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.