Hartwick Pines State Park
Referred to simply as “the Pines,” this 49-acre forest is the largest contiguous stand of old-growth white pine in the Lower Peninsula. Some of the largest trees are more than 300 years old and stand 130 feet tall with trunk in excess of 40 inches diameter. Such towering pines are often the largest tree most people ever see in Michigan and their size and grandeur overwhelm most visitors, especially children who would stand there and gaze at that massive trunk and unknowingly gain a sense, and maybe even an appreciation, for old growth forests.
Winding through the Pines is Old Growth Trail, a paved path that provides access to a reconstructed logging camp, big wheels and a logging museum that recounts Michigan's White Pine Era from 1840 to 1910. The interpretive area is fascinating, but there is more to this state park than virgin white pine.
At 9,672 acres, Hartwick is the largest unit in the Lower Peninsula and has a diverse terrain that includes four small lakes, stands of virgin jack pine and hemlock and rolling high hills that overlook the broad valley of the Au Sable River's East Branch. The park offers activities year-round, everything from morel mushroom hunting and trout fishing in the spring to hiking and mountain biking in the summer and Nordic skiing in the winter.
Beyond the Old Growth Trail, Hartwick has 6 miles of designated foot trails with the longest walk being the Au Sable River Trail. The 3-mile loop begins from a trailhead on the east side of M-93 and passes through a hardwood and conifer forest, twice crosses the East Branch of the AuSable River, a noted trout stream, and at one point reaches the height of almost 1,300 feet. The Mertz Grade Trail shares the same trailhead with the AuSable River Trail but swings south after crossing M-93. This 2-mile trail loops around Hartwick Lake before recrossing M-93.
The ski trails at Hartwick Pines are open to mountain bikers spring through fall and make for a 10-mile system that basically forms a 7.5-mile loop with two crossover spurs. The route is a wide path through a rolling forested terrain and is rated for beginner and intermediate bikers. The bike trailhead is in the day-use area parking lot at the end of the park road.
|Difficulty - Easy|
|Difficulty - Moderate|
|Groomed Classic Skiing|