When your hiking route winds past a half-dozen jade pools, you need to be a little more selective in picking where to camp for the night. For starters, you want a view of the water so you can see both colorful foliage and the moon reflected on the surface (neither of which gets old, ever). Second, you want seclusion—a sense of privacy, like you have the lake entirely to yourself. For these reasons, I know I’ve hit the jackpot at Byron Lake midway through a 16.6-mile loop in central Michigan. I even have a new criterion to add to the list: You want a sandy beach campsite so you can walk around without shoes and lounge comfortably when contemplating what makes a great campsite.
Distance: 16.6 miles
Time: 2 days
From the East trailhead
(1) Head east on Trail #1, following blue blazes to a fork at mile .7.
(2) Continue 1.8 miles clockwise on Trail #14 through a hardwood forest to South Hoist Lake.
(3) Merge onto a logging road and walk .2 mile south.
(4) Continue west on Trails #12 and #13 to Byron Lake at mile 6.9.
(5) Back on the main path, keep hiking clockwise to reach the original junction at mile 15.9 (merge with a logging road at mile 12.6 for .3 mile).
(6) Retrace your steps .7 mile to the parking lot.
Byron Lake (mile 6.9)
Snag the trophy campsite on the northeastern end’s broad, sandy shore (first-come, first-serve). You might awake to a maze of various animal tracks in the sand: This lake attracts white-tail deer, beavers, red foxes, otters, and mink.
If you stretch this loop over three days (with a Friday afternoon start), spend the first night by Hoist Lakes at a primo campsite. From the main path (near mile 2.5), follow wooden signposts to the twin lakes. The best campsite (first-come, first-serve) overlooks South Hoist from a rock shelf, like box seats at a baseball stadium.
Leaves start turning the third week of September; expect fully yellow aspens, red black cherry trees, and red-and-yellow oaks and hard maples by early October.
This route passes seven named lakes (and a handful of unnamed ones), so opportunities abound for swimming and fishing. For the latter, cast for sunfish in North Hoist or brown trout in South Hoist (fishing license required).
Trailhead 44.648414, -83.748608; 59 miles north of Standish on MI 65 Season April through October; either end of that spectrum for best temps and fewest bugs Permits Self-issue a permit at the trailhead Custom mapbit.do/HoistLakesContactfs.usda.gov/hmnfTrip databackpacker.com/HoistLakes
- State: MI
- City: Detroit, MI
- Distance: 16.6
- Contact: www.fs.usda.gov/hmnf
- Land Type: National Forest