June 26 - 28, 2020
Written by: Colin
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness is a dispersed camping and hiking area inside of Manistee National Forest. I was so excited when I thought that I found a hidden gem while scrolling through Instagram one night. Although this area is absolutely beautiful, Nordhouse Dunes is no longer as secretive as we had originally thought.
Following the Instagram find, the research and planning commenced. A day or two later, we started seeing others post on Facebook about the location and even heard employees at REI talk about it. Even though the area seemed to become more popular overnight, we were very excited to get our first taste of backpacking.
Part Of Manistee National Forest
Over the last year or so, we have been trying to accumulate enough backpacking gear in order to make a trip to Isle Royale National Park. Between the past two Christmases and our excitement to get some practice runs in, we finally felt like we had enough to take our maiden voyage.
Loadin' Up The Gear!
We came across Nordhouse Dunes at the perfect time. It is a fantastic beginners trip. The Lake Michigan lakeshore and camping sites are less than 2 miles from where we began at the Nurnberg Trailhead
The Trailhead Is 6.5 Miles Down A Dirt Road
One of the first things we realized was that we will definitely need to slowly add distance on numerous more trips, before attempting the trek through Michingan’s only National Park. Our packs were as minimal as we could imagine for two nights, yet they were still a heavy load. Our biggest challenge for next time will be figuring out how to lighten our packs, while adding enough food for a longer trail.
When The Rookies Couldn't Figure Out How To Strap A Tent To Our Pack
This was an incredible first backpacking experience and the area is undoubtedly gaining more popularity. We narrowly managed to find a parking spot as we arrived around 11:30am on a Friday morning. The lot only has space for 24 cars, however, ¼ mile from the trailhead, street parking is allowed along the right side. At the worst that we saw, cars were parked almost two miles down the road. The daily parking fee is only $5, payable at the trailhead and there is also a $15 week pass.
The Nurnberg Trailhead is on the left-side of the parking lot, while there is another trail towards Lake Michigan Recreation Area and a campground towards the right. There is also one pit toilet and a few picnic tables.
If You Plan On Doing More Hiking Beyond The Campsites, It Might Be Helpful To Snap This Picture Before You Take Off
Once we arrived at the lake, we took the trail north. At the time, there weren’t too many people around, but Saturday got very busy. We scouted out a site and decided on one that was 6 or 7 sites from where we exited the woods. We never went south down the lake, but we think we had the best site by far.
View From Our Main Fire Pit
Ours was the first one we saw that had an opening with a view to the water, from the actual site itself. The sites are along the treeline, with the dunes separating them from the beach. We had the view, plus a second bonfire area on the dunes, with an even greater view of Lake Michigan. It felt like our own resort, with two seating areas and a trail to our private beach. It was absolutely breathtaking.
View From Our Second Fire Pit
Our Middle Area, ON The Dunes!
The sites face west, so the sunsets are stunning!
My Favorite Shot Of The Trip!
Nights Like These...
We had a full setup, with 2 tents, 2 hammocks and an awesome defined seating area for the campfire. The northern end of our site was completely covered by trees and totally private. The south side was more open to the trail, but was private enough from the next site down. It was the perfect site for the 3 of us, and could easily accommodate a larger group.
Our Complete Setup
We had an amazing time and 1000% recommended to anyone looking for a quiet getaway. It was a great starter trip for us, and would satisfy any degree of backpacker. It was perfect to test out all of our gear for the first time and to figure out what else we need. If you have any questions on gear or what to bring, shoot us an email! We’d be glad to share what we used and the pros and cons of it all (our last minute purchase of a water filter came in clutch)!