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Avalanche Preserve: Walking Trail
Separate from the mountain bike trail is the Avalanche Walking Trail, a 3-mile system that climbs the ridge to the viewing decks and then follows the rugged ridge as it loops back to the Avalanche Warming Shelter and parking area.
A majority of the trail is a two-track that provides good footing and is easy to follow. On the east side of the ridge the system includes a side trail and spurs to Division Street and Contractors Drive. Much of the main loop is utilized by participants playing the 18-hole disc golf course.
The route described below is a 2.2-mile hike that follows the main loop is a counter clockwise direction – opposite of disc golf players – and begins with the steep climb to the observation decks at the top.
An easier alternative is to begin with stairway to the viewing decks. It’s 462 steps to the top but there are benches along the way where you can stop and catch your breath. At the observation decks, you can pick up the Walking Trail and continue your hike around the ridge.
Keep in mind that the restrooms at the Avalanche Warming Shelter are open during the summer but not the rest of the facility.
Begin west of the warming shelter at a gate across a service drive that heads uphill to the Boyne City water reservoir facility. The Walking Trail follows the service drive briefly before swinging west (right) off it onto a more rutted two-track.
Now the climbing begins. On the way up to Avalanche Peak you pass a junction with a spur to Pleasant Valley Avenue and cross the mountain bike trail. At Mile 0.4 the Walking Trail tops off in a clearing near a cement tower that once was part of a downhill ski lift. Just to the left are the observation decks.
Take time to enjoy the view, there isn’t a better one south of the Mackinac Bridge. At your feet is Boyne City while stretching out to the west is Lake Charlevoix, often dotted with sailboats. If it’s October, the ridges and hills surrounding the lake will be painted in shades of Halloween.
The area around the ski lift tower can be confusing with two-tracks and trails seemingly headed in every direction. Hikers want to head right near the cement tower where the Walking Trail dips back into the woods. Within a quarter mile the trail passes a picnic table and then descends briefly before making a long climb. You’re following the crest of the ridge here and will be able to peer down into the forest on either side of you.
At Mile 1 you reach the 1,023-foot high point of Avalanche Preserve and then descend another long slope. This descent lasts almost a half mile and leads you through the rugged backside of the preserve. Just before breaking into an open field, you pass a pair of confusing junctions. The first is a spur of the Walking Trail that heads west and remains in the woods. The second is the mountain bike trail. This loop, the easiest to follow, continues north and enters the field.
At Mile 1.6 you arrive at a junction with another two-track that leads due north to Contractors Drive. Head left here to re-enter the forest. You break out at a power line at Mile 2 and within view of the Parkview Apartments. A spur at this junction heads north to Division Street and used mostly by snowmobilers in the winter.
Head west (left) and follow the trail along the utility right-of-way and in less than a quarter mile you’ll return to the Avalanche Warming Shelter.
At the base of the hill is the Avalanche Warming Shelter that includes restrooms, drinking water and loaner skates for the ice skating ring. At the observation area at the top is a pair of viewing decks with benches.
There are no entry or vehicle fees for Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area.
From US-131, north of M-32, follow M-75 into Boyne City. Once in town head west on Division Street and then turn left on Lake Street. Signs at the south end of Lake Street direct you left to the entrance of Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area at 1129 Wilson Street.
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