Thursday, September 7, 2017

Two Short Lake Michigan Hikes

I'm in Northwest Michigan for a family vacation, and although there is great hiking here, I have not had a chance to do much of it - combination of other plans and weather.  But I did get a chance to go for a couple of short hikes along Lake Michigan, totally about 3 miles.  Both were in Leelanau County.  If the Lower Peninsula is thought of as a right hand, palm facing you, then Leelanau County would be the pinkie.  Here is the approximate location of the Clay Cliffs hike, with the Whaleback hike a view miles to the south.

Clay Cliffs Natural Area is a beautiful place.  Most of the loop trail goes through beautiful northern forest, with a brief walk through a field on the way back.  The highlight is stunning views of Lake Michigan from above a 200 - 300 foot tall cliff over the lake.  Here are some photos:

Looking several hundred feet down to the shore of Lake Michigan:

North and South Manitou Islands (future hiking and backpacking destinations):

Mother Nature's recycling program:

We thought that these berries were cool, although I don't know what they are:

Field on the way back:


View of North Lake Leelanau:

The second hike was to Whaleback Natural Area.  The walk though the dark forest was very nice.  There is a viewpoint over the lake, but it is not as good.  I could barely see the setting sun because of vegetation.  Here are some photos:

The first part of the trail goes through private property before the natural area is reached.  Here is a vineyard along the way:

After about 0.4 miles, one reaches the Whaleback Natural Area.  The trail goes through a variety of forests, like these northern hardwoods:

After the overlook of Lake Michigan, the trail loops through a white birch forest where most of the birch have died and been replaced with shade tolerant trees.

After I looped back, I returned to the overlook to catch the sun setting over the big lake:

Here is South Manitou Island, miles out in Lake Michigan:

I love hiking in the northern forests.  They are so different from the mixed Appalachian hardwoods that I usually hike in.


  1. Those berries are what I'd call Doll's Eyes.

    1. Thanks, they reminded us of little skulls. But doll's eyes is a better description.

  2. Those berries are pretty cool looking, I've never seen them before.
    Looks like a couple good hikes though not as long as you usually go.
    Enjoy the rest of your holiday. : )

    1. Yeah, no long hikes there this trip. Back in Virginia now and hope to get in some mountain hiking before fall ends. But I always seems to have a lot going on. Work takes a huge chuck of time - but not for much longer!