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Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

West Coast/Lake Michigan, Michigan

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Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

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  • The information kiosk at the Nurnberg Tralhead.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • The dunes are part of the Manistee National Forest.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • The Nurnberg Trailhead.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Hiking in the Nordhouse Dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Much of the forest is fairly open, allowing ferns to blanket the forest floor.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Nordhouse Lake.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • A wide variety of flaura and fauna can be found in the dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Blueberries ripen in late July.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • A distant view of Lake Michigan.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Climbing a steeper section of trail at the Nurnberg Dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Expansive views of Lake Michigan abound.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Looking out over the dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Hammocks are popular lounge items at the dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Chunks of driftwood often come to rest on the shore.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Hikers exploring the shoreline.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Typical views in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Wildflowers grow amongst the dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • The weather can change quickly in the dunes.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Lake Michigan Recreation Area.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Sunset from Lake Michigan Recreation Area.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
  • Walking the boardwalk at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area.- Lake Michigan Recreation Area + Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Wildlife viewing. Backcountry camping.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
West Coast/Lake Michigan, MI
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Highest point: 
725.00 ft (220.98 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
84.00 ft (25.60 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
National or state forest pass
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
Total elevation gain: 
374.00 ft (114.00 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
641.00 ft (195.38 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area is a 3,450 acre national forest comprised of 3,500- to 4,000-year-old sand dunes, jack pine and hemlock forests, and interdunal ponds. Camping and hiking in the wilderness area can be accessed from the Nurnberg Trailhead or the Lake Michigan Recreation Area.

The Lake Michigan Recreation area is located at the north end of the wilderness area and features sheltered picnic areas, an observation deck, playgrounds, 99 single campsites, and three group camping sites. It provides much closer access to Lake Michigan than the Nurnberg Trailhead, requiring only a few hundred yards of walking to reach the beach. Several vault toilets are also located here.

The Nurnberg Trailhead is located near the southern end of the wilderness area and feels much less developed. A single vault toilet and a few informational kiosks mark the start of the trail network. Nordhouse Lake can be found by following the trails to the northeast from the Nurnberg Trailhead. It’s a great place for a picnic or for bird watching.

Ten miles of trails weave through and over the dunes, rising up to 140 feet before descending back to the lakeshore. Along the trails, visitors will find wildflowers and blueberries mixed among the juniper, jack pine, and hemlock. Occasionally the trails break out into an open ridge with spectacular views of Lake Michigan. The Nordhouse Dunes Rilderness Area is also home to the federally threatened Pitcher’s Thistle, a plant that grows five to eight years before blooming cream or pink flowers from several branches, and the endangered piping plover, a small shorebird with a single black band around its neck.

Camping is allowed 100 feet from the trail, 400 feet from Lake Michigan, and 200 feet from Nordhouse Lake for a fee of $5 per night or $15 per week. Pets are allowed, but they must be kept on leash.

Ludington State Park begins at the southwestern terminus of the wilderness area, extending the undeveloped shoreline for several miles.

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