The Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk is a highly anticipated event, and it has been every year since 1958. This day is the only one in the year when you can walk across this amazing bridge.
Labor Day weekend has different meanings for everyone. For some, it means camping, picnics, and other outdoor activities. For others, it is simply a chance to relax and enjoy a long weekend.
New traditions are formed every year, yet there is one tradition in northern Michigan that has been standing for over 60 years: the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk.
Whether you’ve participated before or it’s your first time, we have all the details you need to know about the Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day.
This year’s bridge walk takes place on Sept. 4, 2023.
Kicking off at 7:00 AM and led by the current Governor of Michigan, walking across the Mighty Mac draws an average of 65,000+ participants each year. The reason for such a large attendance is the fact that this is the one day of the year that foot traffic is allowed on the bridge.
History of the Mackinac Bridge Walk
Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge that connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. During its June 1958 dedication ceremony, the first bridge walk included only 68 people who were led by Gov. G. Mennen Williams.
In 1959, the day of the bridge walk was moved to Labor Day. Locals and visitors alike alternated between starting the walk on the north and south ends of the bridge until 1964.
For the 50th anniversary in 2007, an estimated 60,000 people attended the walk. However, the estimated record was 85,000 walkers in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush joined the event.
Since 2017, all vehicular traffic on the bridge and boat traffic below the bridge comes to a halt during the annual bridge walk.
When & Where the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk Starts
As mentioned, the Mackinac Bridge Walk is held on Labor Day every year. It starts at 7 a.m., led by the governor’s party. You can start the walk anytime thereafter, but you don’t want to wait too long. No one is permitted to begin the walk after 11:30 a.m.
The bridge is closed to all traffic but can’t remain closed all day, so Mackinac Bridge Authority officials reopen it to traffic at noon.
Tip: Since the annual bridge walk starts so early in the morning, we recommend that you wear layers. As the day warms up, you can take off a layer or two.
It doesn’t matter from which side that you start the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk. You can begin from St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula side or Mackinaw City on the Lower Peninsula side.
Then, you have three options — walk as far as you like and turn back; walk to the other end and arrange for transport back; or walk to the end and back.
There are essentially three options available for 2023
- Walk from either end of the bridge, then turn around at the midpoint and return to the community where you started the walk.
- Walk from either end of the bridge and continue across to the other side. This option is most like previous bridge walks. However, since bus transportation across the bridge will not be provided, walkers who choose this option will need to arrange for their own transportation back across after the bridge reopens at noon. Walkers who do not reach the midpoint of the bridge before 10 a.m. will be turned back.
- Walk from either end of the bridge, continuing across to the other side, then walking back to the end of the bridge you started from. This option will mean a 10-mile round trip for participants. If walkers in this option do not reach the midpoint of the bridge on their return trip by 10 a.m. will be turned back.
Cross Halfway and Return
If you only plan to walk part of Mackinac Bridge, keep in mind that the turnaround point will depend on when you start walking. From 7 a.m., the middle of the bridge is the turnaround point, giving you time to return to the start before the bridge reopens. From 10 a.m., the turnaround points will move closer to each end of the bridge.
Walk the Whole Bridge
If you decide to walk the entire bridge, which is 5 miles, you must start by 9 a.m. to ensure that you’ll reach the midway point by 10 a.m. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to turn around. Also, you need to arrange a way to return to the starting point. Bus transport won’t be available. Star Line Ferry and Shepler’s Ferry are a couple of options because they offer ferry services between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
Double-Cross the Mackinac Bridge
If you choose to walk the 10-mile round trip, you must begin walking by 7 a.m. to ensure that you’ll reach the opposite end by 9 a.m. and the midway point a second time by 10 a.m. Those who walk the round trip call themselves Double Crossers; many of them purchase Double Crosser shirts too.
More About Walking the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day
Regardless of where you start the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk, you’ll remain in the outside lane of the bridge. If you only walk to the midway point, you’ll turn around and continue walking in the outside lane. The same is true if you walk the round trip.
Tip: Plan a special meeting place with anyone else you walk with just in case you become separated as you walk.
Upon completion, you’ll receive a Mackinac Bridge Walk certificate with a number. It could match the prize-winning number on display in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City store windows on the day of the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day walk event.
No bus transportation across the bridge will be provided as part of the event. Walkers who decide to walk across the entire bridge will need to arrange their own transportation back to the end of the bridge where they started after the bridge reopens to public traffic at noon.
Is the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk Safe?
Yes, the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk is safe, and the bridge is closed to all public traffic from 6:30 a.m. Only the inside lanes remain open for emergency vehicles, which is why you must walk in the outside lanes.
Above all, make sure that you’re physically and medically fit to participate in the annual bridge walk. The physical strain could exacerbate existing health issues. To ensure your safety further, stay away from the bridge railings.
About the Labor Day Run on Mackinac Bridge
During the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk is another event — the Labor Day Run (also known as the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Run).
This race requires registration and a fee, and it’s only open to 700 participants. Bus transport from the Mackinaw City Recreation Center to the south end of the bridge is included.
This is a running event only. Runners must be able to complete each mile in a 12-minute pace or less. If you expect to run slower than 12-minutes per mile, cannot run the entire 4.3 miles, or experience acrophobia (fear of heights), you should not participate.michiganfitness.org
The Labor Day Mackinac Bridge run starts early before the bridge walk begins. Only registered participants can run on the bridge during the annual event.
Mackinac Bridge Tours
Mackinac Bridge tours are available but as this unique experience is becoming very popular, it is difficult to schedule all tour requests. Be sure to make reservations far in advance. The Mackinac Bridge towers each stand at 552 feet above the water, therefore an enjoyment of heights is necessary.
Things to Do Near the Mackinac Bridge
If walking across the Mackinac Bridge isn’t your thing, there are lots of great things to do in St. Ignace, places to stay in Mackinaw City, and unique things to do on Mackinac Island. Enjoy the holiday weekend!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk
How long is the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk?
5 miles one way. 10 miles round trip. If you only cross to the opposite side, the walk is 5 miles and up to two hours long. If you choose the round trip, your walk will be 10 miles and up to four hours long.
How much does it cost to walk across the Mackinac Bridge?
If you just participate in the annual bridge walk, no registration or fee is required. You only need to register and pay to participate in the Labor Day Run.
How many people walk across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day?
On average, about 65,000+ people participate in the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk.
Can I bring my dog on the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk?
Only service dogs are allowed on Mackinac Bridge during the annual event.
Can I walk with a stroller?
Yes, baby strollers and wheelchairs are permitted on the bridge. Prohibited wheeled items include bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, and wagons.
Does Mackinac Bridge have restrooms?
No restrooms are available on the bridge, but portable toilets are available near the ends of the bridge in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.