Cheboygan State Park
Geographic Location: east of
Length: 4.3 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: July 2012
Overview: A lollipop loop through the sand dunes on the
. shore of Lake Huron
Park Information: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=441&type=SPRK
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=123563
Directions to the trailhead: The entrance to
is located on the north side of US 23 3.8 miles south of the town of Cheboygan State Park Cheboygan. Enter the park. Where the main park road forks, take the right fork. Park at the hiking trailhead 1.2 miles ahead on the right.
The hike: Nobody comes to
. I was mystified and stunned when I realized the truth of this statement. The park is located directly on US 23, the main highway through northeast Michigan. The park features a long stretch of beautiful, undeveloped sand dunes on Cheboygan State Park Lake Huron. Nearby resort towns Mackinac City/Island and Gaylord overflow with summer visitors. Yet nobody comes to , and most hiking guides do not even mention it. Cheboygan State Park
For hikers willing to buck the trend, a fabulous hiking experience awaits. The park has its roots in the Cheboygan Point Light, a lighthouse that operated on this site from 1859 through 1930. When the lighthouse ceased operations, the land was conveyed to the state of
Michigan to establish the park. The lighthouse does not stand today, but its foundation can be seen clearly on this hike.
Only small areas in the park are developed, and those areas include a 76-site campground, 3 rustic cabins, and a day-use beach area. Outside of these areas, 5 trails totaling 6.5 miles explore the old growth forest and undeveloped dunes area. The route described here mostly stays away from the developed area to provide an excellent semi-wilderness hiking experience.
|Blue Trail leaving the hiking trailhead|
At 0.3 miles, you pass Poe’s Reef Cabin, the first of the three rustic cabins. In another 0.1 miles, you reach Post #1. As at most
Michigan state parks, major trail intersections at Cheboygan State Park are numbered, and posts at these intersections mark the number and give a nice trail map. This intersection forms the loop portion of this hike. To get to the lakeshore first, this description will turn right to begin the Green Trail and use the Blue Trail continuing straight as the return route.
At 0.5 miles, the Green Trail reaches the sand dunes along
Lake Huron, where it turns left to begin heading west parallel to the lake. The next 1.7 miles may be the most spectacular hiking in Michigan. The trail stays just outside the forest with full lake views ahead and to the right. Only a 30-foot grassy/reedy area separates you from the lake. The soft sand underfoot makes the hiking more difficult than you might expect, and the barren dunes offer no protection from the sun. On the bright side, a cool breeze wafts in from the lake.
|Green Trail along Lake Huron|
At 2.2 miles, you reach Post #6, the end of the Green Trail and the farthest point from the trailhead. The Black Trail is the only other trail that comes to this point. Thus, you should turn sharply left to begin the Black Trail. The Black Trail parallels the Green Trail but at a greater distance from the lake, which is rarely visible on the Black Trail. Also, the sand underfoot is drier and therefore softer, so the hiking is more difficult. In spite of the minimal elevation gain, do not underestimate the difficulty of this hike.
|Black Trail in soft sand|
|Site of Cheboygan Point Light|