Kayaking Day Trips for Michigan Families

These kayaking and canoeing day trips are perfect for family bonding under Michigan’s golden canopy.

As summer makes way for autumn, Michigan transforms into a tableau of radiant reds, brilliant oranges and luminous yellows. Our state, adorned with more than 11,000 inland lakes and countless rivers, offers an unparalleled opportunity to view the beautiful fall foliage from a unique perspective – in a kayak or canoe. 

We’ve found some great trips for families. These rivers, each unique from the others on the list, serve as a window to the state’s rich biodiversity and fascinating geography. As you paddle under a golden canopy of leaves and against a soundtrack of softly lapping water, you’ll be reminded of the simple, profound beauty of nature. And the best part? You’ll be making unforgettable memories with your loved ones. 

Remember to check local conditions and prepare adequately, keeping safety a priority. Make sure to model wearing a life vest for your little ones.

AuSable River, Oscoda

Begin your journey on the lower stretch of the AuSable River, three hours north of Detroit. This gently flowing waterway offers calm currents and scenic surroundings, making it ideal for families. The vibrant forest along the riverbanks comes alive with color in the fall, painting a breathtaking backdrop for your paddle. Kayak rentals and guided trips are available for a stress-free outing. The North Country Canoe Rental offers canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and tubes at family-friendly prices. 

Crystal River, Glen Arbor

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, four hours northwest of Detroit, is where you can access Crystal River’s clean, clear waters. This shallow, meandering river winds its way through hardwood forests and past sweeping sand dunes. Crystal River Outfitters is the perfect place to rent a kayak, canoe, paddle board or bike, with full-service trips and tips. Don’t forget to stop at the charming town of Glen Arbor for a hot apple cider post-trip! 

Indian River, Indian River

The Indian River in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula, about 3 1/2 hours north of Detroit, is perfect for an immersive foliage tour. The calm, winding river is surrounded by an array of deciduous trees, making it a vibrant spectacle in the fall. Burt Lake and Mullet Lake on either end of the river offer ample picnic spots for a family lunch.

Two Hearted River, Newberry

For the ultra-adventurous family, there’s nothing like the Upper Peninsula’s Two Hearted River, famously written about by Ernest Hemingway. It’s just under eight hours north of Detroit. The river’s swift currents promise an exhilarating ride amidst a splendid fall backdrop. The rugged beauty of this river offers a serenity that is unmatched, making it a must-visit. Be sure to stop at the Rainbow Lodge for kayak rentals and expert advice.


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