The Mackinac Bridge, which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, is one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in the state. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, use this structure to reach their destination.
Almost three years ago, I walked across it with family members and my significant other by my side, peering out across Lake Michigan to our right and Lake Huron to our left as we trekked from north to south. The Mackinac Bridge Walk is a state tradition which takes place annually on Labor Day. One side of the bridge is open to walkers only, who arrive at the starting point during the early morning hours and travel the 5 miles from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula on foot.
Taking part in the event is chaotic. Planning in advance is key. Either stay somewhere within a reasonable driving distance to Mackinaw City/St. Ignace, or book a hotel way in advance unless you don’t mind sleeping in your car. Parking spots are at a premium, even in pop-up parking lots, and the traffic is worse than Detroit during rush hour. Make sure to keep a close eye on your companions throughout the herd of participants, too.
When I walked the bridge, the summer day was windy and damp from all of the moisture in the air. My group was only a handful of the 60,000 people crossing that day, and I was actually surprised to see my dad — who is scared of heights — enjoy himself, let alone willingly take part. He stuck to the middle of the road and crossed the grated parts of the bridge quickly.
It was neat to be within a sea of people, especially when you reached the apex of the bridge to see just how many were there. Though distorted by the muggy weather conditions, the view was spectacular, and plenty of photographs were taken during the few hours it took to reach the other side.
Though I’d never had an itch to participate in the Mackinac Bridge Walk, I was glad I took the opportunity and laced up my tennis shoes for the event. My dad and a few of his siblings have done the repeat journey since, and I will probably walk it again in my lifetime, though I’m in no rush.
It’s a unique experience — one that probably every Michigander should plan to do at least once!