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Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

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Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

My family and I are staying on Silver Lake near Traverse City at the end of July. We are so excited! I have researched hiking trails and things to do while we are there but I was wanting to know YOUR opinions on the most scenic hikes, i.e. (shoreline, beautiful woods, interesting paths, waterfalls, rocks, wildlife). We are an active family with boys. We are so excited to experience Michigan Lake's beautiful water.

We are also interested in the best place for a kayak trip. Nothing too difficult as the boys are 6 and 9 but something beautiful and interesting enough to give them a fun time. I've read about the Platte River tubing experience but some of the reviews read that it is a little long, and it sounds slightly mundane for this age kids but I am not sure.

We will be staying in a rental home on silver lake for a week. We would like to do a few hikes and at least one kayaking trip. Any other ideas , please supply! Thank you so much!!

Grand Rapids...
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1. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

traversecity.com/summer/…

Probably already seen it but this is a good list. Rocks and waterfalls you will not see much of. High beach bluffs, northern Michigan wooded hills and lake side hiking is what the beauty of the area is. Www.castlefarms.com is a fairly quick drive and interesting. The Jordan Valley is a little drive east and probably is the most scenic inland hiking.

Www.gowaterfalling.com will show you must travel nearly four hours away for the nearest nice waterfall. Five and a half for rocks (Pictured Rocks National Park in Munising, MI) maybe four and a half. Either way, these things are possible but it would be a very long day trip. A more realistic day trip would be Mackinaw Island (Mackinac City, MI).

A day trip to the south island from Leland, MI should be a high consideration as well.

Edited: 5:50 pm, March 20, 2016
Grand Rapids...
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2. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Oops. Mackinaw City, MI with Mackinac Island.

Traverse City...
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3. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

As a local who has been hiking the area for nearly 30 years (usually with kids and/or grandkids), I may have more suggestions than you have time for, but that’s a good thing, right? ;) There is a little known waterfall on the Manistee River Trail near Mesick (about 40 min south of Traverse City). It’s a beautiful trail & it crosses the Little Mac foot-bridge (over the Manistee River), the longest wooden suspension bridge in Lower Michigan. Definitely worth a visit, kids love it! There’s a map & more info at this link:

www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/recarea/…

If you really want WATERFALLS (and don’t mind the drive), Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the UP is outstanding. It’s about a 4 hour drive each way, and about ½ way there you cross the Mackinac Bridge, which should highly impress the kids. Plan for at least 4 hours at the falls. There are MANY great towns, trails and sites to be seen along the way to the UP, but you won’t have much time for them if you want time to explore the falls. The UP is worthy of a full week or more to fully appreciate, but if hiking and waterfalls are your priority, I think this day-trip is worth the drive; you’ll probably wish you had more time there, though.

michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx…

If you leave TC by 8AM and arrive at Castle Farms at opening, you could stop there on the way to Tahquamenon Falls for an hour or so; it has a great history, beautiful grounds and it looks a lot like a real castle; as Frank said, it’s interesting and worth a visit.

It doesn’t have waterfalls, but the Boardman River in Traverse City does have the only rapids in lower Michigan. Our favorite local hikes are the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve trails along the river. The Boardman River Nature Center is a fun stop near the rapids; hours are limited, so be sure to check ahead. Several trails & the nature center are on Cass Rd; the Keystone Rapids Trailhead is on Keystone Rd across the street from Beitner Park. All of these trails are easy, well marked and have beautiful river views.

natureiscalling.org/explore/nature-center/ natureiscalling.org/parkland/…

There are more than 30 trails in Grand Traverse County and countless more in the surrounding area, so lots to choose from for an ‘old-timer’ like me! Some of our nearby favs are Muncie Lake Pathway (wooded lakeside trails) and the Brown Bridge Quiet Area trails (on a high ridge overlooking the upper Boardman River with steps leading to river-side trails and boardwalks); both are on Ranch Rudolf Rd and easy to find.

michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx… & natureiscalling.org/parkland/…

Another family fav is East Creek Reserve, a mile off Garfield on Mayfield Rd (a dirt road) The trails are a little hilly, but fairly easy and the creek has a little swimming hole next to the parking area (just over the 1-lane bridge).

natureiscalling.org/parkland/…

If a guided nature/wildlife walk at 1 of the many nature preserves interests you, check out these 2 links. (they’re usually free) Browse both sites for more trail ideas, especially trails near Lake Michigan, but be sure to read trail descriptions because dune trails are often too strenuous for young kids.

http://leelanauconservancy.org/events/hikes/ www.gtrlc.org/recreation-events/events/

Another ‘must-do’ is to explore the lighthouse, beaches & very easy trails at Old Mission State Park at the tip of OM Peninsula; it’s a very scenic drive through cherry orchards, vineyards & hops farms (several farm stands along the way, too). We like to drive out there by way of Peninsula Drive (the western shore) and then drive back on M-37 (Center Rd). Be sure to stop at the scenic look-out just south of Island View Rd on M-37. http://www.peninsulatownship.com/parks.html

Take a full day to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; if you start at the visitors center on M-72 in Empire there are cool exhibits & you’ll have a better understanding & appreciation of what you’ll see in the park. (you can also pay your entry fee here) Before heading North on M-22 to M-109, I suggest hiking the Empire Bluff Trail; it’s fairly short & not too hilly, with great views at the end. I also highly recommend stopping at the Empire beach. It’s only a few blocks from the Visitors Center and I think this is the easiest beach to access that has a dune for kids to play on; my kids always love it. (just walk south a short ways on the Empire public beach)

Pierce Stocking Drive, the Dune Climb and Glen Haven are ‘musts’ along M-109. The trail views at SBD are stunning, but hiking the dunes is not for everyone; sun, hills and sand are a tough combination, especially for kids. (always bring plenty of water & snacks) You’ll find awesome views on PS Drive and you can ask the rangers at the Visitors Center for other trail recommendations that suit your family. The Manitou Islands are popular with backpackers, but I wouldn’t take young kids out there, especially considering the time involved getting out there & back and iffy lake conditions. If you visit SBD on a weekday it MIGHT be slightly less busy.

http://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm

The National Park ends near Good Harbor, but you can continue up M-22 to Leland (Fishtown), a quaint village and a fabulous beach to watch the sun set. (Leland is about 40 minutes from Traverse City)

For spectacular views on a fairly short trail, check out the Clay Cliffs Natural Area, about 3 miles north of Leland. It is a bit of a climb, but if you don’t do the loops, it’s less than a mile each way to the look-out; well worth the effort!

leelanauconservancy.org/blog/…

You could also spend a full day exploring M-22 and eastern Leelanau County. Just off M-22 on Cherry Bend Rd is DeYoung Natural Area which features an old farmstead, an edible trail and wildlife viewing platform.

leelanauconservancy.org/blog/…

Continuing north on M-22, just past the town of Suttons Bay, is the highly recommended Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa’s Eyaawing Museum & Cultural Center. It’s in a unique building overlooking West Grand Traverse Bay and they also have a wonderful gift shop. Admission is free and it’s open all year (Wed-Sat 10am-4pm) You might also check their schedule of Pow-Wows; they’re fabulous & the public is always welcome.

http://gtbindians.org/eyaawing.asp

Further up M-22 is Omena and, near the tip of Leelanau Peninsula, Northport; both are cute villages with historical museums and Northport has a great park, beach & marina on Grand Traverse Bay. http://northportomenachamber.org/

A little further north, and well worth a visit, is Leelanau State Park & the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. The beaches here are excellent for rock-hounds! The State Park trails are easy and lead to Cat Head Bay and 1 of the prettiest Lake Michigan beaches. The road to the trails is next to Woolsey Airport (a grass field) which has an old stone observation deck that visitors can explore. (kids love it!) michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx…

If you don’t make it to Leland on the day you go to Sleeping Bear, you could add it to the end of this day-trip, after exploring Leelanau State Park. (Northport to Leland is about 20 minutes)

Regarding kayak trips, the Platte River is very popular, but it can be VERY busy. Loon Lake can be very tiring to cross if it’s breezy; I’d skip it & put in at the weir and get on the river as early as possible to avoid crowds. From the weir it’s only about an hour float to Lake Michigan; it’s very pretty, but we like a little more excitement on the water & find it underwhelming, especially when crowded. It is by far the most popular ‘float’ in the area, partly because it is so easy & well known (it’s part of Sleeping Bear National Park).

An outfitter at Clinch Park (The River) offers a variety of trips on the lower Boardman River, which runs through downtown TC, but it’s mostly through the business district and not particularly scenic, IMO. Their longest trip, from Sabin Dam (next to the Nature Center), is gentle & pretty for about 20 minutes, but then you go through culverts under S Airport Rd and into Boardman Lake (at Medalie Park). Crossing the lake takes about ½ of the 2-hour trip (it can be longer if it’s windy, it’s about a mile across the lake). The trip then follows the river through town (and requires a portage at Union St Dam) The trip ends at Clinch Park, where the river empties in West Grand Traverse Bay. It’s not something we would do, but lots of others enjoy it and you might, too. Swimming is not recommended in the lake.

therivertc.com/rentals-tours/…

IF you are experienced & comfortable in kayaks or canoes, then the upper Boardman River is truly the best of the Boardman. Ranch Rudolf is the only outfitter on that part of the river and I can highly recommend them (family owned & operated for decades, very reasonable prices). If you’ve never been in kayaks or canoes on a river I would NOT attempt the upper Boardman with kids; however, the Ranch also rents tubes which is just as fun in late July, and much safer for inexperienced paddlers. The smells, sights and sounds on this part of the river are unbeatable in any watercraft and a downtown float simply can’t compare; highly recommended for the whole family! The Ranch also offers very easy guided horseback trail rides that my kids always enjoy; combine them for an excellent ‘up-north’ day! If only doing 1 river trip, this is my #1 suggestion. The Ranch’s website has lots of good info:

http://ranchrudolf.com/

The Crystal & the Betsie Rivers can be fun, but water levels can be low in late summer and you’ll spend a bit of time driving to either. The Manistee River, IMO, is too fast & deep for inexperienced, young kids. Many nature preserves can be explored by kayak if you have or can rent equipment, such as Pearl Lake, Grass River & Cedar Run.

Hunt for the famous Petoskey Stones on ANY shoreline, including rivers & inland lakes. (they are much easier to see when wet)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petoskey_stone

Beyond hiking and paddling, I highly recommend the "Friday Night Live" street parties in TC held on Front St in late Summer. The road is closed to cars so that food & merchandise vendors can set up in the street (from 5PM-9PM, I think) There are also musicians & street performers & usually a theme. Lots of good family fun & eats.

The Traverse City Film Festival takes place July 26-31 (Tue-Sun) This is a very family friendly festival with movies & activities for kids every day, most are free or less than $1. The FF also plays FREE movies every night on a giant inflatable screen at Open Space Park on West Bay. Bring a blanket or chairs to sit on (& jackets/blankets to stay warm; it can be cool next to the bay) There are lots of food vendors on-site, movies start at dusk (abt 9:30). We usually go to “Friday Night Live” and then a movie by the bay. Highly recommended!

http://www.traversecityfilmfest.org/

The iconic Cherry Bowl Drive-In (on US-31 in Honor) shows current movies on state-of-the-art equipment (always a family-friendly, double-feature). It’s a late night if you stay for both movies, but lots of fun & they have a fabulous 50’s diner/concession stand.

http://www.cherrybowldrivein.com/index.php

Catch a Beach Bums baseball game; they usually play in the evening. (Wuerfel Field is very close to Silver Lake)

http://www.traversecitybeachbums.com/

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is located at a beautifully repurposed former State Hospital in downtown TC. It’s filled with art galleries, a Saturday farmers market, wineries, eateries and lots of shops. Outside are several hiking trails through the beautiful, shaded grounds in addition to the Historic Barns Park & Botanical Gardens. (very close to Silver Lake) (http://garfield-twp.com/gtcommons.asp http://www.thevillagetc.com ) (http://www.historicbarnspark.com/ http://www.thebotanicgarden.org/ )

An fyi about fees; most State Parks and DNR trails require a ‘Recreation Pass’ (vehicle sticker) to enter (including a couple that I suggested). The cost for non-residents is $9/day or $31/year (residents pay $11/yr); it can be purchased online or at State Parks.

michigan.gov/dnr/…00.html

The entry fee at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is now $15/vehicle and is good for 7 days.

Glad I saw your post and I hope your family enjoys some of my family’s outdoor favorites. Happy travels!

PS: I’m blaming boredom during this snowstorm for this ridiculously long post! :)

Grand Rapids...
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4. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Maybe you guys should get more snow storms if it brings more posts like that. Lol. Just a few flurries in GR. Fantastic info. They say you learn something new everyday. I guess the secret is learning more than you forget. :-) but this infos on my phone. And it aint going no where. Appreciate it.

Indianapolis...
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5. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Thank you soo much for your long , informative post. I have re read it as our vacation is here :) Really looking forward to doing some of the things you mentioned. :) Thanks!!

Edited: 9:28 pm, July 25, 2016
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6. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Great suggestions above! Here are a few more https:/….

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7. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Thank you for such an awesome list of things to do! We are bringing our 2 year old and 5 year old up for a visit in October. We are coming from Chicago and want to get as much time in the outdoors as possible. This list is extremely helpful!

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8. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Your response has so much fantastic information, thank you for sharing! Do you have recommendations that allow pups and take place in early October?

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9. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Check out The Ghost Farm of Kingsley. They have kid friendly events as well as scary events for adults. See ghostfarm.net for more details.

Edited: 8:19 pm, September 28, 2016
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10. Re: Need Help Making a "Must Do" List !

Here is additional information on pet-friendly places: https:/….

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