MIO, Michigan (Michigan Back Roads) – Hidden in a nearly inaccessible spot deep in the Huron National Forest stands a gigantic White Cedar that may be the biggest of its kind.
Known locally as the “Big Cedar”, the tree is nearly 4 feet in diameter and 150 inches around.
According to the Northern Michigan Botanical Society, this may be the biggest of its species on the mainland of Michigan. If so, that would make it a Champion Tree.
Establishing an exact age for the tree has been difficult. Based on its size, 350 years seems reasonable. That means it was just a sapling sprout when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
The “Big Cedar” owes its continued existence to isolation. It is hidden on a tiny peninsula or, semi-island, on the bank of the Au Sable River. Sometime in the previous centuries the giant cedar was damaged by wind or lightning, or both, and the upper portion was destroyed. Now it is only about 30 feet tall. Nonetheless, the difficult wilderness surroundings protected the giant during the lumbering era and its proximity to the river helped during the numerous fires that ravaged this forest. The underbrush is so dense that people floating by on the river, just a few feet away, fail to notice the giant trunk of the tree. The difficult terrain deters most casual hikers.
Directions: The “Big Cedar” is on U.S. Forest Service land. From the main traffic light in Mio, head west about 2.5 miles on County Road 602. At that point find Forest Road FR4354 and take it heading north. Travel on 4354 about 1.5 miles to a fork in the road. Follow the sign to the parking area for the Big Cedar Tree. If you take the other fork, you’ll arrive at a fishing spot on the AuSable River.
Important: The road out of Mio turns to gravel. The Forest Service Road is little more than an old two-track. The hike to the Big Cedar can be tough. The trail is narrow and parts steep. Then there are stairs made of railroad ties and dense brush to negotiate. The “Fish” trail isn’t much better. If you can handle the terrain, this is a great Michigan day trip.