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Fayette Historic State Park

Trail Details

Eastern Upper Peninsula
N 45° 43' 4.80"
W 086° 38' 57.48"
1.4 to 4 miles
Trail Type
Foot path, Nordic ski trail
Limestone bluffs, Snail Shell Harbor, hardwoods
Nearest City or Town
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During the summer, Fayette Historic State Park is teeming with tourists and guides in period customs in the old townsite around Snail Shell Harbor. But the rest of the 711-acre park features almost 5 miles of wooded foot paths including Overlook Trail that lives up to its name for beautiful vantage points from a high limestore bluff.
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Michigan’s favorite ghost town is located in Fayette Historic State Park.  Fayette was a company iron smelting town that, in its heyday in 1880s, boosted 500 residents, a hotel, a company store, an opera house and the blast furnaces and kilns needed to turn ore into pig iron. When the furnaces closed in 1891, the town died quickly, and today, a century later, more than 20 buildings are still standing.

During the summer, this historic village is teeming with tourists and guides in period customs. Most visitors never make it beyond the ghost town. They spent the day inspecting the buildings of Fayette or learning about the area in the park’s outstanding visitor center.

But the 711-acre state park is more than just a collection of restored buildings. Outside of the townsite Fayette’s trail system consists of four loops that total almost 5 miles. The Overlook Trail is the shortest, at 1.6 miles, but unquestionably the most scenic. Three times along this trail, you enjoy “overlooks” of beautiful Snail Shell Harbor.

The short trek combined with a visit to the park’s visitor center and a stroll through the historic townsite is a full afternoon for most families.

In the winter, this spot on the Garden Peninsula is so desolate ... it's ghost-like. When there is sufficient snow, the 711-acre state park features five miles of groomed trails that wind through beech and maple hardwood forests and, of course, lead into that ghost town.
Amenities & Services
Difficulty - Easy
Groomed Classic Skiing
Foot Path
Trail Guide

Overlook Trail

The trailhead for the Overlook Trail – post No. 1 –  is located along the entrance drive, but there is a spur that connects the 1.4-mile semi-loop to the visitors center. Beginning and ending at the visitors center turns this hike into a 1.9-mile trek.

The trail begins in the woods but immediately enters a clearing. A century ago, the Jackson Iron Company maintained a massive hay barn here for its sixty teams of horses and five yokes of oxen. Even more impressive than the rubbled remains, however, is the first view just around the corner. The Overlook Trail follows the limestone bluffs above Snail Shell Harbor, and whenever the trees thin out, you’re rewarded with a view of the historic townsite below.

Within a quarter-mile, you reach the second overlook. This is the best spot to sit and gaze, a panorama of the entire town. You’re so close to the edge of the steep-sided bluff that the park has erected a stone fence. At Mile 0.5 and marked by post No. 2 is the third overlook situated well beyond the harbor. From here, you can see across Big Bay de Noc on a clear day to the shore of the Stonington Peninsula 10 miles away on the west side.

The views from the limestone bluffs are good – so good that it’s easy to miss the impressive rock outcroppings that border the trail to the east. Just before Mile 1, the trail swings into a second-growth hardwood forest, and you gently climb to post No. 3 that marks the junction of a crossover spur. Head left to continue following the Overlook Trail in a clockwise direction.

The last leg of the hike is a level walk in the woods along the backside of the loop. At Mile 1.6, you arrive at post No. 4, where you head left to pop out at the park road just 0.3 miles east of the visitors center.

Fayette Groomed Ski Trails

The groomed trails can be combined for an excellent 4-mile tour that begins by leaving your vehicle at the park headquarters; the only parking area plowed in the winter. Practically across the street is the trailhead and post No. 1 for the Overlook Trail, which in the winter is a 1.4-mile semi-loop that skirts the edge of a towering limestone bluff while passing three views of Snail Shell Harbor and Big Bay De Noc.

At post No. 4, the tour continues by crossing the entrance drive and continuing south of the park road into the heavily wooded corner of the park. At Mile 2.3, you curve to the west and encounter the longest downhill run of the day. The trail bottoms out at post No. 6, where you continue west and within a half-mile emerge in the park’s deserted campground. The loop heads north from here for another scenic stretch. You begin by following the Big Bay De Noc shoreline and then end in “downtown Fayette” at Mile 3.2.

This is the best part. When there is sufficient snow, you can ski throughout the town, weaving between the hotel and the lime kilns, the machine shop, the opera house and the superintendent's home. You end up on a long pier, a good spot to enjoy a thermos of hot chocolate while watching a handful of anglers jig for perch in the scenic harbor. No point hurrying; your car is only a quarter-mile away.


The Fayette Townsite Visitors Center has exhibits and displays devoted to the creation and downfall of the town. The heart of the museum is a scale model of Fayette as it was in the late 1880s.  The center and buildings are open daily from mid-May to mid-October from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and until dusk from mid-June through Labor Day weekend.

Within Fayette is Furnace Hill Lodge. Opened in 2006, the lodge offers three bedrooms, a modern bathroom and a full kitchen, all decorated in the woodsy décor you would expect at a state park.  The facility sleeps up to 10 people and is located within a short walk of the Overlook Trailhead. Fayette also has a modern campground with 61 sites.

Furnace Hill Lodge is open year-round and you can reserve it six months in advance through the Michigan State Parks Reservation Service (800-44-PARKS; www.midnrreservations.com) The daily rate is $116 on weekdays and $142 on the weekends with a two-night minimum stay required for Friday and Saturday nights.  Campground sites range from $25-$29 a night during the summer and are also be reserved through the Michigan State Parks Reservation Service.

Hours & Fees

You can enjoy the trails and wander through the historic townsite any time of the year even when the visitors center is closed.

A Michigan State Park Recreation Pass or daily vehicle permit is required to enter the park but there are no additional fees for visitors center and historic township.


To reach Fayette State Park from US-2, turn south on M-183 onto the Garden Peninsula. The town of Garden is reached in 9 miles and the first entrance to the state park in 16 miles.


For more information contact the state park headquarters at 906-644-2603 or visit the Michigan History Center website at Michigan.gov/FayetteTownsite.

Geo-referenced maps from MichiganTrailMaps.com range from $1.99 to $2.99 each.

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