Venture out for a Northern Michigan hike to the southern stretches of M-22 to Arcadia and hike the Old Baldy trail for a diverse range of terrain in a condensed distance, topped off by stunning open dune views.
A section of the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, the Baldy Trails are 10 miles north of Arcadia. Owned and managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the trail provides a network of options to appease all hiking enthusiasts, allowing a 1-mile direct route to the Baldy Dune or up to a 2.5-mile scenic loop for those wishing to extend their stay. The trail provides two popular lookouts of the Lake Michigan shore and beyond. The lookout on the Baldy Dune is particularly appealing as the view is perched atop the 365 foot sharply descending dune to Lake Michigan below. In addition to sandy overlooks and dunescape allure, the Baldy Trails provide the best of hardwoods hiking as they wind through the familiar maple and beech. Ascending the built in stairway from the forest, the hiker converges upon an entirely new climb as sand and open spaces emerge at the crest of the peak.
The walk in the woods consists of a true, narrow hiking trail as it meanders single file over the gentle humps and contours of the forest floor. Manageable and cool, the direct path to Baldy Dunes traces along Markers 2, 4, and 5 beneath the tall canopy of towering, smooth beeches and fanned limbs of maple. The undergrowth is vibrant with bunches of wild blue phlox and clumps of ivory white baneberry, and you may even cross paths with a cottontail rabbit or ruffed grouse startled from cover.
Reaching Baldy Dunes, the trail opens to a hilly dunescape, with a sandy path carved into the grade. Follow the light switchbacks and dips that slice through the American beach grass and watch for outcrops of spiney Pitcher’s thistle. The Old Baldy lookout is a precipice, providing broad views of Lake Michigan with the Frankfort pier and lighthouse barely visible on the northern horizon. Although the entire trip is relatively brief, water is recommended, as is sunscreen for the wide open Baldy dune face. Stuff a jacket into the day pack for cool fall days and to cut the stiff Baldy breeze.
The trail is open to hiking and trail running, so keep a heads up for joggers. Dogs are allowed as long as they remain on a leash.
Follow US31 west and make a right on M115 to Frankfort. Make a left toward Elberta and then trace M22 south. Head for Arcadia but pull up 2.5 miles north of town, and be on the lookout for the Baldy Trailhead sign on the right just past Matzinger Road.
Make your way to Arcadia for some interesting insights on early Michigan. Stop at the Arcadia Area Historical Museum located in a 19th Century, three-story Victorian home. For the avid golfer, Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course is one of Michigan’s most pristine and picturesque courses, situated with stunning views of Lake Michigan throughout. Eats and treats: Arcadia Ice House Ice Cream Shoppe—built to resemble a 19th century general store, this local favorite serves up an array of frozen delights topped with nostalgia. The Cabbage Shed in Elberta—charming views right on Betsie Bay and a menu highlighted with fresh local whitefish and bluegill. Brews—Stormcloud Brewing Company, Frankfort is complemented by live music and at least a dozen in-house beers on tap.