Hit the Trail: Hiking in the Saugatuck Area

In Japan, there’s a concept called “forest bathing” where people spend time in the woods to improve their sense of well-being. In the Saugatuck-Douglas area, we take that concept one step farther, combining the tranquility of the woods with the meditative sights and sounds of the water.

The area is home to multiple hiking trails, all within close reach of civilization but miles away from your everyday cares. Whether you’re looking for spring wildflowers, seeking shade in summer, admiring the fall colors, or making tracks in the snow, it’s a great way to invigorate your senses and burn a few calories. So what’re you waiting for? Grab your water bottle, and let’s go.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

An unassuming parking lot is your secret portal to Lake Michigan. A network of wide, sandy trails wind through the woods, where you’re surrounded by soaring maples, fresh-scented pines, and birdsong. For an easy afternoon hike, you can take the North Trail to the lake, walk south along a secluded stretch of shore, and return on the Livingston Trail. Or go late in the evening and hang a hammock at the top of the 200-foot dunes for an incomparable view of the sunset.

Trailhead: 138th Ave. in Saugatuck

Trail Length: 2.5-5.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Fee: Free to MI State Park pass holders, $11 for a day pass at the gate

Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area

Stretching along the rolling dunes north of Oval Beach, this sandy trail takes you through a 173-acre protected natural area boasting unspoiled dunes, the remnants of the historic Fishtown pier, delicate wetlands, the Kalamazoo River channel, and a long, peaceful strip of Lake Michigan. Watch for migrating birds in the sky and deer tracks in the sand.

Trailhead:  North end of Oval Beach parking lot

Trail Length: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Fee: $10 for a day pass at the gate (or leave your car behind and take the $1 chain ferry to the beach) May (Memorial Day)-September (Labor Day); free September (post Labor day) to May (pre Memorial day)

Mount Baldhead Park

Get your cardio in and earn some bragging rights by summitting Mount Baldhead. The round radar station marks the top of the trail. To reach it, climb the long wooden staircase (don’t worry, there are benches on the landings where you can rest) and enjoy the bird’s eye view of the harbor and town. Then if you like, run down the sand dune to the beach and get some ice cream…you’ve earned it.

Trailhead: Park Street in Saugatuck

Trail Length: Around 300 steps—each way!

Difficulty: Strenuous

Fee: Free

Treat yourself to the sound of the wind in the leaves, the splash of the waves on the shore, the sand in your toes, or the crunch of your boots in the snow. The peace, quiet, and rejuvenation you’re looking for are waiting for you — just minutes away from town.