Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
374.00 ft (114.00 m)
Trail type
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round



Great views. Wildlife viewing. Backcountry camping.



Trailhead Elevation

641.00 ft (195.38 m)

Highest point

725.00 ft (220.98 m)


ADA accessible
Family friendly
Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Geologically significant
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

West Coast/Lake Michigan, Michigan
West Coast/Lake Michigan, Michigan


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