We’re revisiting a blog that Bob wrote a few years ago (when the boys were a bit younger, as you’ll notice in his video) that lists the top Northern Michigan spring activities, from hiking and biking to shopping, volunteering, mushroom hunting and more. Take a stroll through our list, and let us know if you have any favorite spring activities we forgot to mention!
To Northern Michigan locals, spring is all about the conflict between the sun and the north wind. This age-old battle plays out on the dunes and orchards, the woods and water. And then every year, to the warm-blooded human’s delight, the sun wins!
Spring is especially nice because the crowds are thin, and and even the best restaurants have a table available. The sun returns to warm the earth, giving way to leafing trees, vibrant wild flowers, and lively wildlife — ideal conditions for a long hike or paddle. And everyone you meet is in high spirits because winter is gone.
To celebrate spring and all it offers, we’ve created a list of our top Northern Michigan spring activities. If we forgot something, leave us a comment below!
Bike the Blossoms
A favorite spring activity for the Sutherland family is bicycling through the orchards during blossom time. There’s a simple and stunning beauty to the bright green grass gently waving under pure white cherry blossoms all set against a cloudless blue sky and warm sun. To boot, the roads are winding, not too challenging, and feeling wide open, since the summer visitors have yet to arrive.
Our suggestion: Start biking at St. Wenceslaus Church and bike to an early dinner at Knot Just A Bar in Omena. You’ll find yourself singing every Sound of Music melody as you pedal through the petals. It’s 11.2 miles roundtrip.
Sip Wine on a Peninsula
Wine abounds on the Northern Michigan peninsulas, so take a drive through the vineyards and orchards of either the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsulas. We recommend Two Lads Winery on Old Mission, which sits in the middle of an agricultural heaven. And if you’re in Leelanau County, don’t miss Michigan’s smallest wine trail, the Glen Arbor Village Wine Trail, which includes the M-22 Winery, Glen Arbor Wines, and The Winery at Cherry Republic.
Take the First Plunge
Why wait till summer? One of our most exhilarating spring activities is taking the first lake plunge of the year. The first day the temperature is over 70 degrees, run in place for 5 minutes to warm the body up, and then jump in Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, or Torch Lake. From experience, it’s best if it gets deep fast like at the end of Bay Street in Glen Arbor.
Hike for Wildflowers & Wildlife
The first week of June should be perfect for seeing wood lilies, wild rose, hepatica (pictured above), and Hairy Puccoon. Our advice? Hike to the National Park Overlook, then take the steep trail north in to the dunes. Head to the grassy plain east of the dune blowout and you will find a field of which dreams are made. And if you’re not up for a big hike, do a little walk around all the gardens in Glen Arbor. The Cherry Republic campus is a great start!
Local Tip: Keep an eye peeled for the abundance of wildlife that comes alive with the arrival of the sun. Birds, amphibians/reptiles, deer, foxes, coyotes, and even the rare black bear can be found if you’re patient.
Paddle the Backwoods
One of the best ways to see northern Michigan is atop of the flowing rivers, streams, and lakes. In spring, all the Northern Michigan rivers are deep and swift. The Boardman, Platte, Crystal, and Jordan rivers are easy to access and offer beautiful views of landscapes that can only be seen from the water. Just don’t forget to hop out and take a plunge every now and then.
Stroll Idyllic Downtowns
Not all of our top spring activites are necessarily sporty. Northern Michigan is also well-known for its idyllic small towns, bursting with natural beauty and great shops and businesses. From Traverse City to Glen Arbor, to Charlevoix and Petoskey, and everywhere in between, it’s impossible to go wrong. If you desire great customer service, be one of the first customers these store owners greet after a long winter. Don’t be surprised if you get a few hugs and see a few tears of joy.
Go Treasure Hunting for Morels
Don’t bother asking for secret morel hotspots. Veteran hunters hold those cards closer than the last piece of cherry pie at Thanksgiving. We certainly aren’t going to do it here (sorry). But here is the trick: walk the woods steadily looking for differences in vegetation and landscape. Edges of fields, aspen trees, grassy knolls. You’ll find the best mushroom spots more with your legs than your eyes.
Browse the Beaches
The best petoskey stones are always found in spring. The snow, ice melt, and strong winter winds shuffle up the rocky shoreline each winter and reveal things that have been buried for who knows how long. Petoskeys are tops on most people’s list, but this year keep an eye out for the super rare and elusive chain coral.
Another top spring activity in Northern Michigan? Volunteering! Cherry Republic recommends checking in with the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, or going directly to the top by enlisting at The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Leelanau Conservancy and TART Trails also have great volunteer opportunities. So does the Father Fred Foundation and of course, Big Brothers, Big Sisters is always looking for a few good people to partner up with youngsters looking for a buddy to take them hiking or biking in the great north.
Break Out The Grill
After a long day filled with top Northern Michigan activities like hiking, biking, shopping, paddling, and/or volunteering, it’s time to head back home and fire up the grill for the inaugural cookout of the season. I don’t know about you, but after a long winter filled with heavy soups, stews and casseroles, there’s nothing that tastes better than a burger or brat fresh off the grill. (Of course, they’re even better slathered in Cherry Republic BBQ sauce!) And if you haven’t tried grilling your corn on the cob right in the husk, you don’t know what you’re missing. Just be sure to save room for some s’mores around the campfire later that night. They go perfectly with the first ghost stories of the summer.