Manistee National Forest together with the Huron National Forest occupies almost a million acres of land in Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography
West Michigan's Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Along the Lake Michigan shoreline between Ludington and Manistee, you’ll find a quiet area in all its natural splendor–carved from years of wind and water. The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness encompasses almost 3,500 acres between Ludington and Manistee, with 7,300 feet of undeveloped shoreline. These dunes are close to 4,000 years old, with some rising as high as 140 feet.
Heavy logging took place in the early 20th century, and luckily, what was left became protected as what is now the Manistee National Forest. Sand mining was in operation also, but naturalists noticed that the Nordhouse Dunes were home to unique plant life, as well as a nesting area for the piping plover. In 1987, Congress gave the Nordhouse Dunes its “Wilderness” status, the only place of its kind in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. This particular designation means no wheeled or motorized vehicles are allowed…keeping the area quiet and undisturbed. The name Nordhouse is derived from the German name Nordhausen, who was possibly a local lumberman. Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness is now managed by the National Forest Service.
Inside the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
There is a limited trail system of 14.5 miles within the Wilderness which is never heavily populated. The trails are minimally marked and not always easy to follow. The 1.4 mile Nordhouse Dunes Trail gives you a good look at the dunes. There’s also the Beach Trail, Ridge Trail and North Angle Trail. The Arrowhead Trail is adjacent to the Lake Michigan Recreation Area and is well marked. On your trek you’ll discover that dune grass covers many of the dunes; the grass helps stabilize the sand. Take note of the other vegetation, including juniper, jack pine and Pitcher’s thistle, which is a threatened species. Many animals call the Wilderness home, including deer, fox, coyote, and porcupine.
Camping and Access to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
There you’ll find 99 campsites with fire rings and picnic tables. The other access to the southeastern part is by taking Nurnberg Rd. (also off Quarterline) To enter the Wilderness you must have a Recreation Fee sticker. Camping is dispersed throughout the area, but must be more than 400 feet from Lake Michigan and more than 200 feet from the Nordhouse Lake waterline. No campfires are allowed on the beach. There is no potable water available so you must bring your own.
There are very few places that offer the kind of untouched natural resources you’ll only find here… at Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.
Activities & Attractions in West Michigan
The Silver Lake State Park is 3,000 acres and is situated between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan, offering boating, fishing, swimming, & ORV.
Beautiful color emerges come Fall. Take it all in with an afternoon drive, or stroll, through the many forests of West Michigan.
The Pentwater River provides opportunities to experience a paddle sport for the first time or take on a challenge for those more experienced.
Scottville Riverside Park, along the Pere Marquette River, has over 50 modern sites and is popular for camping and fishing.
Created in 1980, this trail has 1,000 miles running through Michigan, which also runs through the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Get some fresh air and exercise during those cold winter months when you hit the Pentwater Pathway for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
The historical Vogue Theatre in Manistee, renovated as a modern-day movie theater, shows current movies, classic films, and family movies.
Dune Rides in your ATV or ORV are popular at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan, but many rules and regulations apply.
Find artifacts, photographs, and lots of information and stories about the rich history of Pentwater at this historic museum!