Street’s trendy eateries. In Gladstone, the municipal beach doubles as a popular campground. Hitch your trailer here and dive into the sparkling waters of Little Bay de Noc!

Point Detour Beach

City beaches aren’t your speed? Looking for a more secluded place to spread out and dip your toes in the water? Escape to the end of the road – literally – at Point Detour beach, located at one of the farthest-flung corners of the Garden Peninsula. Due to treacherous underwater formations and unpredictable weather, several shipwrecks lie just offshore, although you’ll need proper equipment and training to reach them. Curious limestone formations, complete with prehistoric fossils, dot the shoreline here. And evidence of settlement as far back as 2,000 years makes Point Detour one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the Upper Peninsula. Even if you just spread out a towel and enjoy a cold beverage on a warm afternoon, though, you’ll get plenty out of your time at this special beach.

What are you waiting for? Throw on your swim trunks, pack a picnic lunch, and hit the sand (or rocks)! If you’d like to learn about Delta County beaches that didn’t make this list, don’t hesitate to get in touch – we’ll give you the lowdown.

Ludington Park: The Crown Jewel of Escanaba’s Park System

From the intersection of U.S. 2 at the edge of downtown Escanaba, the view down Ludington Street is an impressive one. Have you ever gazed out that way and wondered how Ludington Street got its name (it’s more than a hundred miles across the lake from the lower Michigan town of the same name, after all)? Or, for that matter, what lies at the far edge of your view?

The answer to both of those questions – sort of – is Ludington Park, one of Escanaba’s most popular outdoor attractions. Let’s discover why this gem needs to be high on your list of things to see on your next visit to Escanaba.

Ludington Park: Location and Layout

Located at the eastern end of Ludington Street, on the beautiful waterfront of Little Bay de Noc, Ludington Park draws hundreds of visitors on nice days (and a fair number on gloomy, cold ones, too). The park actually stretches a long ways down the shoreline, angling back to the southwest and encompassing a beautiful series of inlets. It’s also within spitting distance of the Sand Point Lighthouse and Delta County Historical Society, two popular attractions for Delta County visitors. So if you’re sick of walking (or snowshoeing) along the waterfront with the breeze in your hair – or if that breeze is driving sleet or snow into your face – you can certainly take shelter in some interesting indoor spaces here.

During the warm season, you can take advantage of plenty of outdoor facilities here too. From the basketball, tennis and volleyball courts to the boat-friendly confines of the nearby harbor (complete with Escanaba’s main marina), it can take hours to exhaust your options. A beach and wading pool offers swimming opportunities for folks of all ages and skill levels. And during the cool season, a hockey and skating rink caters to fans of true U.P. sports.

Special Events and Attractions

But the real highlights of Ludington Park are the scheduled events that enliven the place throughout the warm season. During the summer, Blues for a Cause sponsors Monday evening (7 to 9 pm) music shows that attract such luminaries as the Madison Avenue horn/rhythm band and the Cadillacs classic rock band. Meanwhile, the Escanaba City Band plays at the Karas Band Shell on weekday summer evenings (the rain date is Thursday). Bigger events occasionally come to the park as well, with the city offering a speedy event application process.

Visit Ludington Park Soon!

In Delta County, nature and history collide. And you don’t have to travel far off the beaten path to see both in the same location. At Ludington Park, you’ll find something to keep the whole family busy – and more than enough to keep you coming back a second and third time.

The Bike Shops of Delta County

The weather is (slowly) warming up in Delta County, and locals are in the process of switching out their skis and snowshoes for hiking boots and mountain bikes. As we gear up for the warm season, we’re taking a look at three local bike shops, each of which takes a slightly different approach to their craft. Spoiler alert: they’re all awesome.

the beaten path escanaba michigan1The Beaten Path

1015 Ludington Street, Escanaba

(906) 789-6220 / beatenpathup@gmail.com

Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Beaten Path is the newest of Delta County’s three bike shops. Opened in March 2011, this place bills itself as the largest disc golf shop in the entire U.P. – and it doesn’t disappoint. According to owner Jon Harris, the Beaten Path has about 500 discs in stock and works with virtually every supplier in the country – from Discraft and Prodigy to smaller and more obscure outfits. Harris is also heavily involved in the local disc golf scene, sponsoring three Escanaba-area courses that have opened in the past year and advocating for the opening of two more. A lifelong skateboarder, his shop is also the best place in Delta County to find a full lineup of skateboard gear.

The Beaten Path is a bike shop too, of course. Harris used to work at Mr. Bike, another Escanaba shop, and maintained a “mini shop” in his garage until opening the Beaten Path. Within the first couple weeks of opening, he had sold several dozen used bikes that he had fixed up, so he started contracting with national brands like Schwinn and GT. These days, he does steady business in new bikes, but the shop sets itself apart as the only Delta County outlet that regularly accepts trade-ins. And since winter will be here again in due time, we’d better mention that the Beaten Path has a huge array of winter sports equipment, including snow bikes, snowshoes, XC skis, skates and snow skates.

Brampton Bike and Ski

910 Delta Avenue, Gladstone

(906) 428-2135 / mikenbike1@charter.net

Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Located in the beautiful town of Gladstone, just up US-2 from Escanaba, Brampton Bike and Ski holds it down for residents of Delta County’s second largest municipality. Like the Beaten Path, Brampton is a full-service shop that features a wide lineup of new bikes and plenty of additional sporting equipment – minus the extensive disc golf selection, of course. When it comes to bikes, they aren’t shy about their offerings: “If it’s got wheels and it looks like a bike,” they say, “we probably have it…and if we don’t have it, we can get it!” That’s reassuring. As the moment, Brampton features full lines of:

  • Specialized
  • Electra
  • Redline
  • Raleigh
  • Diamondback

Those who aren’t into biking – or who aren’t content to spend five months out of the year at the gym – can check out Brampton’s selection of snowboards, downhill skis and winter clothing accessories. For discerning winter sports enthusiasts, the shop’s selection of Atomic, Salomon, Nordica and Fischer – among other brands – is sure to be reassuring. And for those who like to get out on the water when it’s not frozen solid, Brampton’s stocks kayaks from Dagger, Wilderness Systems and other fine brands.

mr bike ski and fitness escanaba michigan2Mr. Bike, Ski and Fitness

1016 Ludington Street, Escanaba

(906) 786-1200 / mrbike@mrbikeonline.com

Open Mon-Wed 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thu 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Fri 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mr. Bike is right across the street from the Beaten Path, so it’s not too hard to find. The first Mr. Bike opened way back in 1985, when owner Matt Marenger was fresh out of high school. Fast forward to the mid-2010s and Mr. Marenger finds himself in a sprawling (6,000+ square feet!) location in the heart of downtown Escanaba. When he’s not swimming, biking, hiking or skiing the wilds of the Upper Peninsula, he’s tending to his sizable lineup of mountain and road bikes. Looking for a particular brand? Mr. Bike has:

  • Cannondale
  • Trek
  • Bianchi
  • Giant
  • and many more

Like Delta County’s other two shops, Mr. Bike also stocks a pretty comprehensive lineup of outdoor sporting equipment. Nordic skis? Check. Downhill skis? Check. Snowboards? Check. Snowshoes? Check. (Marenger is an avid snow sports enthusiasts, so engage him in discussion about these things at your own risk!) Mr. Bike also has plenty of fixed fitness equipment and high-end apparel for serious exercise enthusiasts. And if you’re in the area on a Tuesday night, don’t be shy about stopping by at 6:30 p.m. for Tuesday Cycle Night. There’s nothing like a friendly workout on a warm summer evening!

Ski the Days River Trails

days river trail bridgeThe Days River Trail system just a few short miles from Gladstone, Michigan is one of the most scenic and enjoyable set of cross country ski trails in the area.

5 Loops – 8.6 Miles

A series of five stacked loops, ranging from easiest to difficult, make up the five loops, with only the furthest (5th) loop classified as “difficult.” The first four loops are either easy or moderately difficult trails that should be well within the capability of most skiers. (I’m not very skilled yet and I was able to ski them without much trouble.)

Oh, and in addition to the five stacked loops there’s a 2.3 mile dedicated skate/ski loop for those looking to skate!

Trail maps at each intersection make it very easy to find your way around, and there’s a rustic (read no running water) outhouse in the parking area.

dais river trail gladstone mi 3 My Experience Skiing the Days River Trail

I wasn’t able to make time to get out and ski the Days River trails until March. And of course, March in the Upper Peninsula often brings a little rain, as it did the day I decided to finally get out there and ski. The rain made the trails a bit icy for my ski, but overall they seemed really well groomed. I just wish I would have gotten there in February!

My dad and I are both novice cross country skiers, but were able to ski the first four loops without much trouble. We stopped a couple times at the top of some of the bigger hills to take a breather, but there wasn’t anything too difficult.

days river trail map gladstone miThat said, the trails were definitely fun and interesting. There were more ups, downs and turns then any other trail I’ve skied recently. A good part of the trail follows the Days River, part of it skirts the Gladstone Golf Course and all of it goes through a nice mix of forest. Much of the trail goes through pine forest but there were a couple really pretty sections of birch forest as well.

From the parking area, around the first four loops and back ended up being just under seven miles. It was a great ski on a set of beautiful trails and I’m looking forward to getting back there!

Side note: the Days River Trails are also popular hiking and biking trails in summer.

How to get there:

To get to the Days River Trail, from the intersection of M-35 and US2&41 in Gladstone, continue on three miles toward Rapid River and then turn left (west) off US2&41 onto Days River 24.5 Rd. Drive two miles and look for the trailhead on your right.

3 miles north of Gladstone (near Escanaba) Go north on US 2/41 from Gladstone to Days River Road, then west on Days River Road 2 miles. Parking is on north side of road.

The Escanaba Pathway Snowshoe Trail

Escanaba snowshoe trail

The entry to the snowshoe trail is shown here to the right.

I’ve written about cross country skiing on the Escanaba Pathway trails, but the Escanaba pathway trails also boast a dedicated snowshoe trail.

The 1.6 mile long snowshoeing trail begins on the right side of the ski trail about 100 feet from the parking lot off North 30th street. It’s a single track trail that (roughly) follows North 30th street for a while before looping away from North 30th, through a tall stand of pines and then back along North 30th to the trailhead.

The trail is well marked with blue diamonds to help keep you on track. Although, due to a good amount of use it’s likely that the trail will also be very packed down. Possibly to the point where snowshoes are’t needed, depending on how much snow has recently fallen, of course.

My Experience on the Escanaba Pathway Snowshoe Trail

escanaba mi snowshoe trail3I visited the snowshoe trail in early March, after a winter of activity. It was really packed down, to the point where I didn’t need snowshoes, but I wore them anyway just in case. I have to say, it was really nice to be able to snowshoe on a dedicated trail as opposed to either walking on the cross country ski trail or blazing a brand new path through deep snow off in the woods somewhere.

I hiked the completed snowshoe trail from start to finish but noticed that there was an area labeled “under construction,” so I’ll look into that and write about it more in the future. Hopefully we’ll be getting some additional lengths of snowshoe trail!

Due to it’s proximity to North 30th street, the snowshoe trail isn’t quite as peaceful as the secluded cross country ski trails, but nonetheless it was still nice to get out for a good winter trek. Next time I’ll just bring my iPod and listen to some of my favorite music as I walk through the woods. I stopped plenty of time to take photos and it took me about forty five minutes to walk the loop.

All and all, the Escanaba Pathway snowshoe trail is a great little loop and I’ll definitely be back.

Looking for place to stay in the Escanaba area? Check out the Places to Stay page for a full list of area lodging options.

– Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Visit Escanaba.

Ski the Escanaba Pathway Cross Country Ski Trails

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail3A Little About the Escanaba Pathway

The Escanaba Pathway cross country ski (and snowshoe) trails are right in Escanaba, but feel like they’re deep in the woods. The trails are made up of three main loops. Loop # 1 is 4.2 miles, loop # 2 is 1.7 miles, and loop # 3 is .74 miles.

The sign at the trailhead breaks down the loops like this:

Loop #1 – 4.2 miles (6.77 kilometers)

Loop #1 & #2 – 5.2 miles (9.52 kilometers)

Loop #1, #2 & #3 – 6.6 miles (10.65 kilometers)

However, there’s also a smaller “unofficial” loop that starts at the parking area and makes up part of “loop # 1.” This small loop is mostly flat, beginner friendly and is about two miles long. Let’s call it the “mini loop.”

The trailhead for the Escanaba Pathway trails is right off North 30th street in Escanaba, about .35 miles from US Highway 41. North 30th is a busy street, but as soon as you get away from the parking area, the sound of cars whizzing by is quickly replaced by the quiet of the woods.

My Experience at the Escanaba Pathway (Skiing the “Mini Loop”)

My stepson wanted to try cross-country skiing, and I wanted to pick it back up. So, we rented some skis and ventured out to the Escanaba Pathway. Being that it was his first time cross country skiing and my first time out in well over a decade, I wanted to pick an easily accessible trail with a short loop. The trail we picked turned out to be perfect.

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail1We skied the “mini loop” that’s part of the official “loop # 1.” The mini loop is mostly flat, though it does have a couple easy uphill climbs and, subsequently, fun little downhill runs. I don’t think this loop could have been more perfect for our first time out. It was easy, scenic and fun.

The day we were out on the trail the temperature was a few degrees below zero and the wind chill brought it down to negative twenty. We were dressed for the cold, but the sheltered nature of the Escanaba Pathway trails was a really nice surprise. At least on the mini loop, we were only exposed to the wind once or twice, and even then for just a few seconds. It ended up being really comfortable in spite of the chilly temps.

And though the trails were good for us beginners, I can see how they’d be great for someone of a higher skill level as well. With almost seven miles of trails to ski, I’m sure those with more experience (and better form) would really enjoy it.

Trail Conditions

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail2The Escanaba Pathway trails were groomed beautifully. The “two track” ruts were packed down and clear of obstructions the whole way and there was no “tampering” with the tracks. That is to say that anyone who was walking or snowshoeing on the trails did so well away from the groomed area. I look forward to hitting the Escanaba Pathway trails again soon to ski the rest of the loops!

How to get there:

Turn onto North 30th street from US 41 (you’ll be heading north) and drive .35 miles. Turn left into the small parking area. A green sign that reads “City of Escanaba Recreational Non-Motorized Vehicle Pathway” marks the spot.

– Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. for the Bays de Noc Visitor’s Bureau.