With one of the world’s largest bodies of water on one side and one of the Lower Peninsula’s biggest inland lakes on the other, there’s a lot of H2O surrounding Ludington State Park. There’s also a lot of land within the park between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake – 5,300 acres of it, which is more than all but a few parks in Michigan.
The best way to experience both the beautiful expanse of Ludington State Park and the incredible waterfront views may be to lace up your hiking boots and hit the park’s 24 miles of trails. The network of several shorter trails loops through the park in varied terrain, from sandy
dunes to wooded marshes to riverside paths. The trails go over hills to the top of high bluffs and down through valleys, across boardwalks and along foot bridges over some of that picturesque shoreline.
“There’s a lot of diversity in the trails here,” said Jim Gallie, park manager. “There’s a bit of everything for everyone.”
Hiking the trails in Ludington State Park is an exhilarating experience any time of year, but perhaps no time is quite as scenic as fall. Once the temperatures cool down, it’s especially enjoyable to get out on the trails for some healthy exercise in a refreshing outdoor setting.
Two of the park’s most popular routes are the Lost Lake and Island trails, which skirt the edge of the water – and in some spots go right over it on boardwalks and foot bridges. Gallie said the combination of boardwalk and big views of Hamlin Lake is appealing, as are the beautiful stretches of cedar and hemlock forest full of birds and wildlife.
There’s also the Coast Guard Trail right along the Lake Michigan dunes, the Sable River Trail from the dam at Hamlin Lake along the river toward Lake Michigan and the Skyline Trail with several scenic overlooks offering panoramic views of landmarks as far away as the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Plus, there’s the Lighthouse Trail that follows rolling dunes to the photogenic Big Sable Point Lighthouse.
Of course, hiking isn’t the only recreational activity to enjoy this fall in Ludington. There’s also a couple miles of bike trail, a four-mile canoe route in Hamlin Lake and a nice fall salmon run. And that’s all just in the state park!
The Ludington area has many miles of hiking and biking trails outside the park, not to mention ample opportunity for kayaking, fishing and golfing – all of which offer their own special beauty in the fall.
Fall also brings delicious fresh produce to farmers markets and the chance to see some of Michigan’s most intense fall color on a leisurely drive through the back roads of Mason County.
From big-lake fishing on Lake Michigan to casting a line in over 40 inland lakes to fly fishing in nearly 2,000 miles of trout streams, there’s no wonder Ludington is one of Michigan’s top fishing destinations. In fact, Ludington is the state’s No. 1 salmon fishing port! In the fall, the Sauble and Pere Marquette rivers provide anglers with salmon runs lasting into October.
Paddling down a quiet river in the fall can be a spiritual experience as you disappear into the serene beauty of the Pere Marquette National Scenic River. The Ludington area is home to several paddle sports vendors that rent kayaks and canoes for expeditions into the heart of Manistee National Forest.
Just as you can escape into a kaleidoscope of fall colors on the water, you can venture off the pavement onto the backroads of Mason County and immerse yourselves in the stunning yellows, reds and oranges of a fall color tour in the Ludington area. Or take a drive on one of Mason County’s six self-guided Cultural Trails – complete with narrative accessible from your smart phone.
Speaking of a color tour, sunsets in the Ludington area are just as incredible in the fall as they are in the summer. Every night and every vantage point is different.
Water temperatures are cooler in the fall, but Ludington-area beaches remain a relaxing place to spend the day. Set out a chair and warm your toes in the sand on a sunny day or pack a picnic for a hike up the shore to the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park.
Ludington Avenue tends to be a little quieter in the fall than during the height of summer, which gives you more space to browse the unique downtown shops and art galleries. You can create a custom T-shirt at Gordy’s Skate Co. or admire the incredible images on display at Todd & Brad Reed Photography. While strolling through town, grab a bite to eat at one of Ludington’s brew pubs or enjoy dessert at the famous House of Flavors.
What’s fall without a pumpkin and some farm-fresh produce? While out on the roads in pursuit of glorious fall color, be sure to make time for a stop at a roadside stand or farmers market so you can taste and savor the flavors of the season.
In addition to a couple miles of paved bike trail within Ludington State Park, there’s a wealth of bike routes throughout the Ludington area including scenic road routes, four-season mountain biking, fat-tire trails and more.
Phone cameras are better than ever these days, making it easy for photography novices to capture slices of heaven all around the Ludington area, from sunsets to lighthouses to fall colors. Wherever your adventures take you in the Ludington area, use the hashtag #PureLudington to share images of your journey.
Make the most of Michigan’s glorious fall this year and cross some of these items off your bucket list in Ludington. Find a place to stay and start planning your getaway!