Slow down and become one with nature this fall in the  Sanctuary of the Great Lakes; relax, rejuvenate, and restore. Within moments you can be out on a trail, from groomed woodland trails to gentle paved trails in the city. Wander through crisp, fall-colored leaves, bask in the beautiful waterside views, and discover our rich history. Stretch your legs, breathe in the Autumn air, and explore.

The Bi-Path at Sytek Park

ALPENA BI-PATH Easily stroll or roll on this paved trail that gracefully winds throughout the city. Just over 18 miles long, this path will take you through charming city parks, along Lake Huron and the Thunder Bay River, and through downtown where you can browse through shops, enjoy delicious food, and visit a winery or brewery.

Good to Know……the Bi-Path connects with the N.E.S.T. trailhead. 

ISLAND PARK Right in the heart of Alpena, Island Park is located on a portion of the city’s 500-acre wildlife sanctuary. Just cross the beautiful, hand-hewn-covered wooden bridge from Duck Park to get to Island Park, which features rolling nature trails, fishing platforms, and 5 distinctly different ecosystems. You would never know you were just a walk over a bridge from the city!

Good to Know….you can even get to Duck Park and Island Park by taking the Alpena Bi-Path, or by kayaking there from another port on the Thunder Bay River! 

GREAT LAKES MARITIME HERITAGE TRAIL This unique downtown trail promotes and interprets the importance of the Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron in the development of Alpena and its rich maritime heritage. You will discover a boardwalk, historically themed riverfront park, historic docks, outdoor interpretive signage, and a pedestrian bridge that takes you over the river to Rotary Island Park.

Norway Ridge Hike, courtesy Paul Gerow

Good to Know….. The trail leads to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Heritage Center and the port of the Lady Michigan glass-bottom boat. 

BESSER NATURAL AREA: Stretching over 134 acres, this area is home to one of Michigan’s last remaining stands of virgin pine. An easy one-mile trail will take you through the softwoods to view the timber and the remains of the historic village of Bell. When you complete your forest adventure, head just up the road to Bell Bay, one of Michigan’s most beautiful sandy beaches on Lake Huron. Bring your snorkel gear, because here lays the Portland shipwreck just offshore in mere feet of water.

Good to Know….. The ship’s mast still rests in a lagoon along the shoreline. 

NORWAY RIDGE Five miles south of Alpena, Norway Ridge provides a serene escape with an abundance of nature on the ten miles of forgiving, groomed terrain. The trail forms several loops with signage so that you can easily choose your distance. A great place to enjoy all four seasons, this is also a perfect location for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing during the winter.

Good to Know…..The trails are freshly groomed by volunteers during the winter for cross-country skiing, so if you are hiking or snowshoeing, make sure to walk to the side of the ski track. 

N.E.S.T. TRAIL (North Eastern State Trail) is a multi-use crushed limestone trail that starts in Alpena and travels

Family Hike in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes

over 70+ miles along a former railroad grade to Cheboygan. In Cheboygan, the trail connects to the North Central State Trail. The N.E.S.T. trail is mostly flat with easy twists and turns across the northeast Michigan countryside. Jog, hike, or bike when the weather is warm, and in the winter snowmobiles are welcome on the trail.

Good to Know….The trailhead is located on Woodward Street, with parking for the trail available at the soccer field.

CHIPPEWA HILLS PATHWAY is located twenty miles southwest of Alpena and is considered one of the best-groomed cross-country ski trails open to mountain biking in northeastern Michigan. Over 14 miles of roller-coaster trails lead through cedar swamps and dense trees. For the most part, it is a high and dry single-track. The path is amply marked and relatively hazard-free, except for a few sandy patches.

Good to Know….The trails are groomed in the winter providing spectacular cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Just be sure to stay to the side of the ski track if you are not wearing skis. 

NEGWEGON is loved because it is rustic and undeveloped. Ten miles of hiking trails through a mixture of low land, mature pine forest, hardwoods, aspen, and open meadows lead you to four different backcountry camping sites. It is here you will discover one of the most remote and beautiful beaches on Lake Huron.

Good to Know…..The road leading to Negwegon can be unpredictable. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

ROCKPORT is your place for the rough and rugged terrain. Go for long hikes or mountain bike trail rides throughout the 4,000+ acres in the State Recreation Area and designated dark sky park. Some parts of the trails are smooth, some are rocky, and some are delightfully interrupted by wandering tree roots. The options are limitless; you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for. Enjoy the wilds of the wilderness at this old limestone quarry on the shores of Lake Huron.

Good to Know…. There are multiple sinkholes throughout the park, as well as a bat hibernaculum. 

THOMPSON HARBOR: Located 24 miles north of Alpena, this natural area has 5,000 acres of limestone, sand dunes, upland, and marsh. In Michigan, there are fewer than 50 remaining examples of “forested wet swale communities” of this quality. 7 1/2 miles of Lake Huron shoreline and a network of 6 miles of rustic trails for hikers and off-road cycling.

Good to Know….The area supports one of the largest known populations in the world of federal and state-threatened dwarf lake iris, so be sure not to disturb them. 

Ocqueoc Falls

OCQUEOC FALLS BICENTENNIAL PATHWAY is located at Ocquoec Falls; the Lower Peninsulas’s largest waterfall. The trail consists of three loops that make up six miles of trails great for hiking, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking. Ocquoec Falls is handicapped accessible, and the trails were designed to give choice in how you access the shoreline that fits your ability and desire for adventure.

Good to Know….the first loop is the longest, and most people don’t venture past it. You’ll find the second loop to be more remote. 

HARRISVILLE STATE PARK spans 107 acres and features a campground and day-use are nestled in a stand of pine and cedar trees along the sandy shores of Lake Huron. Enjoy the two-mile trek hiking trail, non-groomed cross-country trails, and a 3/4 mile paved trail leading out of the park and to Harrisville.

Good to Know… The park has a pet-friendly shoreline, which makes for some great Frisbee time with your furry companion. 

HOEFT STATE PARK is a heavily wooded 300 acres park that includes a mile of sandy Lake Huron shoreline. A paved-non motorized trail connects the park to Huron Sunrise Trail, and the park also features 4.5 miles of hiking trails that are groomed for winter use.

Good to Know…You will find small sand dunes along the beach.