📍Dow Gardens 📷 @calvinmarteen
Just being in the great outdoors is a magical experience all its own. But, exploring the longest canopy walk in the country, ecotouring through a National Wildlife Refuge, or trekking close to 100 miles of scenic trails? That's next-level connection with nature.
On a boating ecotour, a rented bike, or just your own two feet — Pure Michigan's unfiltered beauty is yours to feel firsthand here. Just bring your sense of adventure; our Great Lakes Bay trails and treetop adventures, wetlands and wildlife are calling...
📍Dow Gardens 📷 @calvinmarteen
Natural Wonders + Outdoor Adventures
Dow Gardens (Midland) 110 acres of breathtaking botanical gardens, with over 22,000 flowering bulbs in spring and more than 35,000 annuals in spring & summer alone. Tour the Color Garden, Estate Garden, Rose Garden and more, then pause for a peaceful moment at Pineside — a secluded grove with a tranquil reflecting pool.
📍Dow Gardens 📷 @calvinmarteen
Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens (Midland) Within Dow Gardens' campus, this 54-acre forest holds the longest canopy walk in the United States — 1,400 feet long, 40 feet above the forest floor, and fully ADA-accessible. Lounge in a cargo net hammock nestled high in a grove of spruces, rest and reflect inside welcoming wooden pods, and feel the magnitude of this natural wonder wash over you — maybe while standing on a glass-bottomed overlook, four stories high above a four-zoned orchard!
📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @megsymarie13
Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips (Saginaw) Ecotours through the "Everglades of Michigan" — over 19,000 combined acres of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and Shiawassee River State Game Area — rich with waterfowl migrations and rare wildlife sightings. Explore it all aboard a shallow-draft boat and alongside an expert local guide.
📍Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge 📷 @ninaneuschuetz
Bay City State Park (Bay City) One of "The 20 Best Michigan State Parks", with almost a mile of natural Saginaw Bay shoreline along the Lake Huron coast — plus wetland woods, meadows, marshes, and prairies. Enjoy a National Natural Landmark, Tobico Marsh, almost five miles of trails, and two three-story observation towers, perfect for wildlife viewing.
📍Bay City State Park 📷 @shawnalaurenphoto
Chippewa Nature Center (Midland) One of the largest private, non-profit nature centers in the U.S. — spanning 1,200 acres of wetlands and woodlands — with 19 miles of trails and an observation tower with views over the wetlands. Enjoy two river overlooks, explore the Arboretum's 100+ species of Michigan-native trees and shrubs, and stop to marvel at the Oxbow's mature woods and abundant wildlife.
📍Chippewa Nature Center 📷 @megsymarie13
Frankenmuth Aerial Park (Frankenmuth) Sprawling aerial ropes course and ziplining adventure, designed to give everyone a signature experience in the trees! Swing through the shaded canopy of this lush forest — and consider a twilight climb to experience it all illuminated at dusk.
📍Frankenmuth Aerial Park 📷 @ashsmithphoto
PedAle Trolley and Sunrise Pedal Trolley (Frankenmuth, Bay City) Book these custom-built, eight- to 15-person trolleys — in either Frankenmuth or Bay City — and pedal off into the sunset, surrounded by natural beauty. Don't have eight riders to rent the full trolley? Buy single seats on Frankenmuth's PedAle Trolley (offered Thursdays and Saturdays for the 9 p.m. tour), or try their Circle Cruiser anytime for smaller crews of four to six!
Trails, Hiking + Biking
📍Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge 📷 @lonbon22
Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail (Multiple Cities) An almost-100-mile, non-motorized regional trail system — part of the longest designated state trail in the United States, Iron Belle Trail — made for hiking, biking, and birding. Enjoy three main trail legs — the 30-mile Pere Marquette Rail Trail, 17.5-mile Bay City Area Riverwalk/Railtrail, and 11-mile Saginaw Valley Rail Trail — then, branch off to the many network trails that intertwine.
📍The Tridge 📷 @mekilouise
Ray's Bike Shop (Bay City, Midland) Comfort bikes to fat bikes, Surrey singles to doubles (and pedicabs, too) — rent here at any of the region's three locations, and ride on!
Jack's Bicycle Shop (Bay City) Affordable full- and half-day rentals and an impressive fleet — singles to tandems, mountain bikes to hybrids.
Birding + Wildlife Viewing
📍Wildlife Drive 📷 @yoga_mary
Saginaw Bay Birding Trail (Multiple Cities) 40-site birding trail weaving 142 breathtaking miles along the Saginaw Bay shoreline and the conserved lands that surround — with half of its sites here in Bay and Saginaw Counties! Start off at the official trail hub inside Discovery Preserve — a natural oasis in urban Bay City — and enjoy every epic birding experience that follows, from Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area to Green Point Environmental Learning Center.
📍Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge 📷 @panakk
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (Saginaw) Almost 10,000 acres of marsh, bottomland hardwood forest, and grasslands — designated a U.S. Important Bird Area — attracting over 270 species of birds and peak spring waterfowl populations of almost 20,000! Enjoy four trails and a seasonal auto tour route, plus three wildlife observation decks (two with spotting scopes).
📍Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge 📷 @hippie_nerd7
Wildlife Drive (Saginaw) 6.5-mile auto tour route through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge — open June - September, sunrise to sunset. Wind past forests, grasslands, and marshes, spotting wildlife from the comfort of your car.
📍Wildlife Drive 📷 @eric_g_fletcher
Shiawassee River State Game Area (St. Charles) One of Michigan's seven Wetland Wonders, with nearly 10,000 acres adjoining the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Witness everything from abundant waterfowl to swans and shorebirds, and hike the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail that passes through for even more great observation.
Tobico Marsh (Bay City) One of the largest freshwater coastal wetlands on the Great Lakes — named a National Natural Landmark — and an ideal staging area for migratory birds. Hike almost five miles of trails and view wildlife from two 32-foot observation towers.
📍Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Park 📷 @baycitymilove
Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area (Pinconning) One of Michigan's Wetland Wonders and one of the most visited areas along the Saginaw Bay for water birds. View large populations of migrating waterfowl and one of Michigan's largest and oldest colonies of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Green Point Environmental Learning Center (Saginaw) Learning center with a wildlife viewing room, set on 82 acres just outside the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. See migrating warblers or nearly 150 other species observed here, and enjoy two miles of trails that wind through the forest.