725 Miles, Four Days
They call them the Great Lakes for many reasons: forgotten beaches, forested dunes, and stunning views. This trip offers all of the above, but it starts inland in Grand Rapids, voted Beer City USA in 2012. (Our favorite: Brewery Vivant’s Trebuchet Double IPA.) From there, head 40 minutes northwest toward Lake Michigan on Interstate 96. Turn north on Route 31 and stop for lunch in the garden at Pekadill’s in Whitehall, known for killer BBQ pork sandwiches and even better Hudsonville ice cream. After Manistee, take Highway 22 north to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and make camp at D. H. Day Campground—then skid down the 450-foot-high dunes to the lake. —Jacob Baynham
Explore the Straits of Mackinac
The next day, continue up the coast and onto the Leelanau Peninsula, arguably the most scenic spit of land in the Midwest, thanks to its sandy beaches, fruit farms, and centuries-old fishing villages. At its northernmost end, climb the Grand Traverse Lighthouse for sweeping views of the Manitou Passage ($4), then head north to Wilderness State Park outside Petoskey, where rustic cabins start at $65 (michigan.gov/dnr) and you can ride eight miles of mellow singletrack on the North Country and Sturgeon Bay trails (rentals available in Petoskey, from $35 per day). Your third day will take you past Michigan’s iconic five-mile-long Big Mac bridge, which connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Take a dip where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, then head south to the famed Au Sable River, where Trout Unlimited was founded.
Hit the Sand at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Take Route 23 to East River Road and pitch a tent near the river at Monument Campground ($15). Wake up and hike the 14-mile Highbanks Hiking Trail (watch for kingfishers), then drive south along Route 23 to the university hub of Ann Arbor, which is chock-full of great food. Our picks: the falafel sandwich at Jerusalem Garden ($5) and the grilled corn tapas at newly opened Isalita ($4).
Next Up: Pond Hopping: Rochester to Lake Champlain, New York