Nature play

The Best Outdoor Family Activities in Petoskey, Michigan

Does your family love destinations where outdoor opportunities abound? If so, let’s be friends. And also, you’re in the right place! Whether you live in Michigan or not, I would hands down recommend the city of Petoskey. Regardless of the season, there are plenty of activities in Petoskey, Michigan for outdoor adventure-seeking families!

In the summertime, the pristine water and beautiful beaches make it the perfect choice. In the fall, northern Michigan is one of the best places to see colors on the trees and visit farms and farm markets. And things don’t shut down in the winter! It’s a great place for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and pretty much any winter activity you can think of!

After visiting Petoskey every year for at least the past seven years, we’ve narrowed it down to the absolute best places to visit with our little guy during every season. Here are all of our tried and tested favorites!

Biking on the Little Traverse Wheelway

This is a paved path that follows the shoreline around Little Traverse Bay. It stretches for 23 miles from the city of Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, which makes it perfect for biking. It passes right through Petoskey and offers beautiful views of Lake Michigan in addition to relaxing stretches between wooded areas. Bring your own bikes and pop onto the trail downtown at the marina, or rent bikes at Bahnhof Sports, which is located right on the path.

Father biking on path next to Lake Michigan pulling kid's trailer- family friendly outdoor activities to do in Petoskey, Michigan
In case you’re wondering, that’s my husband wearing my sunhat. Because he’s a dork, whom I dearly love.
Hiking the Bear River Valley

This is a great trail that can be accessed downtown. The total length is 1.5 miles and the difficulty of the hike is low, making it great for kids. Be aware that there are a couple spots where the trail passes close to the edge of a drop-off to the river below. As long as kids know to stay on the trail, it should be no problem.

This trail is spectacular in every season! The fall colors are beautiful, the ice formations in the winter are interesting to observe, and in the summer you can wade in at some spots. Just look for the Bear River Valley Recreation Area Parking lot.

Mom wearing small boy in baby carrier on bridge over a river- family friendly outdoor activities in Petoskey Michigan
Little guy slept through most of this particular hike along the Bear River.
Winter views of the river.
Canoeing and Paddleboarding the Bear River

The Bear River is know for its rapids in the last mile before it empties into Lake Michigan. But if you head upriver a short ways, you’ll find a slow paced stretch of river that’s perfect for a relaxing paddle with the family. Head to the Bear River Canoe Livery for canoe, kayak, or even paddleboard rentals. You can choose between a one, two, or four hour trip. It’s also a great opportunity for wildlife viewing!

If you’re new to canoeing or have younger kids, I’d suggest starting small while you get the hang of it. From my own personal experience I can confidently say that being in a canoe with a sibling for too long when neither of you really knows what you’re doing truly makes for a miserable experience. That was nineteen years ago, and my brother and I are just now starting to like each other again. (I kid, I kid 😀 )

Swimming at Petoskey State Park

The best beach in town is located at Petoskey State Park. The sand and stunning blue water are absolutely irresistible! (Although the chilly water of the Great Lakes may come as a bit of a shock if you’re not from the area.) If you come on a choppy day, the waves almost resemble those of the ocean and can provide quite a bit of entertainment for floating on and jumping in.

In addition to the water, there are some sand dunes that are also fun to explore! Some people try their luck at hunting for Petoskey stones here, but I would try a different area of shoreline along the bay that isn’t so heavily traversed. Unless you come after a storm in the fall once all the crowds have left and some new ones may have washed up!

Love me a chubby, sandy baby.
Mom holding small boy in Lake Michigan- family friendly outdoor activities in Petoskey, Michigan
Apparently the very chilly water didn’t bother him in the slightest.
Mountain Biking at Boyne Highlands

If you have older kids or teens, mountain biking at Boyne Highlands Resort can be an exciting activity to try! The trails range from beginner to difficult, or you can just choose the cross country bike trails. And you don’t need to be a guest at the resort to rent bikes or use their trails. Just stop on by for the day and enjoy the trails plus the ski lift that will carry you and your bikes back up after each run!

Visit Pond Hill Farm

Also located north of Petoskey along the tunnel of trees, this farm is an amazing stop year-round! Visit the animals in the barn, explore the market, and have some food in the cafe. There’s also an awesome outdoor space for the kids to play! In the fall, you can pick your own pumpkin out in the patch and use the squash rocket. In the winter, pick out a Christmas tree or go sledding on the big hill in the back!

View of the bay from the top of the sledding hill at the farm.
Chairlift Rides at Boyne Highlands

During the summer and fall, you can ride the chairlifts at Boyne Highlands Resort for a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. (And again, you don’t actually have to be a guest at the resort to take advantage of this opportunity.) This is especially spectacular in the fall! Just make sure to check their hours and find out when they close the lifts (usually mid-October).

Boating on Walloon Lake

This is a scenic lake a little south of Petoskey. The blue-green color of the water looks like something straight from the Caribbean, making it a beautiful spot for for a boat ride. There’s a public boat launch area and a couple boat rental places on the lake. You can even head over to the sandbar and get out for a swim.

If you’re a fan of literature or history (or both), it might interest you to know that Ernest Hemingway spent his boyhood summers at his family cottage right on Walloon Lake. You may be able to catch a glimpse of it from the water (if you can find out where it is), but unfortunately, it’s still privately owned and not open to visitation.

View of Walloon Lake and coastline.
Guess who didn’t see a single bit of Walloon Lake on the boat ride…
Explore Nature at Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

This is a beautiful boardwalk path through the woods that eventually winds up at the beach. It’s located right off the famous Tunnel of Trees Drive just north of Petoskey. There is a $5 fee for parking that helps with maintenance of the trail.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to visit in the winter like we did. Not only were they closed (my fault for not checking), but the hilly driveway was a bit icy and we got stuck. It wasn’t all bad though. Our fussy toddler finally stopped crying at the intrigue of watching us getting out and trying to push our car up a slippery hill. Now that’d good entertainment.

Sledding and Ice Skating at the Winter Sports Park

Petoskey isn’t just a tourist destination for the summer! Northern Michigan towns know how to make the most of winter with outdoor activities and sports. One of our newest discoveries is the winter sports park right outside of town.

It has a huge sledding hill, an ice skating rink, and a hockey rink. It’s completely free to use unless you need to rent some ice skates, which you can do on location. There’s also a warming station indoors with a fireplace, bathroom, and some concessions.

We had so much fun here on the huge sledding hill and then letting our little guy try ice skating for the first time! They have the little skating helpers available, so he clung onto that the whole time. Once he learned how to keep his ankles steady, we zoomed him all around the ice and he had a blast!

Mom and small boy ice skating- family friendly outdoor activities in Petoskey michigan

Are you convinced that you need to make this your next vacation destination yet? No matter the season, there’s an abundance of activities in Petoskey, Michigan! You’re bound to find something that you and your family will love!

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