Pilgrim Haven Natural Area: Quiet Trails and Excellent Rockhounding on Lake Michigan

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area: Quiet Trails and Excellent Rockhounding on Lake Michigan

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Sign Parking Lot

We’ve recently had the chance to explore some of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy properties in the South Haven area, and we were blown away by what the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area has to offer. This 27 acre paradise just south of South Haven has everything you need for a day of quiet recreation, including forest trails, wildlife watching, hunting for rocks on the beach, and swimming in Lake Michigan.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Rocky Lake Michigan Beach

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Rocks and Water

Pilgrim Haven frequently pops up as one of the best rockhounding spots in a few groups we follow, and it didn’t take long to see why. The beach here is covered with a wide variety of rocks and one could easily spend hours looking through them all to find a few treasures. You can see the South Haven Lighthouse at the end of the pier to the north, and Dyckman Creek flows into the lake near the middle of the preserve. It was windy and wavy when we visited, but this looked to be a great place for swimming when conditions allow.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area SWMLC Chimney

A few short hiking trails wind through the property, which was once home to a camp. An information sign by the parking tells of its history as a Kiwanis camp for young girls in the early 1900s and then later as a church camp from the 1940s to 1980s. The land was then privately owned before being transferred to SWMLC in the 2010s. The only thing that still stands from the camp is the chimney from the old dining hall.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Lake Michigan Duck 2023

Keep your eyes and ears peeled on the trails. We saw quite a few birds and small mammals, including a handful of ducks that kept moving from the creek to the lake and back again.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Dyckman Creek Bridge

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Sandy beach Pathway

There is no fee to visit the park, and its large parking lot can hold 40+ vehicles. Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is located near the end of 18th Ave., just a few blocks from Blue Star Highway (see map below).