at the US 31 Rest Area in Mason County
US 31 Rest Area Mason County
Although designed for freeway travelers, consider it also a local destination. It is a great site for an afternoon stroll, exploring the woods, views of Lake Michigan, and perhaps a picnic. This rest area is named in honor of Thomas A. Coleman.
Trail to the Observation Tower
You can also drive to the observation tower, and just walk up the steps for the view.
Directly across from the toilet building is the entrance to the foot trail. You will begin gently up a valley for about 20 paces and then turn right and angle slightly downhill. You will continue to curve back to the left and begin climbing up from another valley. This climb becomes quite steep towards the end. The trail brings you up on the north side of the observation platform or continues a few steps more to the upper parking area.
The observation tower has 24 steps to reach the top, but you could stop at any of the three levels. The view from here is really worth the climb: as good as the view from many higher towers, because you are already on top of one of the high points in the county, near 900 feet above sea level. Lake Michigan is at 578 feet.
Access- On site access to the trail at the bottom of the hill is directly across from the toilet building. At the top the trail begins at the north side of the parking area.
Restrictions- no camping
Distance and time- 0.2 miles; 6 minutes each way.
Trail Markers- none
Treadway- wood chips and forest litter- easy to slip
Grades- moderate to steep
Marking- adequate- brown metal sign at bottom of trail is all there is- but after an initial turn to the right it is easy to follow the treadway through the woods even in snow, so no marking is really needed
Ecosystem- Hill covered with northern hardwoods- beech, maple, oak. We watched a red-shouldered hawk and saw evidence of porcupines munching on trees.
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- June 2007
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Picnicking- day use area with picnic tables and grills, some in sun, some in shade, there are water faucets in the picnic area
Scenic Views- observation tower offers great view of Lake Michigan from one of the highest points in the county
Handicap Accessibility- restrooms are accessible, some picnic tables are barrier free with paved surfaces to reach them.
There is a nice shaded boardwalk between the two parking areas with benches, and it is totally accessible.
The observation tower is not accessible; it was granted an exception to the requirement
Rest Rooms- Full rest rooms in summer
Potable Water- faucets and drinking fountains summer only
Access- only from US 31 Freeway northbound
Restrictions- no camping, no dogs in picnic area
Seasonality- closed in winter
Most recent date this info personally checked- June 2007
Additional Facilities- phone, Michigan map, Mason County map, larger than usual dog run area, there is a beautiful shaded boardwalk with benches connecting the oversize vehicle parking area with the automobile parking area
Maintained by- Michigan DOT