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.
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