Michigan Trail Tuesday: Sanctuary Woods Preserve in Holland
Michigan Trail Tuesdays is our attempt to showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula and more miles of the North Country Trail than any other state.
Holland is one of West Michigan’s most beloved beach towns, thanks to its vibrant Dutch heritage and its location on Lake Michigan. Beaches, parks, and trails are plentiful here and offer scenic views of dunes, lakes, rivers, wildlife and more. We recently had the chance to check out Sanctuary Woods Preserve, a 40-acre park on the south side of Lake Macatawa that is home to short but challenging hiking trail that explores the woods and a dune.
A few notes about this trail – it is moderately challenging due to terrain and a large staircase that leads up the dune, and the trail offers no stunning scenic vistas of Lake Michigan or Lake Macatawa. This remains a popular spot for hiking and running as it is typically a less busy park than others in the area. A sign near the parking lot lays out some ground rules so that everyone can continue to enjoy this park. Dogs are allowed if kept on leashes, but bicycles are not allowed past the parking lot. When we visited it was disappointing to see that with only 10-15 visitors at the park one gentleman in full riding gear felt that the bicycle rules did not apply to him as he rode all the way to the base of the dune stairs – please don’t be “that guy”! It is also important to be respectful as the trail comes very close to the backyards of several area homes.
The trail starts out flat from the parking area, crosses Kelly Creek, then heads into the woods. After a few hundred yards you will find yourself at the base of the dune stairs. This is a challenging hike uphill so make sure to take your time and stay hydrated. The entire loop trail is around a mile if you cover the whole thing, but due to the frequent uphill and downhill changes on the dune it will feel like a bit more.
The peace and quiet here was refreshing, and we managed to sneak a few views of the lake through the trees at the north end of the park. Birds and squirrels were plentiful and active during our visit, and with all of the trees I have to imagine this is a top destination during fall color.
One cool things I found off of a side trail in the park was the ruins of and old water tower. Only part of the base remains now, and most of the concrete is covered with very colorful graffiti. The remnants of industry were surprising in this location and were quite a contrast in scenery.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike that will take around a half hour or a great picnic spot by the creek, check out Sanctuary Woods the next time you’re in the Holland area.