Find A Trail
Beal Tree Plantation
To reach Beal Plantation you head east on M-72 and just beyond the I-75 overpass turn into the Grayling Industrial Park. Within this cluster of warehouses, offices and manufacturing plants, across the street from AuSable Construction and next door to the Alro Steel loading docks, is a small tract of woods.
There is a reason for that. You’ve arrived at a historical site, what many believe is the oldest documented tree plantation in North America.
In 1888, not long after lumberjacks had turned most of Northern Michigan into a wasteland of stumps, William Beal arrived in Grayling and set up an 80-acre experiment tree station here on the edge of town. Beal planted 41 species of trees and experimented by cultivating some seedlings and not treating the land for others.
Michigan State University's first professor of botany wanted to know which trees and which method would be the most suitable ones to re-forest Michigan. As one interpretive plaque noted "this was perhaps the first step towards forest management in Michigan" and early recognition of how to recover from the era of exploitative logging.
A century later the result of Beal's work is obvious. Today more than half of the state is covered by 19 million acres of forest of which 35 percent of it is in public ownership.
Only 7.4 acres of the original plantation remains but in 2000 the Department of Natural Resources and several groups honored Beal by upgrading the quarter-mile trail into a ADA path, built a parking area and installed a handful of displays.
The walk is short and easy, making it an ideal place to take young children for their first lesson in tree identification. In the winter, Beal Plantation is where locals head for a quick snowshoe trek after work.
But this small preserve should also be a pilgrimage for anybody who loves to wander the woods of Northern Michigan.
Even if it is in the middle of an industrial park.
Beal Forest Loop is only a quarter-mile loop that passes four interpretive displays and a variety of trees.
The most impressive ones are a stand of towering red just east of the junction. In another 20 yards is an impressive white pine that will strain the neck of anybody trying to see the crown of it. It was these trees that help Beal determined that such pines along with Norway spruce were the best species for the sandy soil of northern Michigan.
From the junction of the loop you backtrack 20 yards to the trailhead ... or hike the trail again for another look at these amazing trees.
Other than parking, there is no other amenities at the Beal Trailhead.
There are no fees for visiting the Beal Tree Plantation.
From Business I-75 in Grayling head east on M-72 and then south on Industrial Park Drive to reach the entrance to Beal Plantation in a half mile.
For more information contact the Grayling Visitor's Bureau (800-937-8837; grayling-mi.com/).
Shop Our Trail Maps & Guidebooks
Need a good trail map or a guidebook to what lies beyond the pavement? Check out the MichiganTrailMaps.com Trail Shop stocked with our latest backpacking maps and books personally autographed by the authors who wrote them! It's the best and most affordable way to purchase maps and trail books to Michigan.
Heading up north and need a map right away? Stop at one of our growing network of
outdoor shops, visitor centers and stores that sell MichiganTrailMaps.com books
Click here for a complete list.