DISTANCE
19.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
905 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

beach

forest

lake

views

wildlife

off trail

backpacking
12 days 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.