The Great Lakes region is a popular destination for a hiking trip. There are hundreds of trails to try across the region, many with breathtaking scenic views. Below is a guide on what you need to know when hiking around The Great Lakes.
The best places to hike
Most of the best trails are located within the national parks around The Great Lakes region. A few of the top destinations include:
Isle Royale National Park
Within Lake Superior lies an island cluster known as Isle Royale National Park. The biggest and most popular island within this island cluster is Isle Royale, which features a rugged landscape that has become revered for its challenging and picturesque trails. A recommended trail to take is from Hidden Lake to Lookout Louise. The Greenstone Ridge Trail is the longest trail and also features some incredible views including the chance to see moose and even wolves.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located along the coast of Lake Superior. It gets its name from its colourful sandstone cliffs. On top of the cliffs, you’ll find other spectacular rock formations including arches and caves, as well as some gorgeous waterfalls. North Country Trail spans the entire lakeshore and is a popular route.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore covers a 35 mile long stretch around Lake Michigan. It is one of the popular national parks in the region and is primarily visited for its large sand dunes from which it gets its name. Historic sights such as South Island Manitou Lighthouse are popular attractions.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is located in Ontario and borders onto Lake Huron. Trails in this park take you through hills and forests, featuring plenty of incredible lake views. Bruce Peninsula National Park is renowned for its rare and unique wildflowers including orchids. The Grotto in Tobermory, a sea cave with sparkling turquoise waters, is a popular attraction worth hiking to.
What to wear
Weather can be unpredictable around The Great Lakes region. It depends a lot on when you plan to go on a hike. If you’re planning a hike in winter, you’ll want to bring lots of layers. Most people plan their hike for summer when the weather is less likely to be as hostile. You may only need a t-shirt in the summer, but it’s worth still packing an extra couple layer for warmth if you plan to climb up somewhere high and some waterproof clothing in case it rains.
As for footwear, you can usually get away with wearing a pair of sneakers if you’re planning an easy day hike. For more challenging and longer hikes around The Great Lakes Region, it’s worth wearing some hiking boots (travel to somewhere like Isle Royale National Park and you’ll definitely want boots for the rugged terrain).
This site has a great selection of Great Lakes clothing to take a look at. Make sure to buy clothing in advance and go on a practice hike to check that it’s all comfortable (it’s worth always breaking in new hiking boots).
What else do I need to pack?
If you’ve been hiking before, you may already know what to pack. A few essentials include lots of water, some food and a first aid kit in case you have an injury.
It’s worth buying yourself a map of the area you plan to hike. You’ll usually find map signs at the start of a trail, however it’s easy to still take a wrong turn, which is why a physical map is useful. Don’t rely on GPS as you may not always be able to get data coverage when exploring some of the bigger and more remote national parks.
If you’re travelling in summer, it’s recommended that you bring some sun lotion. Some sunglasses could also be worth packing – the sunlight off the lakes can be very bright if you’re hiking at midday.
Hiking poles are optional. If you’re undergoing a serious hike, then poles are recommended.
Camping in the Great Lakes region?
If you’re carrying out a long hike, you may want to bring a tent so that you can camp along the way. You’ll find campgrounds all across the region – this guide lists a few great places to go camping. Wild camping is permitted across most of the national parks. Just be wary of signs as there are some areas where you may not be legally allowed to pitch up a tent.