Mackinaw State forest is an enormous piece of forested land on the northern area of the Lower Peninsula in Michigan. It covers eight counties including Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Montmorency, Otsego and Presque Isle. The entire state park stretches an impressive 717,000 acres of dense forest with wildlife roaming around. Until 1910, the Mackinaw State Forest was logged for Red Pine and White Pine. It was a prime destination during Michigan's lumbering days, which saw extensive parts of the forest cut down. After the transition away from lumbering, the land was allowed to revert back to it's original wilderness.
Now if you head into the state forest you will find yourself surrounded by towering adlers, paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, balsam poplar, and many more. Elk live in the area and wander freely through the state forest, which provides an attraction for many RV visitors. There are many rustic campsites scattered through the forest, providing minimal facilities but large spaces from where to enjoy the wilderness. Campervans, trailers, and RVs are welcome, with many sites big enough to accommodate rigs up to 30 feet long.
The Mackinaw State Forest is an expansive stretch of nature located in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.The main highways that pass through the forest are Interstate 75, US Highway 23, and US 131. There are plenty of opportunities for purchasing fuel and necessities for your camping trip. The roads are well kept, with easy access for campers and RVs. Take extra caution while driving in this area during winter, as the roads do get icy.
The camping available in the Mackinaw State Forest is primarily rustic camping. This means the campsites are dispersed among the state forest and have minimal amenities. You can expect vault toilets, potable water from hand pumps, fire pits, and picnic tables.
Some of these campsites are large enough to house RVs, campervans, and trailers up to 30 feet in length. There is no electric hookups, water hookups, or dumping stations, so make sure to bring all your rubbish with you.
There are extensive trails within the State Forest that are ideal for mountain biking. Follow any of the gravel roads through the forest to explore deep into the nature. These routes however, require a proper mountain bike to get over the uneven terrain.
If you prefer road biking, then you can opt to go along a paved road. One of the favorite longer trails is the North Eastern State Trail that leads bikers along rural outskirts of Michigan. There you will see many farmlands, small towns, and extensive crushed limestone. The terrain is mostly flat and makes it quite easy for people of all fitness levels.
One of the best views in the park is from Deadman's Hill at the trail head near Elmira. The view from the top features panoramic views over the Jordan River. The hike up there is at the end of a gravel road leaving from the U.S 131. Otherwise, there are plenty of marked trails, of varying difficulties to suit any level of hiker. Why not check out the crushed Limestone Trail which leads from Gaylord to Mackinaw City? It is a great option for those looking for a challenging, long-distance hike.
Hunting is a popular activity in the area, as the timbered and open landscape is home to a myriad of wildlife species. There are strict hunting regulations, so make sure you have an appropriate permit.
Some of the species you can hunt include squirrels, white-tailed deer, rabbit, quail, pheasant, dove, and turkey. Some of these species are allowed to be hunted by gun, while others are only allowed by archery. There are bag regulations, and seasonal restrictions for each of these species which you can find in the campground or on the website. There are many people who hike in the woods, so please be careful of fellow nature lovers.
Don't forget to bring your binoculars in your Airstream to see one of the state's most majestic mammals. Elk are one of the most magnificent creatures that roam the nature in the forests of Michigan. They used to be common in the wild, however they slowly disappeared due to deforestation and hunting. The elk herd was brought back to Wolverine from Western United States in 1920. Now the population is thriving, with herds multiplying and growing in the State Parks in Michigan. If you wish to see an elk, keep an eye out during early mornings or dusk, since that is when they are most active.
Once the first snow hits the state forest, it transforms the gorgeous brightly colored leaves into a winter wonderland. This makes the forest an immediate destination for people wanting to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, ice fishing, snowmobiling or even winter camping.
Many of the trails in the state forest are welcoming to snow mobiles or ATVs, however, make sure to check out the signs whether your vehicle is allowed on the particular path. There are also many hills which can provide a welcome challenge to sledders, although make sure to watch out for the many trees!
If you are a fan of viewing animals, then you will be thrilled to know that Mackinaw State Forest houses two of the most critically endangered species, Kirtland's warbler and the Hungerford's crawling water beetle.
The crawling water beetle has only been found in five places in the world, two of which are within the confines of the Mackinaw State Forest. Head over to the East Branch of Black River or at the Van Hetton Creek to try to spot one. The Kirtland's Warbler is a beautifully little bird with a yellow belly and black spots on his chest. You will be able to hear his distinct call from the trees overhead.