Sleeping Bear Dunes isn't the only place in Michigan for travel adventure. Here are some of the top destinations for those looking for a more lively vacation.
Hike cabin to cabin in the Porcupine Mountains
If you're looking for an easy transition between being a hiker and becoming a backpacker, consider reserving some of the rustic cabins or even one or more of the yurts available in the Porcupine Mountains. There's no running water or electricity, but they do provide some nice shelter beyond a tent. For inspiration, check out what these folks ended up doing for a six-day trip.
Be a spectator at the AuSable River Canoe Marathon
2015 will be the 68th year of this historic race, this non-stop canoe race starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI. Only professional paddlers should compete in the race, but being a spectator is the next best thing. Fans can cheer and route for the teams, keeping the paddlers alert and giving them a boost of morale and adrenaline. Diehard spectators follow the race from Grayling to Oscoda, and stay up all night! Spectators should be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions, bugs, traffic and thousands of other fans. Please read the Spectator Guide to help you prepare for your all night adventure.
Ride the zip line at Boyne
Want to experience a new perspective on the same hills and valleys that provided Ernest Hemingway with the inspiration for the Nick Adams stories nearly 100 years ago? Located along high ridges and over scenic valleys just outside of Boyne City, Wildwood Rush will strap you in and then let you fly through the forest canopy on over 7,000 feet of zip lines, cross five suspended sky bridges and enjoy the amazing views of Lake Charlevoix from six tree-top platforms.
Backpack Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Leave Sleeping Bear Dunes to the crowds (or when you have relatives in town) — All of my favorite outdoorswomen (as well as Backpacker Magazine) swear by Nordhouse Dunes. You can pick your campsites when out in the wilderness, but if you want water & bathrooms for $9 a night, there are somewhat developed sites at Lake Michigan Recreation Area, adjacent to the wilderness (first come, first serve).
Ride The Michigander
Named one of the "Top 10 Multi-Day Rides in America" by Bicycling Magazine, The Michigander combines beautiful trails, Great Lakes beaches, lighthouses, rivers, virgin white pines, and a healthy serving of brewpubs. It's a perfect Pure Michigan route. An ideal ride for mountain and hybrid bikes on rails-to-trails riding (also includes route for roadies). Check website for route. Two-day and six-day options in 2015. Sponsored by Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance.
Take a sled dog ride
This is definitely on my bucket list, and when I saw that Snowy Plains Sled Dogs offers a romantic dinner for two by dogsled, I had my anniversary gift nailed (shh — don't tell my husband!).
Camp & paddle on a multi-day kayak expedition
Guided trips are some of the best ways to see Michigan's beautiful natural scenery by water. Paddling Michigan offers kayak expeditions that include paddling around Pictured Rocks and Grand Island; canoe trips can be made down the Escanaba and Michigamme rivers.
Jump off a cliff (and into Lake Superior) at Black Rocks!
Black Rocks is one of Marquette’s coolest attractions, where cliff diving into the frigid Lake Superior is a true rush — or wait until the middle of August when the water reaches a balmy 60 degrees. Brrr! To get to Black Rocks, park at one of the parking lots near the tip of Presque Isle and head towards the lake, going east. In a few hundred yards you find a 15-foot cliff that drops straight down into Lake Superior. Show up on a sunny summer day in and you’ll likely share the cliff with tourists and college students.
Visit the Michigan Icefest
One of winter’s newest silent sports, ice climbing combines challenge and adventure. With miles of sandstone cliffs lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, Michigan is home to some of the best ice climbing spots in the country. Frozen waterfalls range from 20 to 210 feet tall, where you can take in in the scenic landscape that only a Michigan winter provides. The Michigan Icefest is the best place to hone your skills and meet other ice climbers.
Where else can you find adventure in Michigan? Leave a comment below.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe