More than 90 years ago, the Hardy Dam was constructed on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County, and it was known as the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi River. The dam formed a lake — ironically known as Hardy Dam Pond — that boasts more than 50 miles of picturesque shoreline. Today, visitors can head to the lake and experience The Dragon — an invigorating natural surface trail that broke ground in 2019.
About The Dragon at Hardy Dam
Over the past two years, more than 13 miles of trail have been developed, with the goal of creating a 47-mile trail system that outlines the entire Hardy Dam Pond. This natural surface trail is the stuff that avid hikers and bikers dream of, as it allows them to be challenged while hiking or riding while still being able to immerse themselves in the scenery. Currently, there are several features at different points of the trail system, including three overlook areas where you can soak up the views, seven different bridges that will give you a thrill, and a 400-foot stretch of wooden boardwalk that livens up the ride.
If you decide to go this summer, you won’t be disappointed by the progress that has been made on the trail. In fact, there are many opportunities for camping along the trail or near the trail access points, which makes it one of the most accessible places for adventurers in Michigan who are searching for a fresh outdoor experience. And if you love your trail experience this year, you can look forward to what’s ahead. When the project is completed, this will be a 47-year mile continuous trail system that will take you through Newaygo and Mecosta counties and around the entire Hardy Dam Pond.
Other Things to Do in Newaygo
Newaygo has earned the reputation of being a trail town, so you also will have the opportunity to explore other nearby trails. Many cyclists and hikers recommend the Hungerford Lake Trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail, or the Edge Trail. Each trail offers a distinct experience and a unique perspective of the surrounding region.
While you may spend your days in Newaygo County on the trails, you can spend your nights looking up at the stars. About half an hour away from The Dragon is the Stephen S. Wessling Observatory. This observatory is located on the Kropscott Farm in Fremont, and it is designed specifically for amateur astronomers who are interested in scouting for stars, constellations, and even planets. The night sky is breathtaking in this part of Michigan, and this observatory gives people of all ages the chance to sit back, look up, and be amazed by the heavens above.
Where to Eat in Newaygo
If you are spending your trip by the campfire near The Dragon at Hardy Dam, then you may be grilling up a lot of hot dog meals and campfire classics. However, if you are in need of a break from cooking, or you simply want to enjoy the authentic flavors of Newaygo County, then you are in luck. There are many local restaurants that offer a range of dining experiences for visitors.
For a convenient and casual option, you may want to consider grabbing a meal at the Diner Between the Dams. Aptly named, this restaurant is located directly between Hardy Dam and Croton Dam. This low-key diner serves up breakfast and lunch throughout the week, making it a great place to stop before you head out for a day of hiking or biking along the trail. You can count on fresh, delicious classics from this restaurant, and the location simply can’t be beat.
If you are looking for a place to wind down after a day of hiking, then head on over to Newaygo and grab a seat at the Newaygo Brewing Co. This brewery crafts its own beer on-site, specializing in English and American ales. Its diverse menu offers a selection that would please any palate, with options such as lobster rolls, smoked pork tacos, or naan grilled cheese available daily. It even has a kid’s menu for families who want a place to go after a day of adventure that offers great food and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s one of the best places to eat in Newaygo County.
Lodging in Newaygo
One of our favorite places to spend a few days, there are several great lodging options in Newaygo County this summer:
- Newaygo State Park
- Spacious Retreat on All-sports “croton Pond”
- Fully Furnished Three Bedroom Waterfront Cottage on Beautiful Bluff With View
- La Belle de la Riviere
- Gorgeous Renovated Cottage on Croton Pond