The Best Dog-Friendly Adventures in Michigan

Home of the largest freshwater coast in the United States, Michigan is packed full of adventure opportunities year-round. From mountains and waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula to miles of sand dunes and old growth pine forests, there is something for everyone to enjoy––and the majority of Michigan’s hikes are dog-friendly! It’s true when they say, everything’s better with a dog. So come along with us as we show you a few of our favorite spots in the Great Lakes State to enjoy with your best friend, year round!

Yellow Dog River Falls in Marquette, MI 

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to nearly 200 waterfalls, and while you *should* plan to visit as many as you can, one on our must see list is Yellow Dog Falls in Marquette County! 

It’s a bit of a trek to get to the trailhead, but well worth the 40 minute drive from downtown Marquette. You will be heading off the beaten path down a gravel drive for quite a few miles. 

Once you arrive, the hike is fairly short and easy at only 2.0 miles round trip. But as you near the waterfall, you can hear it rushing from the trail and will be quite surprised at its size! We love this waterfall hike so much because it allows you to get right up close and personal and actually swim in the falls, which the dogs of course LOVE to do. It’s also usually less packed and we have had multiple opportunities to enjoy the waterfall to ourselves. You can also keep going down the trail and stop to many more spots to wade in the river before heading back to town. 

Pro Tip: when you visit Marquette, make sure to stop by Ore Dock Brewery to catch one of the many awesome food trucks and recharge on the patio that’s Fido friendly!

Hogback Mountain in Marquette, MI 

Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this hike is the most challenging we have done to date with the dogs. We don’t have many mountains in Michigan, but this hike is one of the closest you can get, and the strenuous climb is well worth the views. 

The trail starts off with a slow elevation through mildly rocky terrain and forests, and is overall a gorgeous and enjoyable hike. The last half-mile is where things get tricky! The trail leads you through some tight rock “stairs” and ends with an all-four points climb up an upward sloping rock. The dogs had a blast climbing and were excited to finally be at the top, to say the least! Make sure you pack lots of water and EarthBites so you can relax and enjoy the view. The summit boasts panoramic views of Marquette below and Lake Superior. 

This trail totals at only 2.8 miles, but it can feel much longer with the elevation gain so plan for a longer hike. We made it just in time for golden hour, and the sunset views are something we won’t ever forget. This is a definitely a must see spot in Michigan!

A golden retriever sits with his owner on top of Hogback Mountain in Michigan while another one takes a nap
The view from Hogback Mountain and Cassie taking a quick nap after the hike to the top

Empire Bluff Trail in Honor, MI

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Honor, Michigan is one of the most picturesque views you will find in our state. Nationally recognized as the most beautiful place in America, it’s definitely a hike you should have on your list! 

The 1.5 mile hike starts out as moderately hilly through beautiful Maple and Beech forests. As you keep climbing to the top of the dunes, you will see a sneak peek of the view to come through the trees! Keep going, and you will walk along the breathtaking fresh coast views. This is one of the few hikes that dogs are allowed on in the National Park during the summer, but it definitely does not disappoint! 

Pro Tip: Feel like taking a dip after your hike? Head to Peterson Beach nearby, but make sure to call in a to-go order to the nearby Shipwreck Cafe for delicious homemade bread and deli sandwiches before you go! 

Lumberman’s Monument in Oscoda, MI

This is one of those spots that truly takes your breath away the moment you step out of the car and take in the view. Nestled above the intertwining Au Sable River at a historical logging site in the Huron National Forest, Lumberman’s Monument recreational area offers many different dog-friendly hiking options. 

Our favorite hike is a 3.6 mile loop that offers stunning views of the river below at multiple stops, and also takes you though some of the gorgeous old pine forests and ever changing terrain. If you are feeling particularly brave, you can run down the steep dunes to the river for a quick swim in the Au Sable (which of course, the dogs LOVE to do!). This trail is truly a hidden gem and one of my favorite trails to hike year-round, and our first hike on our trip around the Mitten! 

Pro Tip: Take this hike in the Fall or Winter for spectacular views! In the Fall, marvel at peak colors of the tree lined dunes as you take in the view of the river below. In the winter, the snow covered pines and views to the icy river are straight out of a fairytale. There is never a bad time to do this hike!

A golden retriever stands at a lookout at Lumberman's Monument in Michigan

Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Mears, MI

Known around the USA as one the premier ORV areas in the Midwest, Sliver Lake is often left out of must see spots for hiking in Michigan. But we’re about to change that! With over 3 miles of beach and expansive dunes unlike any others you see on the Michigan coast, this hike transports you to another world as you walk through miles of expansive dunes that make you feel like you’re walking through the desert. 

Don’t fret; in true Michigan fashion, there is water on both sides of this desert! Park at the pedestrian lot and make your way up the steep stairs before sinking your feet in the cool sand. Climb down the dunes to wade in Silver Lake on the East side, or take the longer route and make your way over to the rolling waves of Lake Michigan. Or sit up on the top of the tallest dune and watch the show happening over in the ORV dune area. Either way, this is an experience you won’t find anywhere else in Michigan! 

Pro Tip: Have a 4WD vehicle? Let some air out of your tires, purchase a safety flag and the necessary ORV stickers and head out for a drive on the dunes! The area is pet-friendly and is truly SO. MUCH. FUN. Just remember to take it easy out there if you bring your pets along; the dunes are super busy (and BUMPY!) and dogs should stay in the car unless you’re parked in one of the designated areas. Remember to keep your pets on leash here, too; it’s not worth the risk with ORV vehicles zooming around nearby! If you’re really feeling brave, though–try your hand at climbing Test Hill, just make sure you’ve got some experience driving around the dunes before-hand and take it slow once you get to the top so you don’t catch air coming down the other side! 

A golden retriever in goggles sits in the sand at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan while another walks through sand towards the camera
Barley getting ready for his ride up Test Hill; Cassie tearing up the hiking dunes!

Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Holland MI

If you’re not yet noticing a theme with our favorite hikes in Michigan, you should be now! Saugatuck Dunes has a multitude of different hiking trails all available from the same trailhead; but the best part is they all lead out to the nearly 2.5 mile shoreline of beautiful Lake Michigan. 

The hikes can be fairly invigorating depending on the trail you take, but all take place starting though some stunning old growth forests and lead you straight to a smaller dune climb at the beach. The beaches in Michigan are constantly evolving due to water levels rising, so it’s like visiting a new spot every year. I love that this hike is a bit of a workout to get there, but you can stop and rest as long as you like on the beach and the dogs can get their fill of swimming in the crisp, cool waters of Lake Michigan. 

Pro Tip: Visit this State Park in the off season! The beaches are usually packed from June–September, but we always make a pit stop here after visiting the Holland Tulip Festival in May a few miles away in downtown Holland, which is also dog-friendly. It truly makes for the perfect day trip!

A golden retriever stands close to the camera while smiling with an out of focus beach in the background
Barley enjoying the beach

Get Out There!

This article truly only scratches the surface of all of the gorgeous areas there are to visit with your furry friends in Michigan. Whether you’re taking a day trip (which we do all the time!) or planning a vacation to enjoy the fresh coast of Michigan, we hope you’re able to check out a few of our favorite spots! From dunes and beaches to forests, mountains and waterfalls, Michigan has something to offer for everyone–and the best part is, you can definitely bring the dogs! 

In the area? Check out our dog-friendly guide to Cleveland or Northern Michigan!