Nordhouse Dunes, located in the Huron-Manistee National Forest between Ludington and Manistee tests the definition of true wilderness. To some its diminutive size (~3,500 acres), and the fact that it is surrounded on three sides by roads and and a notoriously busy recreation and camping area, might deter the true seeker of wilderness in its purest form. Despite these apparent downfalls, Nordhouse does manage to retain an air of wildness. Granted, on my visit, which happened on a cool, blustery day weeks after the passage of the summer season I found very few people in the vicinity. Even so, it exhibits very little evidence of overuse.
As a federally designated wilderness the dunes do not have any 'official' trails but people have been recreating here long before it was granted its current status so a trail system is well established. No signs, save the ones at the access points, provide direction once you enter the wilderness so a map and a good sense of direction are good tools to take along on a visit. My route took me around the periphery of the wilderness encompassing a variety of natural communities.
Starting my hike at the Nurnberg Parking Area at the southeast corner of the wilderness area my plan was to follow a 7-mile loop out to Lake Michigan and then ramble north along the shore to the Lake Michigan Recreation Area before cutting back south through the forested dune country to the start. The day was stereo-typically fall-like for Michigan. Cool, stiff breezes rushed off the lake and the sun constantly flitted in and out of billowing lake clouds. Although the colors were a bit lacking for late September, this was a thoroughly enjoyable hike that was made even more sweet by a four month absence from the North Woods and the uncertainty of when a return visit might occur. Nordhouse Dunes not only provided me with some of the best the Michigan outdoors has to offer it also gave me some a few more treasured memories to tide me over until my next trip north...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 44.087318, -86.444729