Run on Mackinac Island: 4 scenic routes

With four unique Run Mackinac events each year, Mackinac Island 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 Island, 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 Mackinac Island.

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

A girl runs on the road near the Mackinac Island boardwalk with trees in the background

Running Around Mackinac Island

  • A run around the outer rim of Mackinac Island 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. This is the route for the Mackinac Island Eight Mile held each September.

What to expect on the 8.2-mile trek around Mackinac Island

A man wearing ear buds runs down an earthen trail into the woods of Mackinac Island State Park

Running the Trails of Mackinac Island

  • For a hillier run through the interior of Mackinac 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, 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 Island 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.

Why Mackinac Island is for runners

A woman runs around a corner and uphill during a Mackinac Island road race with the water and Mackinac Bridge in the background

Running Uphill and Downhill 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 Island residents live. The route then heads 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.

What it’s like to live on Mackinac Island year round

Two runners in a Mackinac Island road race speed downhill through the woods in fall with colored leaves

Running Through the Middle of Mackinac Island

  • For a 10K route, you can start near Fort Mackinac and cross right through the middle of Mackinac Island on Garrison and British Landing roads. You’ll run past old Mackinac Island 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.

4 of the world’s most beautiful road race courses

Map of Scenic Running Routes to Explore While Exercising on Mackinac Island

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 Mackinac 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 Island hosts each year. Each race offers a unique experience of the island’s splendor:

  • The race season kicks 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


  • The Lilac Festival 10K Run & Walk takes place during the annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival in 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 in September. This event follows the classic lakeshore route on M-185 all the way around the outer rim of Mackinac 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.




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