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The 10 Best Adventures In The Great Lakes Region

A freshwater paradise hidden within the Midwest

By: Shalee Blackmer + Save to a List

The Great Lakes Region holds almost 11,000 miles of coastal shoreline, which includes towering sand dunes, jagged cliffs, fairy-tale lighthouses, and endless hiking trails. A freshwater paradise hidden within the Midwest, the diverse area is often overlooked as an adventure destination. America’s 5 Great Lakes are all magical places, where one can spend the day plunging over cliffs or snorkeling shipwrecks and the night gazing into a million stars. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Check out our list of the 10 best adventures in the Great Lakes and get ready to explore this under-the-radar adventure paradise.

1. Hike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse | Michigan, Lake Michigan

Photo: Shalee Blackmer

Big Sable Point Lighthouse is quite possibly one of the most scenic locations in Michigan, however its remote location keeps crowd levels to a minimum. Located in within Ludington State Park, the lighthouse is a 3.6 mile round-trip hike along the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. It is the perfect location to watch a sunset, and during spring and fall months the surrounding beaches are virtually empty. Learn more.

2. Camp on South Manitou Island | Michigan, Lake Michigan

Photo: Shalee Blackmer

South Manitou Island is perfect for the adventurer who enjoys roughing it. A ferry boat makes a trip once daily to the island, and then leaves you stranded. The most recommended hike is the 10 mile shoreline loop, which brings you by shipwrecks, hundred foot sand dunes, and stunning beaches. Learn more.

3. Hike Superior's Pictured Rocks Shore to Au Sable Lighthouse | Michigan, Lake Michigan

Photo: Michael Wigle

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is filled with towering cliffs, hidden sea caves, quiet beaches, and killer scenery. Standing on rock overhangs hundreds of feet above the water will make any heart skip a beat. It’s the perfect place to feel completely disconnected (with the help of no cell phone service) and to get your daily dose of adrenaline with cliff jumping. Learn more.

4. Cliff Jump at the Grotto | Tobermory, Canada, Lake Huron

Photo: Shalee Blackmer

On the tip of the Bruce Peninsula sits an extremely unique area. It includes a natural grotto, where adventurers can free dive through underwater caves, and cliff jumping from heights of 70 feet. The shoreline hiking trail is part of the Bruce Trail System, and extends for hundreds of miles through various landscapes. Learn more.

5. Hike the Escarpment Trail | Michigan, Lake of the Clouds

Photo: Allison Herreid

Porcupine Mountain State Park is situated along the Lake Superior shoreline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It encompasses miles of hiking trails and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. The area is perfect for backcountry camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Learn more.

6. Explore Point Pelee | Canada, Lake Erie

Photo: Carolyn Stearns

This is an adventure for those looking for some peace, quiet, and reflection. Pointe Pelee is a National Park peninsula in Ontario where sounds of daily life are far in the distance. The location offers both sunrises and sunsets over Lake Erie and is the perfect location for paddleboarding. Learn more.

7. Backpack Across Isle Royale National Park | Michigan, Lake Superior

Photo: Joe Whitson

Isle Royale National Park is the least visited national park in the country, welcoming only 17,000 visitors annually. This isn’t for lack of beauty, but lack of access. Many must drive hours from the closest city, and then journey out on Lake Superior during a 4 hour ferry ride. The small 9 mile island is home to intriguing wildlife including wolves, coyotes, and moose. Learn more.

8. Kayak to Turnip Rock | Michigan, Lake Huron

Photo: Shalee Blackmer

Turnip rock is accessed only by a 3 mile kayaking journey on Lake Huron. During winter months, adventurers can ice walk to the formation and spend the evening relaxing and the night stargazing before heading home for a hot cup of coffee. Its formation stuns and causes wonder and curiosity by all visitors, and has been recognized globally for its uniqueness. Learn more.

9. Hike Split Rock Lighthouse State Park | Minnesota, Lake Superior

Photo: Joe Whitson

The park holds a trail that leads almost 6 miles to Corundum Point and encompasses steep cliffs that are not for the faint of heart. Beautiful shorelines, rocky scrambles, and ruins of an old Midwest settlement all are found throughout the journey. The area is also known for its sea caves and kayaking adventures through the nearby Apostle Islands. Learn more.

10. Explore the High Falls of the Pigeon River | Minnesota, Lake Superior

Photo: Allison Herreid

Along the United States/Canadian border on Lake Superior is Grand Portage State Park. Here is where explorers will find the 120-foot High Falls. It is the tallest waterfall in the state of Minnesota and is surrounded by a jagged and rocky landscape. The .5 mile trail leading to the falls is fit for all explorers, and after visiting one can take a chilly dip in nearby Lake Superior. Learn more.

Don't see your favorite Great Lakes adventure on The Outbound? Show us by creating an adventure.

Remember to always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and be sure to brush up on LNT principles for backcountry fires as well.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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