Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

Attention outdoorsy-types, you want to go here.

Part of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, and located about 15 miles south of Manistee, Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area offers a little something for everyone willing to unplug and soak in some Michigan nature.  Think hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and fishing with access to Lake Michigan and of course the famous dunes.  See, you want to go there, don’t you? 

According to the USDA website, The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area is the only federally designated wilderness in Michigan's lower-peninsula and encompasses 3,450 acres of National Forest.  It is part of the Ludington Dune Ecosystem, which also includes Lake Michigan Recreation Area, and Ludington State Park.

We recently stayed at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area for a 5-day family camp trip.  The first of our group to arrive at the campground found 3 adjacent camp sites, put cash in the camping envelope ($18 a night), placed the receipts on our site posts, and began pitching the tent.  It was as simple as that. Reservations are accepted for some of the sites and if the campground is full, you can legally camp in the national forest for free. 

The host campers are really on top of things, to say the least, but that’s great because they keep the campground really clean and make sure that no one takes advantage of this “honor” type payment system.  The hosts were at our site within minutes of our arrival to say hello and make sure that everyone paid and that we knew how many cars we could have on site, etc.  They’re very on top of things as I said.

This family-friendly campground has four loops; Orchid, Hemlock, Oak and Violet.  Some of the loops have flush toilets, the others have vault toilets, and all have access to pressurized water.  There’s also group sites available at a reduced rate.  Leave your electronic devices at home because there is no electric hook-up and slim chance of getting a cell signal

We camped in the Violet loop and spent our days riding our bikes, running the trails and the kids enjoyed the playground and catching fireflies at night.  A pleasant half mile walk down a trail through the hardwoods brought us to the beach entrance.  We frequented the beach; early morning swims, wave jumping and sunbathing in the afternoon and catching the amazing Lake Michigan sunset in the evening.

Just a note from personal experience, if you’re not familiar with the trails, I would not suggest running them with the assumption that they will lead back to the campground.  13 miles later, I finally made it back to camp.  I held a surprisingly quick pace, but perhaps it was from fear of being chased by a bear.  

As you can see, it was a fantastic, relaxing trip. Highly recommended!  Even the GLP leaves the camp trip feeling a little dirty and in need of a bath, but very relaxed, refreshed and reconnected.  

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