The Fourth of July weekend is one of the busiest weekends all summer in northern Michigan. Visitors from around the country flood the soft beaches, crystal blue waters, and energized towns to enjoy true American freedom.
All those people can be a great amount of fun -- what's a parade without a big happy crowd. Sometimes though, we need a little peace and quiet.
If you are looking to escape the crowds this Fourth of July weekend, here are a few suggestions.
Hike the Alligator Hill Trail.
Alligator Hill's nine-mile trail system is one of the least visited trails in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is mostly wooded and for much of the hike you will not hear a car, a boat or another voice. And all trails converge on one of the best views in the park. A suggestion: head up the trail about 9:00 with a flash light. Watch the sunset from the overlook and then watch the homestyle fireworks being sent up all along the bay, and then have a little night hike back to your car.
Avoid the "Big Three" Beaches.
Skip Glen Haven, Empire, and North Bar Lake. The next group of beaches -- Bohemian Rd, Otter Creek or Port Oneida -- are just as convenient and with a tiny walk, you will have plenty of room to stretch out. A second suggestion is to walk in the shade instead of walking the beach. Many smaller roads parallel the beaches. Just park and head down the many little wooded trails that will take you to the water.
Enjoy Glen Arbor on Fourth of July evening.
After hosting a lively crowd for the Fourth of July parade, Glen Arbor is surprisingly quiet from later in the afternoon on into the night. Hit the town and then head to Old Settlers Picnic Grounds, Glen Haven, the Dune Climb, or a favorite county road end to watch homestyle fireworks on Glen Lake or Sleeping Bear Bay.
It's All About Timing.
The best times to hit the beaches are before 11 am and after 4 pm. Lake Michigan is too cold to swim in anyway, so beach-comb, watch a sunset, do a paddle, and then, when the crowds come for the heat of the day, head in for a leisurely lunch. There are lots of other advantages to coming early or late. The winds are light and the sun isn't going to damage your skin as much!
If All Else Fails, Break Trail.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the safest places to hike without a trail because hikers are never too far away from M-22 or Lake Michigan. Head up a hill or head down a valley. Cross a field or explore a woods. It is beautiful and mysterious everywhere. Don't worry about going far or fast. And think about feeding all your senses -- so look to smell, hear, and feel as much as you see.
And above all else, enjoy your Independence Day safely!