Over the past 13,000 years, as the level of Lake Michigan rose and fell, winds swept the exposed sand from the lakebed into a series of rolling dunes, some reaching 140 feet in height. Most of the present dunes date back between 3,500 and 4,000 years. A wide beach lies between the waves of water and the waves of sand. Unlike the vegetation at most active sand dunes, here you'll find woody patches of juniper, stunted jack pine, some small stands of northern hardwoods, and dune marshes with wetland species such as hemlock and larch. Many of the dunes are lightly covered in dune grass. Set along approximately 7,300 feet of undeveloped shoreline, Nordhouse Dunes is the only designated Wilderness on Michigan's Lower Peninsula. A limited trail system of about 14.5 miles is minimally marked and sometimes hard to follow. The Nordhouse Dunes Trail (1.4 miles) offers the best peek at the dunes. The trails can be accessed from the nearby Lake Michigan Recreation Area on the northern boundary.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.