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Monday, October 19, 2015

Grayling, Michigan - Recreation within Hartwick Pines State Park and Grayling Bicycle Turnpike

October 2015

We camped in Hartwick Pines State Park in early October, and following is recreation information about the area. If you would like more information about the campground, please visit my Hartwick Pines State Park blog post. More photos of the area can be found in the Grayling, Michigan Facebook album

Glory Lake

Bright and Glory Trail

This trail starts in the campground between lots 15 and 16. It is a short foot path, which ends at Bright and Glory Lakes. The trail is about 1½ miles roundtrip, and it is a fairly easy trek. This trail was closed at the time of our stay as there was a large tree across the path near the lakes.

There is a parking lot on M-93, just west of the campground entrance, so the lakes are also accessible from the road. We observed a few fisherman, although we did not see anyone catch anything. Bicycles are not allowed on the trail.

Visitor's Center, Logging Museum, Chapel in the Woods, Old Growth Forest Trail

The Visitor's Center is about two miles one-way from the campground. In addition to the paved road, there is a trail through the woods, which starts near the campground. The trail through the woods is a bit longer than the road. Bikes are allowed on the trail; however, if you do not have mountain bikes (ours are city bikes!), this route is not easy. The beginning of the trail from the campground is flat and firm; however, after turning right, the trail gets very hilly and sandy in areas. The paved road to the Visitor's Center is hilly, as well.
trail down to Logging Museum
from Chapel in the Woods

From the Visitor's Center, you can hike to the Logging Museum, the Chapel in the Woods, the Day Use/Picnic Area on M-93, and to the trails across M-93: Au Sable Trail and Mertz Grade Trail.

Logging Museum

The trail to the Logging Museum and Chapel in the Woods is called Old Growth Forest Trail. This trail is paved, and it is wheelchair accessible. You can access Old Growth Trail from the Day Use/Picnic Area on M-93 or from the Visitor's Center.

Chapel in the Woods
The printed brochure we had said that the Logging Museum closed for the season after the end of September, so we were happy to find it open when we visited! When I looked for information online after our trip, I saw that the Logging Museum was listed as open through the end of October. I do not know if the extended open season is a permanent change, or if this was only a change for 2015.

Chapel in the Woods was also open. There were many visitors walking Old Growth Trail the Saturday we were there.

Au Sable River Foot Trail

We had a bit of difficulty finding Au Sable Trail after we got to the Day Use Area. There is an older closed building at the west end of the picnic area parking lot, and you can cross M-93 near this building to access Au Sable and Mertz Grade trails. There is also parking on the south side of M-93 at the start of Au Sable Trail; however, since we were not driving we did not see this until we hiked by.
Au Sable River
Au Sable River Trail is about three miles total (it makes a loop), and it is an easy trail unless you take the "steep climb" leg near the end. There is a sign where the trail splits at the end with two choices: steep climb or less difficult. We took the steep climb route, and it was steep! I do not know if the less difficult leg would have been longer or shorter. Considering the direction the split trails took, it seems like it would have also been a shorter route.

The tree colors were beautiful the day we hiked this trail, although the river was only visible in a couple of spots. There is a bench by the river at the first viewing point, and there was another bench in the woods near the end of this trail.

Mertz Grade Foot Trail

We did not hike this trail this trip, although we plan to next time! The trail starting point after crossing M-93 looked easy.

Grayling Bicycle Turnpike, downtown, Dead Bear Brewing Company, Valley Mist Vineyards Tasting Room

The information I found online says that the trail to town is five miles from Hartwick Pines State Park; however, it is farther than that. It is two miles from the campground to the parking lot for Bright and Glory Lakes. The lakes parking lot is west of the campground entrance, and it is where we started. Our bicycle ride from this parking lot to town and back was 14 miles. We went to Beards Brewery about a mile south of downtown, so it is about six miles to town from the lake parking lot at the state park.

The entire trail is paved. It was a beautiful and easy ride. The autumn colors were almost at their peak, and the hills on the trail were mild. If you elect to start at the campground, the two mile route to the parking lot is hilly and curvy, and there is not much of a shoulder on the road. It seems like a lot of campers have bikes, and it would be nice if Michigan campgrounds had bicycle lanes inside the parks.

There are a few places to stop and rest along the trail with a bench or picnic table; however, there are no parks or places with facilities, such as drinking water or restrooms. The photo above was taken from the bench in front of the state facility (I think it was a DNR building, although I do not recall for sure) next to I-75.

Places we visited in Grayling include: small park next to Au Sable River where the Chamber of Commerce is located, Valley Mist Vineyards Tasting Room, Family Fare grocery, and Dead Bear Brewing Company. There are several small shops and an art gallery along Michigan Street downtown, although we did not do any shopping.

Dead Bear Brewing
We had planned to visit Paddle Hard Brewing downtown; however, they were closed for renovations. We happened to see Valley Mist Vineyards Tasting Room next door, so we went in there instead. There was not any food in the tasting room, although the service was great, and the tastes we had were complimentary.

We decided to bike the extra mile to Dead Bear Brewing Company. We shared a beer sampler, Reuben appetizer, and a pork sandwich. Neither of the food items we had are listed on their online menu.
Reuben appetizer
All of the prices were good. The beer tastes were okay, although we did not have any that were fabulous enough to make us want to fill our growler. It would have been nicer if we'd been given two beer menus and something to write with so we could mark our choices while reading the menu. We did not do a great job choosing since we had to share the menu, and could not mark the ones we were interested in. The Reuben appetizer was delicious!

Family Fare is located just north of Dead Bear Brewing on the same side of the road. We stopped in to pick up a few needed grocery items, and they had a pretty good selection.

Here are a couple of links to Grayling bicycle trail information: Grayling Visitor's bureau biking information, and Eye on Michigan.

I hope this information helps other who are planning a trip to Grayling. Please feel free to share this post!