Forget your watch. If you want a way to make your exercise routine last for more than 20 minutes, Alligator Hill—without a timepiece—is the way to go. Sticking to the groomed paths is a good way to lose yourself in the woods without actually getting lost.

Alligator Hill is one of the hidden highlights of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—a scenic destination you have to hike to enjoy. A simple stroll there offers a cardiovascular challenge right off the bat—you meet the first of many steep stretches within the first five minutes or so. The National Park Service broke down Alligator’s 9 miles into three distinct loops, giving you the option to bail at several points. Still, it’s easy to extend a 4-mile hike into a 6-miler when there’s so much to observe along the way.

You’ll hit your first reward after 1.3 miles—a lookout with an impressive view of Lake Michigan, including the Sleeping Bear coastline and the Manitou islands. The second comes less than a mile later, a restful overlook of Big Glen Lake and the forest behind it. The hills are huffers and puffers, but luckily the sun isn’t intense through the canopy of beech-maple. we guarantee you’ll feel tired yet inspired.

About Alligator Hill

Alligator Hill’s hilly trails are marked easy, intermediate and advanced. All are “one-way”—just follow the arrows. Dogs are allowed on leashes 6 feet or less. Alligator is also an equestrian trail, so look out for horses—and their leavings. Maps are available at the trailhead. Because it’s part of the lakeshore, you’ll need a park pass for your vehicle. A week pass costs $20 and an annual pass costs $40. Purchase a pass online or at these locations.

Alligator Hill Trailhead

From Glen Arbor, take M-109 to Stocking Road, turn left. The trailhead entrance is on your left. It begins with the green “Easy Loop.”


For more on Alligator Hill or all things Sleeping Bear Dunes, call the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center at 231-326-4700.

Trail Mix Recipes

To many, trail mix is made of Granola, Oats, Raisins and Peanuts, period. Some prefer the pared down version, just Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. In my family, GORP wasn’t Good unless it had a handful of M&Ms thrown in as well. Any way you mix it, the protein and quick sugars in GORP make for an immediate energy boost on a long hike. Concoct your own combinations of dried fruits (try pears or prunes) or seeds and nuts (shelled pistachios, pine nuts, and sesame seeds). With the nuts and chocolate, GORP is not exactly low-fat, but, then, that’s where the hike part comes in. Here are two to try:

Food for the Alligator

  • 1 cup toasted coconut
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup Macadamia Nuts
  • 1 cup M&Ms
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds

The Golden Ticket

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup butterscotch morsels

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Photo(s) by Brian Confer