Are you looking to combine a day at the dunes with a hike or quick trail ride? Look no further than the Old Baldy trail.
Old Baldy can be found just north of the quaint town of Arcadia on scenic M22. The sign sits on the west side of the road 1,000 feet north of the
state scenic overlook. This hiking trail was developed and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy (GTLC) in an effort to protect significant natural, scenic and farm lands through advancing stewardship. Basically the GTLC is a group of devoted people who love the natural resources that northern Michigan has to offer, and who wish to share it with everyone.
Once you step out of your car you immediately get the feeling that you are the only person for miles around, a feeling that is often difficult to accomplish with our ever-growing population.
The GTLC has put up a notice and map board at the head of the trail that gives dates and times of scheduled hikes and trail maintenance dates.
There are two options when you reach the actual trail. The longer of the two trails is a little over 1 ½ miles one way and offers a nice break from the sun with dense canopies of old growth deciduous trees and a path that climbs, drops and double-backs on itself a few times to give you a great feel for the terrain of the area, and also a great respect for the force of the glaciers that shaped this area.
The shorter trail is just 0.7 mile of very much the same landscape features as the long trail.
At the end of the trail you will come to a set of stairs that lead up to the dune area. If you brought bikes find a tree to chain them to and head up.
Once you make it to the dune area you will be taken aback by the scenery.
The dunes are surprising in their size and the fact that they just sort of appear once you leave the woods. Once you are in the dune area though, let loose! (But be sure to stay on the paths so the dunes can be enjoyed by future guests) Take the time to explore the unique landscape. (Visit the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy website and download guides for the distinct plants that make their home in the dune environment.)
To truly get a feeling for how large Old Baldy is, run down the dune to Lake Michigan and look up, if you didn’t appreciate the size from the top you will definitely do so from the bottom. If you feel like a little more riding or biking after your jaunt out to the dunes cross M22 and check out the other trails that the GTLC has, including the Chestnut Trail/ Dry Hills Trail. That trail can be hiked, but it is best enjoyed on a bike.
The trip back up will most certainly stir up a hunger for some ice cream at the Ice Cream Parlor inside Arcadia Marine or a beer at Riggers.
Old Baldy is a great place to take kids as it is an easy bike or hike that will not tire them out. It is also the kind of place where one can go to embrace solitude if you feel like taking a solo trip.
We are truly lucky to have such an area like this, not only Old Baldy, but the entirety of the Lake Michigan Shoreline, and such a perfect path as M22 to guide us along the bays, dunes, peaks, beaches and little towns and villages that dot the landscape. Take some time out of your busy day/ week to explore your own little piece of Pure Michigan. I know that I sure do, and it keeps the body healthy and the mind sane.
Old Baldy is open to hikers, joggers, mountain bikers, snow-shoers and cross-country skiers.