Michigan should be on every adventure enthusiasts bucket list! In addition to spectacular winters and ample snowfall, Michigan offers challenging river-carved ridges, glacial plains, forested sand-dune hills, and beautiful coastal hiking.
Carol and I head to the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area trail when we want a challenging day-hike. This trail is located just a few miles south of I-75 near Waterford, Michigan. The park features a large lake and has all of the normal amenities (bathrooms, grills, concession stand). It is a popular park for mountain bikers, so hikers are advised to hike early in the day and travel in a counter-clockwise direction.
Plan on spending 4 to 5 hours to hike this 10 mile loop (click for map). Beginning at the trail head at the main parking lot, head north across Gale road. The flat two-track will quickly evolve into a long series of climbs and descents. The ground is rocky and rooty, yet hikers will be comfortable in light hiking shoes. We always hike with trekking poles, which add stability while burning a few extra calories with each arm swing.
Mile markers are placed along the entire trail. At the 4.5 mile point, the trail intersects the local radio-controlled airplane park. This makes a good place to enjoy a break if the airplanes are flying. There is also a porta-john and picnic table inside of the RC park.
The trail continues in a very twisty and hilly manner for its entire length. Mountain bikers are frequently found heading full-speed down the hills, so hikers should be vigilant at all times.
There are 2 stunning vistas near the end of the loop, both overlooking Pontiac Lake. The trail levels out at the end, which is a relief to the hiker who has accumulated over 2800 ft. of climbing over 10 miles.
The Pontiac Lake trail is never boring and is highly recommended for anyone who only wants to spend a quick day out on the trail.