Of course SkyBridge is not trying to surpass the Mackinac Bridge – who would dare? But it is up against some stiff competition for spot number two. The Ambassador. The Blue Water. The Charlevoix drawbridge. The Portage Lake lift bridge. The Zilwaukee.
What sets SkyBridge apart from other contenders is that it is strictly a pedestrian bridge.
Walking rather than driving across or viewing from a distance means an immersive experience for all of your senses, and not just the typical five.
Also your sense of stability. Your sense of safety. Your sense of beauty. Your sense of wonder.
SkyBridge spans over a valley between the peaks of McLouth and Disciples Ridge at Boyne Mountain Resort. Two towers constructed of wood beams, concrete, and steel bookend the 1,200-foot-long suspension bridge.
In order to reach it, you must already be on top of one of the mountains, but I started off in the foothills of the ski resort on a cold and gray June day with my five-year-old son.
Up Boyne Mountain to SkyBridge
We purchased our tickets and headed over to the Hemlock where the next chair, dark green metal with thin dark padding on the bench seat for two, quickly approached.
This chairlift is, in fact, the world’s first chairlift, originating in Sun Valley, Idaho in 1937. Boyne Mountain proprietor Everett Kircher purchased it for his new ski resort in 1948 where it has been in operation since, albeit with many updates and replacement parts over the years. It now operates year-round as a scenic lift.
It took us along the slope of the mountain at a slow and gentle pace. Already we were enjoying the sights, looking out across the landscape at hills and trees and up toward the low mountains.
A large bird came into my periphery and as it drifted almost directly above us, I realized it was a bald eagle. I have never been so close to one in the wild. Perhaps she was there to welcome us to the view she so often enjoyed.
After a few minutes we were at the end platform where bright yellow footprints guided us off and out of the chair path. A new perspective of the resort, now far below, greeted us, along with the Eagle’s Nest restaurant.
We were tempted to stop for a bite but ultimately too eager to get to the main attraction so we kept moving.
A Grand Entrance
The towers at each end anchor the bridge but they also welcome you in. We walked between the huge wooden beams zig zagging up toward the sky. The light color of the timber contrasted with the black and chrome brackets and bolts holding them all together.
Three-inch-wide wires strung over either side to suspend the bridge itself. At the moment we stepped through, no one else was around.
Just us and SkyBridge – a quiet, empty expanse ahead.
Stepping onto the bridge is a little like stepping on an old school playground clatter bridge, the kind with horizontal wooden planks held together by chains. You step on it and it moves. You can’t prevent the movement, no matter how careful.
If you’re moving slowly because you dislike the unsteady feeling, and another kid, fearless and, arguably, obnoxious runs across right past you, you may very well fall. Here, gratefully, we were told there was to be no running or jumping.
The planks were narrower and much more stable, but they did move. We walked slowly at first, hanging on to the cold metal handrails, covered in raindrops. My son examined the structure beneath our feet, analyzing its composition, skeptical of how it could possibly be held together.
He asked me questions only a five-year-old could think up, and I had to answer with a lot of I don’t knows.
Making Our Way Across SkyBridge
An alcove of trees lined either side of us for the first several feet, providing a shield from the wind and some false sense of being close to something steady. Soon, however, our shelter gave way to wide-open space. Once we were past the trees, the view opened up and we could see the Northern Michigan landscape all around us.
We could see the resort below, the ski hills on either side, and the valley underneath us which several months from now would be covered in snow and people sliding down on skis and boards. Most of all we saw trees in deep shades of green, stretching on for miles.
We began to get our bridge legs, as it were, and relaxed into the walk. I wondered how spectacular the view must be in the winter, like being in a snow globe. And in the fall when the leaves turn bright oranges, yellows and reds. Even on a warm and sunny day with just a few clouds in the sky. Or at night, when the bridge lights up and summer magic peaks.
The perspective when you’re at the start is deceiving. From there, I could see that near the other end, the material of the bridge deck changed. But the distance was an optical illusion. It is actually at the center where the horizontal planks are replaced by glass windows, revealing what is 118 feet directly below. Raindrops obscured the view for us, which was maybe for the better.
The Other End of SkyBridge & Back
We made it to the other end and found restrooms, a food truck, and some fire pits. My son was too fascinated by being on the bridge, though, so we did not linger.
By then, more people had joined from the other end and were making their way across. The different cadences of other people’s footsteps caused the bridge to bounce more than when it had been just us and so the walk back felt a little more treacherous.
My little one held my hand most of the way this time. Still, we were feeling comfortable enough to stop every now and then and take more pictures, and reflect on our little adventure.
Michigan’s Second Bridge?
“Michigan’s Second Bridge”? Here’s the thing: SkyBridge doesn’t actually take you anywhere. You have to know that the draw is about the experience. And that is a category in which few bridges are trying to compete.
Visit SkyBridge to immerse yourself in beauty – not only the landscape, but the construction of the towers as well.
Let it invoke wonder as you take in the feat of engineering, the suspended length, and the distance to the ground.
Let it thrill you as it challenges your sense of safety and stability, especially if you are iffy about heights.
Most of all, you will find SkyBridge is a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
Tips For Your SkyBridge Trip
- Visitors can purchase a one-time ticket (across and back) or an all-day pass. Ticket includes the Hemlock chairlift ride.
- Restrooms and indoor dining are available at the Eagle’s Nest on the McLouth side.
- Disciples Overlook food truck is on the far side of SkyBridge with outdoor fire pits.
- Strollers and wheelchairs are not permitted.
- The bridge will close when winds exceed 35 mph, or in the presence of lightning or thunder.