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Backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway is a great trip that can be accomplished easily in a day and a half. The Shingle Mill Pathway is located just a few hours north of both Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, making it a great spring or summer weekend destination.
This is an amazing overnight backpacking trip that’s drivable in an afternoon from Grand Rapids, Michigan or Detroit, Michigan. It’s a 10 to 11 mile loop, with a six mile loop as well. The trail starts by meandering along the Pigeon River and skirts some small lakes in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. This is pretty much the epicenter of the elk herd in Michigan as well. I was notable to see many animals, since there were quite a few people in the campsites that dot the trail. I did see some snakes, toads, birds, and frogs. And insects, of which there were plenty of. I also conveniently left my bug spray in my vehicle, so camping in the swamp (the dispersed camp site at the south end of Grass Lake), was quite interesting.
The best part of this hike is the varied landscape. You start out in dry pine woodland, that’s interspersed with meadows and clearings. Then it transitions to swamp land, and then hardwood forests, and then back to sandy pine woodlands with the occasional clearing. I think that this could be a great hunting and backpacking trip as it’s state land, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do those trips here in the lower peninsula.
This is definitely a great hike. And even if you’re a beginner, I would recommend backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway as an annual trip. Most of the hills are easy with minimal exposed roots and the trails are (mostly) well-marked. There are ample camping opportunities, both dispersed as well as state of Michigan rustic campgrounds along the river, of which there are a few. Those campgrounds do need to be reserved, and from the couple that I walked through, they appeared to be completely full. So if you’re planning on camping at one of the state campgrounds here, you’ll want to plan ahead.