Torch Lake Information

Torch Lake in northwestern Michigan is a natural lake that runs vertically alongside and a few miles east from Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. Torch Lake is an extremely large lake that stretches for 19 miles from south to north and is Michigan’s second largest inland lake, but appears tiny compared to Lake Michigan. Torch Lake covers 18,770 acres with 1,683 miles of shoreline, an average depth of 100 feet, and a maximum depth of 285 feet. 

Torch Lake lies in Antrim County and is part of a watershed called the Elk River Chain of Lakes. This watershed includes Six Mile Lake and Lake Bellaire, which are connected by the Intermediate River, the Grass River, which connects Lake Bellaire to Clam Lake, and Clam Lake, which drains in to Torch Lake via the Clam River. Torch Lake drains into the Torch River, which flows into Elk Lake, which flows into Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

Torch Lake is known as the “Caribbean of the North” for its clear, multi-hued, turquoise-blue waters and the white, sandy beach on its famous Sand Bar. Before European interaction, virgin forests of white pine, hemlock, beech, and maple trees surrounded the ridges around the Torch Lake watershed. Today, less than 1% of Torch Lake’s wetlands remain, and less than 10 % of the shoreline remains in a natural condition. 

As Torch Lake became popular with boaters, anglers, vacationers, and wealthy Michiganders, including Kid Rock, Michael Moore, and Eminem, critical conservation efforts went underway by planting native trees and shrubs with deep root systems, which keep the lands from eroding. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy owns, manages, and protects Torch Lake. Michiganders flock to Torch Lake for many reasons, but one of the key reasons is for its famous Sand Bar, only accessible by boat. 

History of Torch Lake

Melting glaciers towards the end of the Last Glacial Period formed the Great Lakes and Michigan’s inland lakes, like Torch Lake. These retreating glaciers cut deeply into Michigan’s earth at random. The lakes of the Elk River Chain were environmentally a part of the bay of Lake Michigan, but sandbars formed, separating this chain of lakes. Torch Lake is incredibly deep. 

Before the 1600s when British forces and French fur traders and later trappers entered the northern U.S. Midwestern region, the three largest indigenous tribes in today’s Michigan were and are the Ojibwe (Chippawa), Odawa (Ottowa), and Potawatomi (Bode’wadmi). The three tribes are the Anishinaabe, or “original people”, and they created an alliance they call “The Three Fires.”

Waswaaganing, from which Torch Lake’s name derives, is a native phrase that translates into English as “Lake of the Torches”. The Indians used torches at night to attract and spear trout and whitefish. The Anishinaabe traditionally lived in dome-shaped houses in villages with communal lifestyles. In spring and summer, they built birch bark canoes, hunted and fished, produced maple syrup, planted and harvested crops, and wove fishing nets. In winter, they roamed their territories for necessary resources, fished, hunted, and trapped animals.

The Three Fires continue to share a common language, customs, and beliefs today. They carry on with traditional methods of hunting, fishing, farming, and harvesting crops, which remain extremely important to their way of life. The French first explored today’s Michigan, followed by French missionaries, in the early 1600s in pursuit of the valuable beaver pelt. 

The British maintained a presence in the Michigan region as early as the 1600s, while the French were colonizing the territory. The British and French clashed, which led to the French and Indian War from 1757 to 1763 against the British forces. In 1760, France formally surrendered Detroit to Britain. Michigan became the 26th U.S. state in 1837. Antrim County, Michigan, authorized in 1840 and organized in 1863, takes its name from County Antrim, Ireland. 

The entire European population of the Antrim County area in 1864 totaled 382. In 1884, Dr. Morgan Lewis Leach writes this about the Torch Lake Region in A History of the Grand Traverse Region: 

“The county contains about 636 square miles, of which fifty-five miles are water surface. There are thirteen lakes in the county, all of the purest and most beautiful water, and swarming with fish, from the delicate brook trout to the sturdy pike and whitefish. The largest and prettiest of these lakes is Torch Lake, eighteen miles long and from one to two miles wide… 

“…extensive iron manufacturing and lumbering interests furnish employment during the winter season to many who must otherwise, like the most of the prairie farmers, spend the winter in comparative idleness. The natural resources of this region are great and are rapidly developing [including the] fruit growing county Antrim is destined to rank among the first. Already the products of its orchards have attested the correctness of this prediction.”

Today, Torch Lake and the Elk River Chain of Lakes are home to million-dollar lake houses and working-class inland communities. Tourism to Torch Lake, the most beautiful of the Elk Chain Lakes, plays a growing and significant role with positive economic impacts on Antrim County.  Manufacturing, real estate, and retail trade also contribute heavily to Antrim County’s wealth.

Fishing Torch Lake

Predominant game species present in Torch Lake are rock and smallmouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, lake herring (cisco), muskellunge (muskie), yellow perch, northern pike, Atlantic salmon, steelhead, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown, lake, and rainbow trout, walleye, and whitefish. Fish cover and habitat throughout Torch Lake include dead heads, marsh and swamp lands, rocks & gravel, and submergent, emergent, and floating vegetation. The Three Lakes Association maintains 11 fish shelters on Torch Lake.

An angler’s best bet for hooking his or her big catch of the day on Torch Lake is from a boat. Shoreline fishing is not productive on Torch Lake because of its depth and rocky, grassy shorelines. Even at the fishing dock at the Dockside restaurant, fishing might only be successful at the break of dawn. Fishing Torch Lake requires knowledge of what gear for what species at what depth in what season, and knowing how many feet of line will you need in what part of the lake.

Torch Lake is 19 miles long and two miles wide. Its vast open waters cover deep depths. The bass species are warm water fish and are more likely found in shallower waters. There are plenty of fishing forums online, and they are the best source of information for productive fishing techniques on Torch Lake, outside of the fishing guides and bait and tackle shops at Torch Lake. 

Torch Lake offers six public access boat ramps, with four on the western side, one on the southern tip, and one on the eastern side of the lake, plus other private boat ramps. The Torch Lake boat rental business is alive and well, with at least seven boat rental services that rent various types of boats and PWCs.

For the best fishing trip ever in northern Michigan, and if it is your first time fishing Torch Lake, consider learning from the pro fishing guides. Though popular and productive for anglers who know the lake, there are tons of fishing tips and tricks to learn by trial and error in this geographically unique lake if you are new to fishing northern Michigan.  

Check out experienced local pro guides on our Torch Lake Fishing Guides page.

Boating Torch Lake

Boating is outstanding on Torch Lake. Boating is the best way to experience Torch Lake. The most popular spot for boaters is the Sand Bar near the southern end of the lake. There are wide open waters and plenty of wildlife to see on the shore. The Sand Bar is only accessible by boat or kayak. Some visitors travel to the Sand Bar on water jet packs. There are plenty of boat and PWC rental services if you do not have a boat. 

Visitors can rent canoes and kayaks, fishing boats, jet skis, paddleboards, pontoons and tritoons, power and ski boats, tubes, water jet packs, and waverunners. Boaters need to know the hours of operation of the gas docks at the marina and businesses. There are only a few places to gas up your boat at Torch Lake, Dockside and Fabiano’s on the Lake, lakefront restaurants, Luhr’s Landing Marina, and Torch River Marine. 

The Sand Bar offers the best beach and party spot on Torch Lake. Most of Torch Lake’s beaches and public access points are rocky and grassy. Torch Lake does not have sandy beaches and visitors need to wear water shoes at the shorelines. The water at the Sand Bar is absolutely deep turquoise-blue and crystal clear, with various depths for different types of water sports and mooring options. 

Shop or sell a boat on our Torch Lake Boats for Sale page. 

Plan your trip to Torch Lake by calling one of the marinas today on our Torch Lake Marinas page.

Torch Lake Real Estate

The Torch Lake real estate market is a top ten but limited marketplace for lake property in Michigan. The average price for a lakefront home on Torch Lake is a little over $900,000 with about 30 homes for sale at any time. Home prices can range from over $4 million to under $300,000.

There are few restaurants on Torch Lake, and very few in the townships of Alba, Alden, Bellaire, Boyne City, Central Lake, Charkeviux, East Jordan, Eastport, Elk Rapids, Ellsworth, Elmira, Kewadin, Mancelone, Rapid City, and Williamsburg, Michigan, which either surround or are within close driving distance to Torch Lake. The nearest metroplex with city conveniences to Torch Lake’s southern shores is Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 130 miles south. 

The closest international airport to Torch Lake is also in Grand Rapids. There are no public school districts serving the Torch Lake Region. One Walmart Supercenter is 35 miles from Torch Lake’s eastern border in Gaylord, Michigan. You create your own nightlife at Torch Lake. Torch Lake is the headlining attraction at Torch Lake. 

To find your dream home, explore our Torch Lake Homes for Sale page.

Torch Lake Rental Cabins 

Most of the rental cabins at Torch Lake are built for luxury with several bedrooms and all modern amenities, and there are a few cozy, rustic-style cabins to rent for one or two people. The vacation home rentals at Torch Lake are as upscale and high-end as the luxury cabins. 

Torch Lake is such a popular vacation destination that visitors make cabin and vacation home reservations 9 to 12 months in advance. Torch Lake Cabins, at 11126 SW Torch Lake Dr, Rapid City, Michigan, rents eight smaller cabins that sleep two to four people, without fully equipped kitchens, but offer other resort style amenities. Find rental cabins and homes here, or search them on and 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Torch Lake Cabins page.

Camping Torch Lake

There is one campground right on Torch Lake, the Torch Lake Campground, on the southern tip of the lake near the boat ramp to access the Sand Bar is located. The Torch Lake Campground leases to full-time seasonal campers and does not accept general reservations for transient campers, and their waiting list is over two years long. 

There are plenty of campgrounds within easy driving distance near Torch Lake on other Elk Chain Lakes. The Barnes Park Campground is 3.5-miles from Torch Lake’s northern tip. The Honcho Rest Campground is 4.5 miles from the southern end of Torch Lake on Elk Lake and Bass Lake. These campgrounds are extremely popular, and reservation protocols apply. 

The Barnes Park Campground features 116 spacious, wooded, electric, and rustic campsites for RVs, tents, trailers, and vans. Amenities include two modern bathhouses, a dump station, a fire ring and picnic table at each site, and ADA accessible, coin-operated, shower facilities. The park also rents two spacious pavilions with four BBQ grills each. Make early reservations, and find this campground at 12298 Barnes Park Road, Eastport, Michigan. 

The Honcho Rest Campground is an RV exclusive campground with no tent camping or cabins. It offers 97 full hookup sites, seven water/electric hookup sites, and six camping cabins, but no pets allowed in the cabins. The park faces 900 feet of Bass Lake frontage in Elk Rapids, Michigan. Amenities include cable TV, electric, sewer, water, and Wi-Fi. Pets are allowed on leashes at RV sites. Make reservations, and find this campground at 8988 Cairn Highway, Elk Rapids, Michigan. 

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Torch Lake Camping page.

Hiking Torch Lake

All the following trails receive stellar reviews from hikers lauding the beautiful Torch Lake views, forests, and wildlife. 

Barnes Park: A 2-mile moderately challenging trail for hiking and mountain biking. Barnes Park Road, Torch Lake Township, Michigan.  

Coy Mountain Seven Bridges Natural Area: An easy 3.0-mile, out-and-back trail. 9011 Valley Street, Alden, Michigan.

Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area: A moderately challenging 19-mile loop trail system. Popular for hiking, cross country skiing, and birding. 3169 Eckhardt Road, Bellaire, Michigan. 

Grass River Natural Area: A 1,492-acre nature preserve surrounding the Grass River offers 7 miles of trails including 1.5 miles of boardwalk above northern fen and cedar wetlands. Open year round. 6500 Alden Highway, Bellaire, Michigan. 

Loon Nursery Preserve: An easy 0.7-mile loop trail near Bellaire, Michigan. 7795 Bellaire Highway, Bellaire, Michigan.

Maplehurst Natural Area: 

Ridge Trail, Forest Trail, and Stream Trail Loop System: A moderately challenging 3.8-mile loop of trails. Popular for hiking, mountain biking, and running. Kewadin, Michigan.

Maplehurst Ridge Trail and Forest Trail Loop: A moderately challenging 3.2-mile loop of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and running. Kewadin, Michigan.

Torch Lake Nature Preserve: A 1.6-mile trail. SE Torch Lake Drive, Bellaire, Michigan. 

Torch Bay Nature Preserve: An easy 1.4-mile trail. Leashed dogs are welcome. 12674-12970 Traverse Bay Road, Kewadin, Michigan.

Things to Do at Torch Lake

Torch Lake is surrounded by tiny townships with very few restaurants on the lake or in the townships, and no nightlife. Torch Lake is developed with beautiful lakefront homes. Torch Lake is the ideal lake for boating, its main attraction. The A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort offers upscale vacation accommodations.

In Native American, A-Ga-Ming translates to “on the shores”. The A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort features three courses with 72 holes, three townhome complexes with one, two, three, and four bedroom lodging options, dining, and prime residential homes for sale. 

The Dockside on Torch Lake restaurant is the only restaurant on the waterfront, and you can pull your boat right up to it. This restaurant features all-time favorites and creates new dishes every season with indoor and outdoor dining, offers boat rentals, and has a fishing dock. 

Plan the perfect day trip or vacation on our Things to Do at Torch Lake page.

Torch Lake Zip Codes

Antrim County: 49612, 49615, 49622, 49648, 49659, 49676. 

Torch Lake Weather & Climate 

Torch Lake sees an average of 33 inches of rain per year, with 28 inches of snow and 172 days of sunshine. The winter low in January is 15 degrees and a summer high in July of 82 degrees. June, July, and August are the most comfortable months for this region. January and December are the least comfortable months.

Keep your eyes on the skies with our Torch Lake Weather Forecast page.

Torch Lake Flora and Fauna

Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can watch out for big brown bats, beavers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, snowshoe hares, minks, woodland jumping mice, muskrats, opossums, eastern cottontail rabbits, river otters, long-tailed weasels, white-tailed deer, and woodchucks. From May through August, over 100 wildflower species show off a brightly hued color wheel of petals. 

Though the native forests surrounding Torch Lake are less than 50% before European intervention, these forests offer mostly hardwood trees beautiful diversity with common tree species of black and white ash, bigtooth and quaking aspen, American beech, yellow and white birch, black cherry, red and silver maple, northern red and white oak, jack and red pine, and black spruce.

Torch Lake Email Updates


Torch Lake Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.


Torch Lake Weather Forecast


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 52

Saturday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 41


Partly Sunny

Hi: 56

Sunday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 35


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 57

Monday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 39


Chance Rain Showers

Hi: 63

Tuesday Night

Rain Showers

Lo: 48

Torch Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 4/14: 330.14 (-260.86)

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