Great Lakes & Mighty Mac Walk

August 27 – September 6, 2024 • 11 Days • $4250

NOTE: This Adventure is currently FULL. Standby requests are accepted by clicking the CONTACT US button to the right.

Walks and exploring along all 5 Great Lakes in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A major highlight is the annual Labor Day walk across Michigan’s Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

NOTE: This Adventure is currently FULL. Standby requests are accepted by clicking the CONTACT US button to the right.

Overview / Trip Details


The Great Lakes region is packed with historical, cultural, and economic significance: the impact of the War of 1812; the influence of Ohio on the growth of the fledgling United States; the Erie Canal transportation revolution; and the vast industrialization of the region initiated by empire builders such as Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.

Yet the significance of the region is delightfully framed by its natural wonders: placid tracts of Michigan farmland, laid back lakeside towns, and traditional enclaves like Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. The charms of Wisconsin’s pristine capital of Madison is a fitting finale.

NOTE: This tour is planned around the annual Labor Day Mighty Mac Walk over the Mackinaw Bridge connecting Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula.


  • Lighthouses – more lighthouses are found along the shores of the Great Lakes than along our Atlantic and Pacific coasts. We drive past a host of them and visit at least 3 in Michigan on a lighthouse day drive along Lake Huron on Heritage Route 23
  • Mackinac Island – with all day to explore the country’s second national park (now a Michigan State Park), after Yellowstone, accessed via a 20-minute scenic ferry ride with superb views of the legendary Mighty Mac Bridge
  • The Henry Ford Museum – the phenomenal museum in Dearborn, Michigan memorializing the innovative spirit of Henry Ford, the man who revolutionized the assembly line concept and made it possible for the average American to own an automobile
  • Pictured Rocks National Shoreline Cruise – a 2-hour Lake Superior cruise along a shoreline famous for dramatic, water-sculpted, multi-colored sandstone cliff lakescapes
  • Lake walks and more – walks along all 5 lakes (Ontario requires participation in the optional pre-day activities), 5 states, and 2 state capitals


  • All land travel by motorcoach as outlined
  • Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
  • 12 meals: all breakfasts and 2 dinners
  • 10 walk routes as listed
  • 2 walks during optional Pre-Day excursion to Niagara Falls
  • Walking fees for 10 walks (plus 2 on Pre-day optional activity) for those collecting AVA walk credit (if AVA sanctions approved)
  • WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
  • All tipping for coach drivers, any local guides, and group meals
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $890. We also provide a roommate matching service for those interested.

Activities / Visits:

  • Walks along 4 of the 5 Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Superior, and Michigan, with Lake Ontario available on a Pre-Day option (see DAY 1 below)
  • Walks in five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin
  • Walks in two state capitals: Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin
  • Presque Isle State Park ~ Pennsylvania
  • Toledo Wildwood Metropark ~ Ohio
  • The Henry Ford Museum ~ Michigan
  • Half-day driving tour of Heritage Route 23 along Michigan’s Lake Huron coast ~ Michigan
  • Visits to three Lake Huron lighthouses ~ Michigan
  • Mackinac Island ferry ~ Michigan
  • Pictured Rocks National Shoreline Cruise ~ Lake Superior
  • Door County drive & walk ~ Wisconsin
  • Fish boil cultural dinner in Sturgeon Bay
  • Two-night stay in Madison directly across from the stunning state capitol
  • More fun stops than we can list!

Optional Activities:

  • Optional Niagara Falls & Lake Ontario Pre-Day (optional Maid of the Mist cruise mid-walk) (DAY 1)
  • Afternoon activities in Madison (DAY 10)


Click on each day for more details. (BLD) refers to meals included – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Optional: Niagara Falls Walk, NY – 5 km, rated 1B
Optional: Queenstown War of 1812 Walk, NY – 5 km, rated 2


Travelers arrive into Buffalo, New York today for the beginning of a Great Lakes odyssey.

Optional Niagara Falls & Lake Ontario Pre-day for traveler who arrive on August 26: Walkers looking to add the 5th Great Lake to their resume, in addition to panoramas of incomparable Niagara Falls, are invited to come in one day early on August 26 for an all-day, pre-Adventure experience.

The morning begins with a drive north to Niagara Falls for the first of two 5 km walks, plus the option to ride a legendary Maid of the Mist boat into the thunderous spray of the Falls(highly recommended).

After time for lunch, we continue north to the shores of Lake Ontario for a second 5 km walk in historic Queenstown, which also features War of 1812-era Fort Niagara. The optional Pre-Day excursion includes all-day bus transportation, walk credit for two walks, and WAI guide service. Estimated price: $175 per person

Back at the hotel this evening, dinner is on your own at one of the local, walkable eateries, followed by our Welcome Orientation to get acquainted and prepare for the coming days of Adventure!

Walk #1: Buffalo Walk, NY – 5 km, rated 1B
Walk #2: Presque Isle State Park Walk, PA, 5 km, rated 1A


Lake Erie figured prominently in the War of 1812, the 2nd war between the upstart United States of America and the globe’s most feared fighting force. This morning’s walk is one of the day’s two Lake Erie walks and features the War of 1812 Seaway Trail and the confluence of the Niagara River into Lake Erie—the western terminus of the legendary Erie Canal.

Leaving Buffalo, our coach follows the contours of Lake Erie out of New York and into Pennsylvania. Our Lake Erie day continues with a walk on Presque Isle, technically a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie from the town of the same name.

Presque Isle also has strong ties to the War of 1812 and the rising naval star of Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry. Perry used the shelter of the peninsula to build part of his fleet and as a base for some of his famous forays against the British Navy.

Presque Isle State Park is Pennsylvania’s most visited state park and Pennsylvania’s only “seashore”, boasting 13 beaches on the lakeside edge of a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie.

We finish our day with a short drive west toward Cleveland. Dinner is available from several eateries in easy walking distance from our hotel, or consider joining us in nearby Fairport Harbor for something with a little more local character.

Walk #3: Cleveland Lakeside Cemetery Walk, OH – 5 km, 2
Walk #4: Toledo Wildwood Metropark, OH – 5 km, rated 2B

Wrested away from England at the close of the Revolutionary War, Ohio became the heart of the 18th century Northwest Territory of the United States. The territory was later carved into the states through which we now travel. Most prominent of these was Ohio, which became our 17th state in 1803 and played a major role in the history and development of the new societal experiment called “United States of America”. Producing seven of our U.S. presidents is just one evidence of Ohio’s contribution. Only Virginia, with eight, contributed more.

The walking club in Cleveland offers a unique walk through celebrated Lakeside Cemetery.  Our route passes Wade Chapel, on the National Register of Historical Places with its exquisite Tiffany design in Lakeside Cemetery, and the grave sites of a host of Cleveland’s leading figures including empire builder/industrialist John D. Rockefeller and federal agent Elliot Ness, head of the small team of “Untouchables” who destroyed organized crime in Chicago and brought down gangster Al Capone.

The Metropark system in Toledo is considered one of the country’s best park systems. After time for lunch in the classic lakeside town of Port Clinton, our second walk of the day follows nature trails through Toledo’s lovely Wildwood Metropark.

Walk #5: Lansing Capital Walk, MI – 6 km, rated 2A

Today’s main event is a phenomenal museum in Dearborn, Michigan that memorializes the incredible innovative spirit of Henry Ford, the man who revolutionized the assembly line concept and made it possible for the average American to own an automobile. Half a day is dedicated to exploring this remarkable site and your ticket includes entrance to two of the major venues: Henry Ford Museum of Innovation and Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

The capital walk in Lansing, Michigan is the walk of the day and includes historic neighborhoods, lovely Grand River Trail, and the campus of Lansing Community College.

No walk today

We take a break from walks today as we traverse large portions of the state of Michigan, often within sight of Lake Huron, our third Great Lake.

Most of the day is spent tracing Heritage Route 23, a historic coastal highway. Lake Huron is renowned for its plethora of stately lighthouses, shipwreck tales, and mile-upon-mile of sweeping beach panoramas. We follow the highway its entire length, making multiple stops en route for photos, short walks, lighthouse visits, and a pause for lunch in Old Town Alpena on Thunder Bay.

Today’s destination is Mackinaw City our base for two nights at the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow body of water connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Walk #6: Mackinac Island Walk, MI – 6/13 km, rated 1A


A 20-minute scenic ferry ride takes us from Mackinaw City out to charming Mackinac Island, with superb views en route of Mighty Mac, the legendary bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas.

The island was the country’s second national park, after Yellowstone, until 1895, when it was closed by the Federal Government. Since then, most of the island has been a Michigan State park. The day is open for you to enjoy the trail set up by the local club, who suggests that we sample the fudge shops, which have been a unique island confection for over 125 years!

Two routes are available. The shorter 6 kilometer walk is full of attractions and distractions in and around the main settlement on the island. The longer walk satisfies those who prefer to keep striding for a 13 kilometer distance.

Cars are banned on the island, so if you don’t plan to walk the 13 km trail, a horse-drawn carriage is an alternative way to see the island. Bicycles are also for rent and miles of beautifully wooded, paved bike paths beckon. Several museums are available, and don’t forget to have lunch before we meet back at the ferry dock early this afternoon.

In past years, Mackinaw City has hosted its own club walk, which may offer a late afternoon activity. The city will be active on this Labor Day weekend, may visitors here for the Mighty Mac Walk that’s on our schedule for tomorrow! We preregister for the event this evening.


Walk #7: Mackinac Bridge Walk, MI – 10 km, rated 1A

With a total length of 8,614 feet, Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the third longest in the world!

“Mighty Mac” stretches over the Straits of Mackinac linking Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Throughout this a one-of-a-kind bucket list experience we’ll be walking south to north with Lake Huron to the east and Lake Michigan to the west.

We start early this morning, walking Mighty Mac in the company of thousands of other walking and bridge enthusiasts. Normally we prefer to walk in small groups, but the energy of a mega-walk of this magnitude is magical!

Rendezvousing with our bus on the Upper Peninsula, we continue north to the shores of Lake Superior. The afternoon event is a memorable, 2-hour cruise along Pictured Rocks National Shoreline, a pristine and protected unit of the national park service. Lake Superior, by far the largest of the Great Lakes, is renowned for its crystal clear waters.

Pictures Rocks National Shoreline is famous for its dramatic, multi-colored sandstone cliff lakescapes. Iron, copper, and lime are carried by groundwater and springs to drape sandstone walls with rich hues even as they help sculpt them. You will be the first WAI group to visit Pictured Rocks!

Our home for the night is Marquette, on the shores of Lake Superior!

Walk #8: Marquette Lake Superior Shoreline Walk, MI – 6 km, rated 2A


This morning’s walk features Historic Downtown Marquette, more lighthouses, charming heritage neighborhoods, and the shoreline of Lake Superior—coldest and most pristine of the Great Lakes and largest freshwater lake (by surface area) on the planet!

Turning the bus south, we reach the western shores of Lake Michigan, our fifth Great Lake, and cross the state line into Wisconsin. Our destination is bucolic Door Peninsula, projecting east from the city of Green Bay into Lake Michigan.

After checking into our lodging on the shores of Sturgeon Bay, relax in the laid-back environs of this local hang out situated adjacent to Potawatomi State Park or consider joining us for a drive further into Door Peninsula for a short walk at Cave Point County Park.

Walkers with energy to burn may take advantage of the fact that the 1200-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs from Potawatomi State Park directly past our resort.

We rendezvous back at our rustic lakeside inn this evening for a fun cultural dinner. The famous Wisconsin fish boil is an entertaining and delectable local activity, and the best way to have dinner this evening. This Door County cooking method, started by Scandinavian settlers more than a century ago, entails a huge black pot of fresh cod, potatoes and onions bubbling and hissing over an open fire.

When the fish is done, a Master Boiler tosses a small amount of fuel oil or kerosene under the pot. A burst of flames causes the water and floating fish oils to boil over, and the steaming meal is ready to serve.

Walk #9: Devil’s Lake State Park Walk, Wisconsin – 5/10 km, rated 2B/3C

Leaving Door County this morning, we snake through Green Bay, winding past famous Lambeau Field, home stadium of the storied Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. The Packers are the only team in the NFL owned by local fans; a drive past the stadium on streets named after legendary players of years gone by, passing back yards festooned with miniature goal posts, leaves no doubt about the loyalties of the locals!

Our walk of the day is a stimulating nature hike at Devil’s Lake State Park, largest and most visited park in the Wisconsin park system. Two routes are available, a mostly-level 5 km walk along the lake or a longer 10 km route on a more challenging trail.

We end the day in the delightful capital city of Madison located directly across from the stately capitol building in one the favorite hotels of the tour. Madison is known as a “foodie” town so plenty of dining options are available within walking distance.

Walk #10: Madison Capitol Walk – 6/10 km, rated 2B

Madison is a city blessed with ample charms, not the least of which are its five lovely lakes. Madison happens to be one of only two cities in the USA situated on an isthmus. The city is also blessed with an active walking club and a number of local walks from which to choose.

We are directly across from the capitol, and the Capitol walk is an obvious choice. Others, however, are available including our preferred route that features the lakes. WAI guides will update you on your choices a day or two before.

After time for lunch, the afternoon is yours to explore more of Madison’s charms. Guides will again brief you on options that will likely include: 1) a visit inside the capitol building – well worthwhile, 2) an excursion by taxi/Uber to visit the National Mustard Museum, an educational and quirky experience made more attractive by the excellent café right next door serving outstanding pie!, or 3) one of several other high-quality walking trails sponsored by the local club.

We rendezvous this evening for a fun farewell dinner.

This morning marks the official end of the Great Lakes tour. Travelers are free to arrange homeward flights at any time of day; the Madison airport is about a 20-minute taxi/Uber ride from our hotel.

We return home further enriched by our odyssey of discovery through this historically nuanced, geologically intriguing, culturally rich, and spectacularly lake-filled region of America, the Beautiful!

Thank you for sharing the Adventure with us!

Before You Book

Click on each heading for more details.

To register, a non-refundable $300 deposit is required to hold your spot. A final payment is due 90 days before departure and is non-refundable after the due date. You will receive a prompt email from us 2 to 3 weeks in advance.

Soon after registration, an “Adventure Advice” email will be sent with critical information on flight arrangements as well as important steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review this Adventure Advice email.

Please follow this link to read our full General Tour Conditions.

Volkssport Tours:

WAI offers walking adventures all over the planet. Most of the walks featured on these tours are developed by WAI tour planners in cooperation with local walking guides. These itineraries are the result of extensive on-site planning by WAI staff.

A Volkssport Tour, on the other hand, streamlines the tour planning process and focuses more on walks and less on sightseeing. The objective is to feature more walking, offer more volkssport stamps (a record of walks volkswalkers keep in a passport-like walking book), and keep the price lower. Primary differences between Volkssport Tours compared to Curated Classic Tours include:

  • Walks offered are hosted by clubs, not planned by WAI staff. Usually, they are self-guided walks using club-provided maps and directions.
  • Itineraries focuses more on local club walks, and less on sightseeing and cultural activities.
  • Itineraries tend to be paced faster, giving us the ability to offer walks in more locales.
  • Extensive work is done by in-office, but on-site planning is generally not done by WAI tour planners (experience gained on previous editions of the tour, however, produces improvements to subsequent itineraries).
  • Volkssport Tours tend to be limited to the USA. International tours generally follow the Classic Curated model.
  • A larger number of walkers is accepted on the tour.

Classic Curated Tours:

The Great Lakes tour has been offered twice in recent years; 2024 will be the third. As a result, though we have not conducted on-site planning normally required for us to label a tour “Classic Curated”, experience gained on the first two editions of the tour have led to an itinerary that achieves our Classic Curated objectives of capturing the essence of a destination—the history, culture, and natural wonders unique to that part of the world.

To label the Great Lakes tour strictly a Volkssport Tour could be misleading due to the many value-added and WAI-vetted experiences and walks it now contains.

We now therefore consider Great Lakes to be a hybrid tour–combining the best of Volkssport and Classic Curated models.

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. Several walks on this trip are oriented more towards education, and therefore take longer due to stops for guide commentary. Nature walks, on the other hand, generally continue at a steadier pace because we’re stopping less to talk.

In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please call our office at 1.360.260.9393.

We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented on the table below:


1. Minimal hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: <200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: 1000-2000 feet.


A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).

The Adventure begins in Buffalo, New York, served by Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), and the official start point is our hotel in Buffalo. The tour ends in Madison, Wisconsin, served by Dane County Regional Airport (MSN), and the official finish point is our hotel in Madison.

We recommend that you contact Laura Pfahler, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment!

More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided in an Adventure Advice PDF by email after you register for the Adventure.  Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.

Laura Pfahler: 503-434-6401 or [email protected]
Sharon Mitchell: 971-261-2091 or [email protected]

Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).

Be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions (i.e. some benefits, such as coverage of pre-existing conditions, are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package). In addition, remember that airfare is not covered by any travel insurance policy you may have purchased for the tour.

As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options include:

  • Allianz
  • Betins
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

WAI bears no responsibility for travel insurance benefits advertised by various credit card companies. If you are relying on this type of benefit for insurance, we advise you to verify coverage types and limits and that your purchase does in fact qualify you for this insurance.

NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape has caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.

Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel this tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received.

This refund policy contains one exclusion. Many suppliers require non-refundable deposits as a condition of booking services. Though it is rare, unforeseen circumstances can force us to cancel a tour. In cases where supplier’s non-refundable policies are imposed, WAI attempts to retrieve as much of these deposits as possible but cannot guarantee a 100% refund. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.

Our approach to wellness on tour has traditionally been to encourage travelers to:

  • Focus on health before the tour so you start healthy.
  • Pace yourself while on tour; travel is inherently stimulating and can produce adrenalin boosts that mask energy drain. Guard your energy reserves and consider the length of the trip and whether to opt out of some activities and/or walks.
  • Be self-aware. If you feel yourself tiring or feel a bug coming on, take precautions to block it (e.g. extra rest, extra doses of vitamin C, etc).
  • If you feel a bug coming on or if you take ill, distance yourself from others when possible.
  • If you feel ill, isolate yourself towards the back of the bus and away from others

Click WAI Wellness on Tour Policy to view the WAI policy on Wellness on Tour.

Soon after registration, an “Adventure Advice” email will be sent with critical information on flight arrangements as well as important steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review this Adventure Advice email.

A final payment is due 90 days before departure (May 29, 2024) and is non-refundable after the due date. You will receive a prompt email from us a week or two in advance. Please see our General Tour Conditions for the full terms and conditions for participation in this Adventure.

Around 2-3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final email packet with details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.

Take a few minutes to peruse the enclosed itinerary. We maintain that walking is still and always the best way to experience our world. Join us for this fall for one of the third edition of this Walking Adventure tour celebrating the unique history, geology, and culture of the Great Lakes region!

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

About Adventure Pace

Important Info

Your Guides

Scott Isom has had a passion for the outdoors ever since his childhood days spent exploring the waterfalls and outstanding hiking trails of the Columbia River Gorge with his family.

Currently living in Puyallup, Washington, Scott loves to explore the unknown, knows how to have a good time, and enjoys including others in the fun!

As one of WAI’s busiest guides and on-site Adventure planners, Scott has led tours on all 7 continents, including the 2022 version of this Great Lakes Adventure.

Scott will be joined by one other lucky, yet unnamed WAI guide.

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Great Lakes 2024