Hike The Trails & More At Saugatuck Dunes State Park
How To Stumble Upon Stunning Scenery & Beautiful Views Of Lake Michigan
To hike the trails over Saugatuck’s dunes is sort of a right of passage. Maybe you already know that West Michigan has amazing golden sand beaches. But do you know about the towering sand dunes, part of the world’s largest freshwater dunes system, that provide amazing vistas? These 200-feet towers of sand look out over untouched wide open beaches. There are views like nowhere else in West Michigan. Lake Michigan, the third-largest of the great lakes, sparkles and shines with shades of brilliant blues. At the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, 2.5 miles of sandy, secluded Lake Michigan beach stretch out before you. 14 miles of trails wind their way through the 1000 acres of rolling, wooded dunes. All of this incredible natural beauty of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park is less than 5 miles from Wickwood Inn. The “State Park,” a gem for locals and tourists alike, has been named One Of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places, and we’re grateful for its pristine preservation.
At the Saugatuck Dunes State Park you’re spared the lifeguard chairs, snack shacks, and playground equipment. Here, nature is the playground, and it is stunning. Sometimes, it’s so beautiful, you forget you’re in Michigan!
Yes, getting to the beach on Lake Michigan involves a little effort. All good things do. However, if you take the most direct path, the beach is a 0.6 mile hike from the parking area. In this case, the joy is found in both the journey and the destination! There aren’t many places in the state that can claim this much protected beach available for public access.
“Those dunes are to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona and the Yosemite to California. They constitute a signature of time and eternity. Once lost, the loss would be irrevocable.”
~ Carl Sandburg
As you hike the trails and climb, notice the changes in the terrain. See the variation in trees, the songs of the birds, and the difference in plant species. There are 3 main trail loops on which you can hike, but each of these trails offers many different offshoots and variations for the more adventurous hiker. These trails are perfect to walk, run, snow shoe, or cross country ski.
If it’s beach weather, you may reward yourself with losing track of time on the beach and in the water. Stroll. Nap. Look for lucky stones. Wait until sunset. Watch for the elusive and magical green flash before you hike the trails back.
“Climbing a dune is like walking up a down escalator, as many sand-savvy folks have noted…”
~ Lucinda Hahn, New York Times, ‘Out of the Blue’
How To Hike The Trails Through Saugatuck Dunes State Park
To hike the trails follow the park’s 14-mile network of footpaths. The trails include three basic loops referred to on park maps as: North Trail, Beach Trail, and South Trail. All are wide paths and well-marked with location maps at almost every junction.
Livingston Trail Loop:
This loop is a combination of the North Trail, a beach walk and a return via Livingston Trail. The moderate, 3.4-mile route offers a pleasant mix of open dunes and stands of pine and hardwoods. After you hike the trails for what seems like forever, it appears. A stunning image of the lake spills into view. You perch on the high, sandy bluffs and take in the gorgeous never-ending blue waters. Then you clamber, as one does, down the giant sand dunes. Finally, you stroll down a pristine, sandy beach for more than a mile. See our Saugatuck insider’s tips below.
- If you take this hike midday on a summer weekend you may see some other hikers and beach goers.
- Many other times, however, you may not encounter any people at all! Of course, this delicious solitude also increases your chances for enjoying the birds and wildlife.
- Birders may spot brown thrashers, grosbeaks, pileated woodpeckers, tufted titmice, and even great horned owls. Experienced birders find the park rich in species, including the common tern (which is not such a common sight in Michigan anymore).
- No big predators here, but you may see a variety of woodland animals such as whitetail deer, woodchuck, chipmunk, rabbit, and raccoon.
South Trail Loop:
The best way to access this trail is from the large gravel parking lot in Shore Acres Township Park, adjacent to Saugatuck Dunes. From this start point, the hike is about 4. 5 miles.
- Parking in the State Park lot adds about one more mile to the hike.
- The southern part of the State Park is 300 acres of designated natural area and is separated from the north by about 60 acres of private property.
- The South Trail is the only way to access this part of the park.
- It is the longest loop, it tends to be less busy than the others.
Ask Wickwood Innkeepers For More Information
The natural beauty of the Saugatuck Dunes is less than five miles away from Wickwood Inn. Experience your own secret adventure right here in West Michigan. Hike the trails before our Farm To Table Champagne brunch, or take a bottle of wine with you for sunset after Sips & Small Plates. But first, choose and reserve your room at the Inn. We hope to see you soon at Wickwood Inn’s bed and breakfast in downtown Saugatuck, Michigan. And remember, a great Saugatuck adventure includes going home with sand in your shoes.