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Several trails totaling over 20 miles, ranging from 0.25 to 7.5 miles in length.
• Aspen Trail: 3 miles
• Au Sable River Trail: 3 miles
• Bright and Glory Lakes Trail: 0.25 miles
• Deer Run Trail: 5 miles
• Old Growth Forest Trail: 1.25 miles
• Mertz Grade Trail: 2 miles
• Weary Legs Trail: 7.5 miles
Hartwick Pines State Park
Hartwick Pines State Park is the largest state park in Michigan’s northern lower peninsula. Fittingly, it also contains the largest stand of virgin white pines remaining in the lower peninsula. Visitors can relax in the Michigan Forest Visitor Center and learn more about Michigan’s forests in an exhibit hall that focuses on the history of logging, forestry, and the numerous ways we utilize trees in our daily lives. It also is the main interpretive center for the 3.9 million acre state forest system managed by the DNR—the largest state forest system in the United States. Visitors are also invited to experience the Logging Museum buildings, where you are taken back in time to life in a 1880s logging camp and explore the history of the white pine logging era, when most of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula was covered with the huge, majestic trees that still can be seen here. In addition to the virgin pines, the park has a good mixture of other forest types that typically grow on the sandy soils found in this part of Michigan. These habitats include northern hardwood forests (beech and maple), jack pine and oak forests, and lowland conifer forests (cedar, spruce and tamarack). Several small lakes, the East Branch of the Au Sable River and its associated streams and wetlands further add to the diversity that makes this park very attractive to wildlife.
A 50-acre stand of virgin pine trees is one of the premier attractions of this site. These trees were saved from the lumberman’s axe. Stroll the Old Growth Forest Foot Trail and let your mind imagine how much of northern Michigan must have looked when these forest monarchs stretched from shore to shore. Because of its age, this vestige of virgin pines is gradually dying, and some are dead. These dead trees are not totally dead, however, since they continue to provide habitat for woodpeckers, chipmunks, woodland mice, bats, salamanders, dozens of insects, and other smaller life forms that thrive on dead or dying trees. Watch for the hairy and downy woodpeckers, the red and white breasted nuthatches, the northern flicker, even the crow-sized pileated woodpecker foraging for insects in the dead snags or downed trees along the trails.
Throughout the spring and into the summer, you cannot walk more than a few feet along the trail without hearing the resident solitary vireo, blackburnian warbler, or black-throated green warbler. Also, watch and listen for the melodic trill of the pine warbler, and the raspy, robin-like call of the scarlet tanager — all popular species of these northern mature pine habitats. Red and black squirrels are very common in the park, and can be seen from dawn to dusk. Black squirrels are actually just a dark color phase of the gray squirrel that is common throughout the eastern United States. Larger mammals like white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, and black bear are also found here. Stop at the visitor center for more information and maps, and ask about these and the other wildlife viewing opportunities available in this special state park.
Portions of this area are open to public hunting. Contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for affected seasons and locations.
From Grayling, drive north on I-75 to Exit 259. Head northbound on M-93 and proceed about 2 miles and look for the park entrance sign on the left side of the road.
Ownership: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Hartwick Pines State Park headquarters, (989) 348-7068.
Size: 9,672 acres
Closest Town: Grayling
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