» nordhouse dunes wilderness
Being a wilderness area, Nordhouse Dunes has a vast shortage of amenities that one would expect at a 4 star resort. I guess that's because the only stars were the ones in the sky, and for the most part, the only human traces were the unmarked trails. Besides all that, the nicest thing about it is that you do not need a permit or reservations to camp. Just find a place that looks good to you, and is 400 feet from the lake, and setup camp (you are also encouraged not to damage the fragile dune grass). People seem to be doing a good job of following the "Leave No Trace" rules, as the only trash we came across was what had washed up on the beach (probably from those litterbugs in Illinois and Wisconsin).

We ran into many "Road Closed" signs on the way to the trailhead which led to us taking the Google Maps-endorsed Green Road to the trailhead. This is a very rough and sandy road that I wouldn't recommend for passenger cars, but we made it.

I had heard that the area can get crowded over July and August weekends, but despite the perfect weather, we saw no such crowds. We did see a few other people when we went on longer hikes, but when we were around our campsite it was like we had the place to ourselves. Just us and the deer flies. The deer flies, actually, were not a problem as long as you were moving. However, if you stopped, and they found you, they could make things unpleasant. There were times that our campsite was crawling with them, and other times when they were nowhere to be found. Not sure what caused the variance, if anything. A guy at the lighthouse said Vicks Vapor Rub can be effective against flies.

For the most part we just hung out on the beach or went swimming, but Sunday morning we did hike down the beach to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park. This was about 9.5 miles round trip from our campsite (which was about 2.5 miles from the trailhead). It's one of the taller lighthouses on Lake Michigan and it's amazing how much effort has been put into illuminating what is now a thumb-sized 300 watt lightbulb that looks like it could be used in your car as a tail light. The lighthouse is 112 feet tall and the walls are 6 feet thick at it's base. Sturdy as it may seem, it still almost fell victim to Lake Michigan waves when it was abandoned and the seawall was breached in 1977.

According to the NOAA charts, the water temp was about 70 degrees. It was cool but refreshing. Wildlife sightings include a Bald Eagle and some deer. Besides that, the only other thing I should note is that Highway 31 is a very nice and scenic road.

Megan hiking along the beach.

Megan looking for a place to camp.

This is not where we camped, it's where I would have liked to have camped, maybe. We camped in the trees off to the right.

Where we camped.

Looking north from near our campsite.

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse from afar. These dunes are actually part of Ludington State Park.

Small lakes in the dunes.

Megan reading on the bluffs at sunset.

Looking south.

Looking north.


Left: Fallen butterfly. Right: Lighthouse peeking over the dune grass.

Driftwood. Unfortunately, many non-natural things wash up on shore too, mostly various forms of plastic (bottles, caps, wrappers).

Megan walking the beach.

Looking north from the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Boat traffic as seen from the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Lighthouse steps.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

We saw quite a few large Sailboats on the lake. Last week was the 100th Chicago to Mackinac Island Sailboat Race and some of them were probably heading back home.

Body surfing (Photo by Megan).

When the wind blows, the dune grass draws patterns in the sand.

We saw many deer, even some wandering the dunes, but these were just along the road on the way to the trailhead. They were posing nicely until I pulled out my camera.

Left: Sunset. Right: A common wildflower in the dunes. We passed many fields of wildflowers along the highway on the way but there weren't really many along the trail.

Walking the beach south to the lighthouse.


Sailing away.

Freshwater waves.

Left: Trail obstacle. Right: A lake in the woods.

Dune jumping (Photo by Megan).

Dune lakes.

Megan on the way to the beach.

Beach views on the way to the lighthouse.

» Lake Michigan Recreation Area
Just north of Nordhouse Dunes

Left: Cooper Creek flowing into Lake Michigan. Right: Looking north from near Cooper Creek.

» little sable point

The Little Sable Point Lighthouse towering above the weekend beach goers.

» nordhouse dunes map

There are 3 adjacent parks in this area, Ludington State Park to the south, Nordhouse Dunes in the middle, and Michigan Recreation Area to the north. All of them have different rules and regulations.


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