Michigan Wildlife Watching: Hofma Preserve in Grand Haven

Michigan Wildlife Watching: Hofma Preserve in Grand Haven

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Sign 168th Ave

We recently had the chance to check out Hofma Preserve in Grand Haven and loved our first visit so much we came home asking ourselves how we hadn’t heard more about this amazing place before. We were drawn to this preserve of 300+ acres for its trails and wildlife watching opportunities, and it came through in a big way for us on both fronts. If you’re looking for a great park for hiking or birdwatching, Hofma Preserve has you covered. The preserve has a network of trails that connects to three different parking areas (and Hofma Park), with its highlight being the 885 foot floating bridge that spans the Pottawattomie Bayou. Today we’ll share a little bit from our visit and let you know what to expect from the trails, as well as share some photos of the different birds and animals we saw during our visit.

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Map Trail Markers

Our visit started from the parking area on 168th St. From here we took the middle path at marker post 41, which starts out paved then becomes a wide gravel path with trees on either side. The trail first passes through a meadow that was full of butterflies and birds, then it heads through the part of the property that used to be a tree farm. A short distance in to this area, we heard the call of a barred owl coming from the woods. While we never did find it, we took it as a good sign that this was going to be a very active place for birdwatching. I loved seeing trail signs at every intersection so we always knew where we were and where we were going. The numbers we refer to in this post correspond to the points on the park map.

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven 33 Marker Trail Map

Taking the most direct path to the water and the floating bridge, our route was 41-38-36-33 through the woods. At marker post 33 there is a beautiful photo op as the path that heads north is flanked on either side by tall rows of trees.

Hofma Preserve Rows of Trees Trail Grand Haven

Through the woods we continued on to marker 30 then northeast to 28 and finally on to 22 and the approach to the bridge. The sound of birds filled the air and we quickly found ourselves trying to keep track of everything we could see and hear. Distant sandhill cranes and geese, swallows dipping low above the water, sparrows, warblers, and red-winged blackbirds filling the trees and bushes, and even a bald eagle soaring high above. It was easy to spend a half hour here before continuing on with the trail on the other side of the bridge.

Hofma Preserve Wetlands Bridge Grand Haven MI

Hofma Preserve Lilypads Bridge Wetlands Grand Haven

Hofma Preserve Boardwalk Clouds Pottawattomie Bayou

On the other side of the preserve we followed the trail to markers 21, 20, 19, and 16. There were very few people on this section of the trails, but plenty of birds and lots of tall trees. We decided to head for another boardwalk that was shown on the map near Hofma Park so we kept on with markers 13, 12, and then 26. This boardwalk is much wider and crosses over a small creek and wetland area before the trail continues on to Hofma Park. We went a little further on this trail and turned around shortly after passing the old tractor in the woods.

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Wood Trail Map

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Boardwalk and Creek Trail

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Water Snake

On our trip back we took 26-12-14-21 to get back to the bridge, where we were once again able to observe a lot of birds and wildlife. The birds were still very active around the bridge and we also saw a handful of water snakes. Spend an hour on this bridge and we would bet you can observe at least 50 different species of birds with a pair of binoculars or a camera. Below is a photo gallery of some of our feathery friends from this preserve:

Before heading back to the parking lot we traveled down to marker 27, where a short boardwalk leads to an observation tower. From here we saw a heron fishing in the shallow water, and lots of blackbirds and swallows. We took the 27-29-34-35-38 path back to the parking lot. In total we logged about five miles throughout our visit and we didn’t even cover every section of trail. Out of all the preserves and parks we have visited this year, this one by far had the best trail signage and maps. We always knew where we were and were always easily able to figure out the path to take next. This is a great preserve and park for all seasons and we will be back soon.

Hofma Preserve Grand Haven Tree Rows

You can park in the parking lot on 168th Ave. (north of Johnson St.), the parking lot at the end of Sleeper St., or in Hofma Park (15581 Ferris St.) to reach the preserve and trails. Enjoy!