Breathe in the sweet aromas in native plant gardens and along hiking trails scattered across the U.P.
With the coming of spring, many locations across the U.P. burst into life. Catch some of these native spring wildflower spots as you travel from Ironwood to Drummond Island.
- The Ignace Ranger District Native Plant Garden on US Highway 2 is a great find for wildflower lovers looking for this region’s native plants. An abundance of woodland and prairie species can be found here throughout the spring and summer, including trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit and yellow lady’s slipper.
- The Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center on US Highway 2 near Watersmeet is home to two native plant gardens: the Upland garden features bottlebrush, Canada wildrye and big bluestem grasses; white meadowsweet; blue-eyed grass; smooth oxeye, woodland and more. Each species is identified and there is an interpretive panel about the pollinators. Come in late summer to see the butterflies attracted to the yellow sunflowers, purple bergamot and Canada goldenrod.
The second garden is a work in progress. This rain/wetland garden includes Canadian anemone, white turtlehead, parasol whitetop, purplestem asters, spotted joe pye weed, boneset, northern blue flag iris, ringed and common fox sedge, the rare seep monkeyflower and more. Monarch caterpillars feed on the garden’s milkweed and this is a good place to watch dragonflies in the summer.
- Hiking Trails
- If you’re looking for a more adventurous wildflower journey, visit the Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area 10 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge on US Highway 2. In June, you may just catch sight of a rare Pitcher’s thistle or Lake Huron Tansy as you walk along these remote dunes.
- On the Wolf Mountain Hiking Trail on US Highway 2 between Wakefield and Marenisco, you can expect to encounter these spring wildflowers: yellow violets, false Solomon’s-seal, bloodroot and more. The trail is short but quite steep, so pace yourself and enjoy the beauty around you.
- The Imp Lake Trail is off of US Highway 2 on Forest Road 3978 near Watersmeet. It features a hemlock forest and bog which are strewn with spring flowers like the baneberry, wild sarsaparilla, Labrador tea and leatherleaf.
- The Ninga Aki Pathway is a rare gem along Lake Michigan in the Portage Bay State Forest Campground on the Garden Peninsula. You will find it 10 miles south of Garden via County Road 483 and Portage Bay Road. This beautiful pathway consists of the Lake Michigan Loop (2 miles) that takes you along a unique limestone beach with a view of Portage Bay and the Bog Lake Loop (0.7 miles). Follow this shorter loop’s boardwalk trails through a blanket of wildflowers and ferns brightening the dense cedar and balsam forest floor to a picturesque view of Bog Lake.
While you are on the Garden Peninsula, visit the Fayette Historic State Park with its preserved iron smelting townsite and breathtaking views of limestone cliffs towering above Snail Shell Harbor. Some of the cedars growing on the cliffs are said to be over 1,000 years old!
- Natural Areas
- Grand Island National Recreation Area is half-mile off the mainland community of Munising. It is filled with a plethora of spring wildflowers like Dutchman’s breeches, wild geraniums and spring beauty. This area also boasts of the Old Farm Field, a restoration project created to reintroduce native plants back into the farm field landscape. Can’t come in the spring? This is a wildflower treasure chest until October.
- As spring warms into summer, the Sylvania Wilderness Recreation Area is where several rare orchids find a home and the white pines grow tall (having never been logged). You can reach it off US Highway 2 on County Road 535 near Watersmeet.