Nordhouse Dunes / Ludington State Park Loop

MODERATE 18 reviews

Nordhouse Dunes / Ludington State Park Loop is a 19.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Hamlin Lake, Michigan that features a lake. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
19.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
905 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

beach

forest

lake

views

wildlife

off trail

hiking
1 month ago

I wish the trail was better labeled. However, the trail itself is beautiful and serene. Awesome for dispersed camping and it's nice that you can choose between hiking deep in the woods or closer to the lake!

backpacking
2 months ago

Great dune and beach views. Can be extremely busy on weekends. Found an awesome spot close to Lake Michigan. Biting flies were really bad, you need to wear long socks and pants if you plan on camping close to the Lake. Really great place to hike and camp. Please practice “leave no trace” policy.

Hicked all, but only in pieces.

backpacking
3 months ago

What I liked so much about this hike is the diversity of environments you'll travel through. The Island Trail is quite beautiful (if very short) with lakes on either side. Once you veer off the Island trail and in to the Ludington dunes area, it's like entering a new world. Though the dunes are difficult, it is quite scenic and unlike anything I had seen in Michigan thus far.

The best part of the trek was the hiking along the beach. Lake Michigan is beautiful, and the beach is completely clear of stones/rocks once you hit the Nordhouse part.

Note that there doesn't seem to be any designated/official trail between Ludington and Nordhouse. You'll be mostly on your own navigating through the dunes though there are some makeshift trails every now and then. Luckily it's hard to get lost with Hamlin on one side, Lake Michigan on the other, and the lighthouse visible from many of the crests. The hike along the shore is as straightforward as humanly possible.

There are plenty of decent camping spots in the Nordhouse area along the beach. The treeline runs close to the shore. Unfortunately there were tons of people who had set up shop before me, and I had to do some searching to find a spot.

NOTE: Nordhouse is part of the Manistee National Forest which allows for dispersed camping, meaning you can camp anywhere (with some stipulations on distance from water sources that no one seems to follow). Ludington REQUIRES a reservation if you want to camp in the State Park and does not allow for dispersed camping. There's only one rustic campground meant for backpackers/tent campers.

I also learned that parking in the state park requires overnight permits which can be sorted out through the main office, booth, or dump station office. Woops.

The 20 mile loop can be done easily in a two day/one night trek.

backpacking
10 months ago

Absolutely love this trail, tho I don't go the exact same way (I go to Hamlin lake and then turn and go to Lake Michigan before coming back the way I came) . swimming in Hamlin lake is cool. lots of views. easy to find a place to camp. not too hard either, planning on going sometime this winter.

backpacking
Sunday, July 23, 2017

Challenging hike in the sand on the Lighthouse Trail. Also, couldn't find the trail (not sure if there is one) on the south side of Nordhouse. Ended up walking the beach to the Lighthouse which was gorgeous! Found some petoskey stones and other cool rocks. Overall enjoyed the trip. Hiked about 17 miles from Nordhouse to the Ludington Island Trail and back.

Edit: hiked from Nurnberg trailhead to Lighthouse to Island Trail and back

backpacking
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Great route. Some off trail stuff, but perfect for those wanting a longer hike and to see all the different landscapes here. Coast was fine during our trip.

Monday, June 12, 2017

We attempted a part of this trail and ended up turning around and hiking back to the car. Was expecting to hike up the beach but about a mile after the lighthouse in ludington state park the beach is gone and water is too deep to wade through, so the only option is to hike the dunes and there was not a trail through them. They do not want people hiking on the dunes due to dune conservation efforts to maintain the vegetation, but we hiked up a little bit to see if we could find a trail and could not do we turned around before we did anymore damage, went back to our car, drove to nordhouse dunes, hiked in and camped. Absolutely beautiful parks but do not expect to hike the coast!

backpacking
Wednesday, May 03, 2017

See our adventure at TrailPerspective on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oMpYsPm7OM

Great backpacking destination for dispersed camping. The Nordhouse Dunes trail is only 3.5 miles, but we turned this loop into ~20 miles by doing a figure 8 loop from Nordhouse (Nurnberg Trailhead), to Ludington State Park (Island Loop), to Lake Mich Rec Area, and back to Nurnberg.

Starting out hiking along the beach from the trailhead to the lighthouse (~6 miles), we then cut inland to the Ludington State Park trails (Lighthouse Trail -> Logging Trail -> Coast Guard Trail -> Island Trail) and hooked up with the the beautiful "Island Trail" that winds back up north through a series of islands in Hamlin Lake connected by a series of bridges (pretty cool). **Note: fill up water at Hamlin lake if you don't want to fight the waves of Lake Michigan. At the end of the "Island Lake" Trail we veered off and kept heading north through the inland dune area of Ludington State Park before reconnecting with the coast several miles north once re-entering Nordhouse Dunes.

We then took the unmarked Nordhouse trail up to Lake Michigan Recreational Area lookout, and finally looped back to the Nurnberg Trailhead on the trail passing Nordhouse Lake. I highly recommend this route or one similar if you truly want to experience the many different areas here. Also, if you prefer to put in some actual hiking miles.

Be aware, the inland dune area between Nordhouse and Ludington was the most strenuous section and is off trail. But it was so beautiful, and my favorite section by far. Be prepared for constant up and downs in mostly sand. There are some areas in the inland dune area that conservation may be taking place and camping not allowed but don't let it keep you from exploring the area.

I would also note that the coast has been completely open and hike-able every time I've been to the area, but it would be wise to check the tide level online before arriving if you think it will be an issue for your route.

backpacking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

backpacking
4 months ago

hiking
Thursday, October 05, 2017

hiking
Saturday, September 16, 2017