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Run on Mackinac: 4 of the island’s most scenic routes

If you missed the first two road races of the year on Mackinac Island, no worries. There are two more yet to come.

Runner Wearing Backwards Baseball Cap Taking a Selfie During Run Along Mackinac Island With four unique events each year, Mackinac is one of the country’s leading destinations for runners. In fact, the island is a great place for a run even when it’s not a race day.

If you’ve run on Mackinac, you know. It’s a lot easier to push yourself through the next mile when there’s the reward of incredible views around every corner. There are just so many beautiful sights to inspire you on a run around the island.

So, what will become your favorite running route on Mackinac? We compiled a list of four scenic running routes of varying distances for you to experience when you visit the island:

  • A run around the outer rim of Mackinac on M-185 is the classic route. Not only is the road relatively flat, but it’s right along the water the whole way so you get to enjoy both gorgeous waterfront views and the cooling lake breeze. It’s a little over 8 miles all the way around, or about 13 kilometers.


  • For a hillier run through the interior of the island, there’s literally an endless variety of paved roads and earthen trails you can combine to come up with any distance. Several routes are posted on plotaroute.com, for example. Here’s one that’s just shorter than a 5k: Start in the Mission District at the southeast corner of the island, run up to the center of Mackinac past Arch Rock and Skull Cave and then back downhill into town. The route rises about 160 feet in the first two kilometers, then cruises downhill pretty much the rest of the way.Map of Scenic Running Routes to Explore While Exercising on Mackinac Island


  • Another 5k route from the Mission District takes you northward on a steady climb up about 130 feet in the first mile to Harrisonville, where many year-round Mackinac residents live, then steadily back down on Cadotte Avenue past Grand Hotel and the Jewel Golf Course. The route drops 200 feet in about one mile on the way back to Main Street.


  • For a 10K route, you can start near Fort Mackinac and cross right through the middle of the island on Garrison and British Landing roads. You’ll run past old cemeteries, the island’s airport and historic Wawashkamo Golf Club all the way to British Landing. There’s a steep ascent in the first kilometer followed by an even steeper drop, then another rise and fall as you run back toward picturesque Arch Rock along Scott’s Cave Road and Crooked Tree Road.

Of course, there are limitless route possibilities on an island with more than 70 miles of paved and unpaved trails. You could design your own route around Sugar Loaf, for example, or go along the West Bluff north toward Stonecliffe. If you dare, punish yourself with a run up to Fort Holmes, the highest point on the island at more than 300 feet above the water.

Or, you could train on any of the routes used for the four distinct road races that Mackinac hosts each year. Each race offers a unique experience of the island’s splendor:

  • The race season kicked off in May with the Fort2Fort Challenge, a five-mile run that starts with a rifle salute at Fort Mackinac and goes up to Fort Holmes and back.Runner Wearing Cap and Shorts Enjoying a Jog Along the Side of the Road on Mackinac Island


  • The Lilac Festival 10K Run & Walk took place during the island’s annual Lilac Festival in early June. That run routes through downtown, past shoreline views of the Mackinac Bridge and along paved, tree-covered paths in the island’s interior.


  • The next race on the calendar is the Mackinac Island Eight Mile Run & Walk on Saturday, Sept. 7. This event follows the classic route on M-185 all the way around the outer rim of the island. It’s the only state highway in the country that prohibits motor vehicles, making it a popular path for runners and bikers all summer long.


  • The final race of the season is the largest. The Great Turtle Half Marathon & 5.7 Mile Run/Walk is expected to attract more than 2,500 participants on Saturday, Oct. 26, which is the final weekend of the prime tourism season on Mackinac. The event coincides with the island’s annual Halloween activities and is a great time to catch stunning fall colors as well as end-of-season sales in the shops and boutiques downtown.
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