Michigan June 03, 2022
Spend Three Days In Three National Forests On This Weekend Road Trip In Michigan
Searching for a wonderful way to experience the great outdoors here in Michigan? There are so many natural treasures to behold throughout our region, whether you prefer to spend your time hiking, biking, beachcombing, or simply basking in the fresh air. One of the most underrated highlights of Michigan is its abundance of state and national forests. The next time you find yourself with a three-day weekend to spare, hop in the car and explore this national forest weekend road trip in Michigan.
If you’d like to shift the road trip route to suit your needs, be sure to check out our adjustable map.
Our national forest road trip will take you through three of Michigan’s true gems: Huron National Forest, Manistee National Forest, and Hiawatha National Forest. While the first two are located in the Lower Peninsula, the last will take you on an Upper Peninsula journey.
We’ll kick off our trip at Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, which is situated within Manistee National Forest. You might have heard of Huron-Manistee National Forests, but these are actually two separate forested areas conjoined in name and administration only. Our road trip will take you to both.
At Nordhouse Dunes, you’ll encounter 3,500 acres of stunning land. Since you’ve only got one day, we recommend parking at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area in Free Soil, where you’ll find everything from day-use picnic areas to hiking trails. If you can’t get enough of this spot, there are campsites available to create an ideal overnight stay just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan itself.
For a more laid-back experience in the area, travel slightly south into the laid-back town of Ludington, where you’ll find a beautiful beach, a historic lighthouse, and an utterly charming downtown area. After a bit of outdoor exploration, there’s really no better place to grab a bite to eat or spend the night before gearing up for day two of your adventure.
House of Flavors
is a popular spot for ice cream fanatics, so don’t let your time in Ludington pass by without stopping in for a treat.
You’ll certainly want to get up early to kick off your second day of exploration, as the drive across the Mitten will take approximately three and a half hours, depending on your exact departure point. Load up on snacks and hit the road – you’ll want to have plenty of energy with which to explore Huron National Forest.
We recommend venturing straight to Oscoda for a visit to the impressive Lumberman's Monument, which combines history and nature in one unique spot. It’s here that you’ll learn about the history of the lumber industry in Michigan while appreciating views of the Au Sable River and basking in plenty of forested beauty.
To stretch your legs, venture outside Oscoda to the Highbanks River Trail and enjoy a 0.7-mile jaunt alongside the Au Sable itself. No matter the season, you’ll appreciate the chance to experience Huron National Forest up-close and personal. Or, if you prefer to immerse yourself in nature via car, hop on the
River Road National Scenic Byway
for a beautiful 22-mile drive that leads all the way to the shores of Lake Huron.
Commit to a bit of nighttime driving or camp overnight at Oscoda’s historic Monument Campground (established in 1909) before setting off for your third and final national forest in Michigan: Hiawatha National Forest. This expanse stretches throughout the U.P., but we’re sticking to southern U.P. destinations for the purposes of our road trip – after all, this journey is meant to be completed in a weekend!
The drive from Oscoda to St. Ignace should take anywhere from two and a half to three hours, so budget appropriately for drive time. During this particular stretch of driving, you’ll have the chance to pass through Mackinaw City and cross the iconic
, so don’t forget to snap a few photos during your grand adventure along the road! Upon crossing the bridge and entering the St. Ignace area, you’ll have multiple options for exploring the surrounding Hiawatha National Forest.
For a quiet and peaceful pit stop, head to Brevoort Lake Picnic Site and enjoy a lovely meal. Other options include exploring the rugged shoreline of St. Ignace’s Horseshoe Bay Wilderness, settling in at Carp River Campground, or taking in impressive views of the forest itself from atop
, a long-standing tourist attraction that’s genuinely worth visiting. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.
As you round out your third day of adventuring and prepare to head home, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the national forests that call Michigan home. We hope that this journey will simply spark your curiosity and encourage you to plan a more extended journey through these brilliant, sprawling, and wildlife-rich locales in the Great Lakes State.
So, there you have it: a brief but jam-packed national forest weekend road trip in Michigan. Have you and your family checked out any of these stunning spots throughout the state during previous weekend adventures? Which of your favorite places did we leave off our road trip route? We love to hear from you, so share your thoughts in the Facebook comments or recommend another scenic road trip through Michigan by completing our
Still can’t get enough outdoor adventure? You’ll want to read about one of the
clearest lakes in Michigan. Address: Huron National Forest, Au Sable Charter Twp, MI 48750, USA Address: Manistee National Forest, Lake Township, MI 49402, USA Address: Hiawatha National Forest, Munising Township, MI 49895, USA