Trail Talk – Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Adding after posting: I failed to mention the audiobook I listened to on the way back: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. On the way out, I just listened to the wind in the trees.

Since I spend so much time hiking the trails in my part of the Mitten, I thought I’d start sharing my experiences on a few of them.

Today, for the first time, I visited Saugatuck Dunes State Park. I was alone (I usually hike alone; I love the solitude). A Recreation Passport is required for entry and the gate was staffed. The parking area has two pit toilets and multiple picnic tables in sun and shade. There is also a covered shelter with picnic tables.

There are four trails according to the state website. I hiked the North Trail. It’s beautifully wooded, very sandy in spots (this is the Dunes, after all), and has lots of changes in elevation. The North Trail leads to Lake Michigan, as does the Beach Trail.

The state website says the North Trail is 2.5 miles long, but my Fitbit tells me that I only walked 2.06 miles. I suppose it’s possible that I didn’t actually reach the end of that trail before turning around (couldn’t see over the dune), but I did hear the sound of the lake from where I turned around.

While there aren’t extremely steep inclines on this trail, the trip back, especially, is a steady and subtantial incline – my 2 mile hike shows up on my Fitbit as 19 flights of stairs. Because I did have to slow down on that incline, my hike was just under an hour. I also paused a few times to decipher posted maps and to take a couple of photos (see the bottom of the post).

Pros:

  • Only West Michigan park I’ve hiked where I can’t hear the traffic on the trail.
  • Pit toilets, picnic tables, and shelter on site.
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Spectacular view of Lake Michigan, if you make it.
  • Friendly DNR staff to greet you.
  • Minutes from the charming resort town of Saugatuck, with its galleries, watering holes, restaurants, and cafes.

Cons:

  • Not barrier – free, at least on the North Trail
  • Maps and directional posts are not nearly as helpful as Ottawa County park postings; shortly after I entered the park, at an posted trail intersection, three men studied the posting and then just asked me which way I came from.
  • No cell or data service in this area – this could be considered a plus, though.

Trail challenges

  • Deep sand and exposed tree roots in places can be difficult to navigate
  • Elevations can be challenging – and they sneak up on you, because the trip back is more challenging than the trip out. Probably not an issue if you are in shape. I’m not in shape (although I’m getting there), and at one point I had to stop a moment and rest – something I haven’t had to do outside of the stairs comng back from the beach at Rosy Mound.
Note the sandy trail.

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