Why I Started Hiking for Mental Clarity

Olivia Durkee
Olivia Durkee

| 4 min read

Olivia Durkee
Sometimes the business of everyday life, or the stress of your everyday surroundings can cause your mental clarity and comfort to become cloudy and strung-out. For me, this was especially prevalent during the COVID-19 epidemic and quarantine. I felt like the stress of the pandemic, along with the separation from my friends and normal life, caused my mental clarity and personal peace to become extremely disturbed. I was constantly anxious about the world around me, and stressed about what the future would look like. I felt as if I couldn’t go about my life in any kind of normal way due to my thoughts and mental state being so consumed by my worries and stressors. That’s when I decided to start hiking for mental clarity.
I chose hiking because due to the pandemic, I needed an activity that would get me out of the house yet still allow me to adhere by social distancing rules to keep myself and those in my household safe. I was quarantining with my parents at their house in Alto, a small town outside of Grand Rapids that had many natural areas for me to visit and hike with our family dog, Luna. I grew up camping and hiking constantly with my parents, so the process of hiking was already something that was familiar, comforting and comfortable for me.
Hiking provided me with time to not only dissect and process my anxieties and thoughts, but also just provided me with a great way to leave my house and keep me active throughout the quarantine. The process of starting and completing a hike was also beneficial, as it helped me to start thinking through my issues and anxieties and relieve my mental tension. By the end of the hike, I felt as if I could leave all my worries and anxieties on the trail behind me.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, I still find myself hiking for mental clarity. I am currently a senior in college and going through a very transitional part of my life, and hiking helps me process that. I find that I can work through my problems in a productive and healthy way whilst hiking. I also find great enjoyment in this form of exercise and find many health benefits come from hiking, like better endurance and stronger muscles. Always make sure to consult your primary care physician before making any big exercise changes or habits.
Here are some of my personal favorite trails in Michigan, whether you’re looking for a day hike or just a short few miles, Michigan has great options for everyone!

Short hikes in Michigan

Cascade Peace Park, Cascade MI
  • This is one of my favorite places to hike, it’s full of exciting terrain and has trails for every level of hiker. Located right outside of Grand Rapids, this West Michigan hidden gem was my go-to spot during quarantine.
Nicolas Arboretum, Ann Arbor MI
  • Commonly referred to as “The Arb”, Nicolas Arboretum has a 2.6-mile-long loop with various branches that you can veer off too. Right off the Huron River, The Arb is a great place for a casual hike, picnic or swim.
Belle Isle Park, Detroit MI
  • Belle Isle is one of the most beautiful natural areas located in Downtown Detroit. The isle has two short trails along with an aquarium, museum, conservatory and much more for the whole group to enjoy.

Long hikes in Michigan

Clinton River Trail, Oakland County MI
  • Clinton River Trail is a beautiful 16-mile recreational trail on an abandoned rail line through the heart of Oakland County. The trail has no large rocks or roots, making it a easy trek for all members of your party. The trail is 9.5 miles long, so pack a picnic and make a day out of this beautiful natural area.
Yankee Springs State Recreation Area, Middleville MI
  • This beautiful trail consists of a 10.9-mile loop atop stable terrain and is located about 30 minutes from Downtown Grand Rapids. Enjoy the varied beauty of this hike, with the trail cutting through forest, fields, marsh and lakeside.
Potawatomi Trail, Ann Arbor MI
  • 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor lies the beautiful Potawatomi trail, a 17-mile loop that surrounds various lakes in the area and ventures through both Livingston and Washtenaw country. Bring the whole family for a summertime family bonding treat and explore all of the beauty that our state has to offer.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Olivia Durkee

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