Chain of Lakes Water Trail

Exploring the Chain of Lakes Water Trail in Northwest Michigan

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail is a hidden gem nestled in the picturesque landscape of northwest Michigan. This 100+ mile inland water trail winds through 12 pristine lakes and interconnected rivers, eventually flowing into the East Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. Whether you’re an avid paddler or a nature enthusiast, this trail offers something for everyone.

Upper Chain and Lower Chain

The Chain of Lakes is divided into two sections: the Upper Chain and the Lower Chain. These sections are separated by a dam in the charming Village of Bellaire. Let’s explore what each chain has to offer:

Upper Chain

  • Over 20 miles of beginner and intermediate routes wind through seven small inland lakes.
  • The turquoise waters of Torch Lake, Michigan’s second-largest lake, are a highlight.
  • Paddle through meandering rivers and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Lower Chain

  • A 30-mile advanced-level water trail awaits those seeking a challenge.
  • Lake Bellaire offers a 10.2-mile intermediate-level loop trail.
  • Explore the Grass River Route, Torch Lake Route (a 40-mile advanced loop), Lake Skegemog Route, and Elk Lake Route.

Connecting People and Communities

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail isn’t just about paddling; it’s about connecting people to the natural environment and vibrant communities. As you explore, you’ll encounter charming towns, friendly locals, and breathtaking scenery. Whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, or fishing, this trail invites you to immerse yourself in Michigan’s beauty.

Plan Your Adventure

  • Visit the Chain of Lakes Water Trail website for detailed information.
  • Purchase a waterproof paddler guide or access the digital map via the Avenza app.
  • All 84 access sites along the trail are open to the public, thanks to the efforts of Paddle Antrim, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting water resources.
Chain of Lakes Water Trail in Northwest Michigan

State-Designated Water Trail

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail is recognized as a state-designated water trail by the Michigan State Water Trail program, administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Signs were installed at each access site in 2020, making navigation easier for paddlers.

Funding and Safety

This project received funding from the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, the Department of Environmental Quality Office of the Great Lakes, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Remember to review the Michigan Great Lakes Water Trails Safety Statement before embarking on your adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a first-timer, the Chain of Lakes Water Trail promises an unforgettable experience. So grab your paddle, explore the interconnected lakes, and discover the magic of northwest Michigan!
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