Hiking it Easy
Posted on April 19, 2019
If you’re looking for a trail to hike, the U.P. is the place to go. That’s short for Upper Penninsula, for anyone not from Michigan. It’s pronounced “you-pee”, not up. Those who live there are known as Yoopers, and will tell you it’s the greatest place to live on God’s green earth. I am not one of those lucky folks, but I visit as often as I can.
You’ll find a variety of hiking trails in the U.P. Some easy, some more challenging. It is home to approximately 545 miles of the North Country Trail. One of my favorite hikes, one I have done several times since I was little, is an easy mile-and-a-half section (3 miles out and back) from the Hurricane River, to the Au Sable Lighthouse.
Check the weather before you head out, if you’d prefer a less buggy hike. If the wind is coming from the south, the flies will be bad. And I mean BAAAD! My best friend and I ignored warnings a few years back and went out the light house for a sunset hike. The flies were the worst I’ve ever seen them. We ended up swinging pine boughs around our bodies to protect ourselves. Our pantlegs were crawling with flies. Little tip here: don’t swat the flies off your pantlegs. Why? Because then, they swarm your head instead, Those buggers bite too! Ouch! It was awful. On a high note, I think that was the fastest I’ve ever covered 3 miles – too bad I didn’t actually time it!
Start off at the Hurricane River Campground (20 minutes west of Grand Marais, MI). There’s plenty of parking and beach access at the campground. Head east to find the trail, which is actually a two-track dirt service road, only used by the park rangers. On your way out, you’ll walk along the edge of a pine forest, with Lake Superior on your left. As a kid, my cousins and I hiked this trail almost every summer. Silly kids that we were, we’d run ahead of the group and draw “trail signs” in the dirt path – as if the others would actually turn into the woods simply because an arrow was drawn in the dirt.
The trail is mostly flat, so it’s a nice leisurely hike. There are several little trails that you can follow down the small incline to the beach, where you can check out what’s left of several shipwrecks, or take a dip in the always-icy Lake Superior (temps typically range from 54 to 73 degrees at the peak of summer).
The trail will suddenly open into a field and the Au Sable Light station. The lighthouse itself soars 86 feet into the sky, and was tended to by on-site resident light keepers, until the light became automated in late 1950’s, making the light keeper position obsolete. You can find more information on the history of this light here. The lighthouse, sitting on the edge of the lake, is a picturesque sight to take in while you relax and eat your lunch (you did pack a lunch, right? Please remember to pack out everything you packed in!). Guided tours of the light station are available during the summer months. You’ll need to register before-hand by contacting the park service (there is a small fee).
Michigan has over 100 lighthouses still in use. Historians say there used to be upwards of 247 in the state. Which ones have you visited? Have you been able to tour any? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow me here, and on social media, to read about other my adventures, and interesting places to visit and things to do in Michigan!
Check out the slide show below for more pictures of the Au Sable Light Station and the surrounding area. Click here, or on any of the single photos, to purchase prints!