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Planning the ultimate Lake Michigan trail

Lake Michigan
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The Lake Michigan shoreline at Frankfort, Michigan

What's being billed as the Midwest version of the Appalachian trail (albeit a…flatter version) is the subject of a conference in Saugatuck next week.

Planners will discuss a multi-state, 16-hundred-mile trail route along Lake Michigan.

Representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois say a lot of the needed trails and roads are already built or in the planning process.

What's missing are camp sites, access points, and marketing. Dave Lemberg is a geography professor at Western Michigan University. He’s also  the conference organizer. 

"If we can create and jointly market this type of destination, the Lake Michigan circle would allow people to do this type of long trip, through downtown Chicago, through our state parks, [and so on].”

There aren't a lot of specifics yet about costs or logistics. But Lemberg says there is a larger vision for a unified biking, hiking, and even kayaking route. 

"People could do perhaps multi-modal vacations, where people who want to paddle can paddle, while the rest of the party bikes, and somebody else drives the van. So people can get on and off this corridor. They don't need to do it all at once."

Lamberg says to make Lake Michigan a trekking destination, all four states need to collaborate.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.