North Ottawa Dunes – Beautiful Hiking Trails in Ottawa County
Michigan’s shoreline on Lake Michigan offers many opportunities to view and even hike on majestic sand dunes. The beauty of locations like Sleeping Bear Dunes, Warren Dunes and Saugatuck Dunes State Park draws visitors from across the country each year and can make things pretty busy during the summer months. Those looking for a little more solitude and an incredible hiking experience should head to Ferrysburg and check out North Ottawa Dunes, a 500+ acre park with 10 miles of hiking trails and a wide variety of topographic features.
The trailhead for North Ottawa Dunes is located in Coast Guard Park north of Grand Haven, and the trails head into the wooded dunes and go on for miles before they reach Lake Michigan and P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. This is definitely not a hike that will appeal to everyone, as there are frequent uphill and downhill stretches as you make your way through the woods and over the dunes.
Trail intersections are well marked and there are frequent maps with mileage. A little bit into the hike, one trail heads to North Beach Park while the other trail continues north somewhat parallel to the shore. Staying on this trail will eventually bring you to Hoffmaster State Park, where a short side trail leads out to Lake Michigan and some great views of the dunes.
Wildlife (including birds, squirrels, chipmunks and deer) is pretty abundant on this hike, and there are more kinds of plants and trees than you’ll be able to count. We made the trip out to Lake Michigan (roughly 3 miles), then backtracked our route while adding a few of the side loops – don’t worry, they all eventually put you back on the same trail. If you keep an eye on your intersection numbers and check the posted maps at each turn it is pretty easy to get back to the parking lot. Our visit on a Wednesday in July found only three other people on the trail in our two hours there. We also would definitely recommend bug spray for your hike, we sprayed it on pretty good and still found ourselves swatting the bugs off in a few places.
Directions: From US-31 North take the Ferrysburg exit, then turn left onto 3rd St. Take 3rd St. for about a mile then make a left onto North Shore Drive. Coast Guard Park is a few miles down this road on the north side, but is not well marked. If you reach North Beach Park, you’ve gone too far but will be able to easily backtrack.