Lace-up your walking shoes and set out from The Homestead, a resort in Glen Arbor, for a Northern Michigan hike that inspires with natural beauty and history.
On a gorgeous summer day recently, my friend, Kara, and I hiked the Bay View Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The trail runs along Lake Michigan and through the Port Oneida Historic District—a cluster of 19th-century farms that the park has preserved to help pass along the area’s pioneer history.
The Bay View Trail is commonly accessed north of The Homestead. But we did it with a twist: We accessed it directly from The Homestead. This allowed for several perks. Beginning at The Homestead meant that we started steps away from the superb selection of wine and snacks at Cavanaugh’s, the resort’s grocerant. And when we returned from the hike we would also be just steps away from The Homestead’s Whisker’s Bar and Grill with its hip outdoor bar. As we were to find out, the contrast between the lively scene at The Homestead and the time machine-feel of the trail is enchanting.
Before we set out we picked up must-have bottles of water at Cavanaugh’s, where we also chose an equally obligatory bottle of Good Harbor Red, produced at a vineyard just north of The Homestead, and cheese and crackers for a picnic on the trail’s Lookout Point. Finally, just before crossing the parking lot to the trailhead, we checked out the hours for Whisker’s outdoor bar. It would open at 3 p.m. It was 11 a.m.—we had plenty of time to make it back from our hike for happy hour at the bar!
We began by grabbing a trail map for the Bay View Trail from the kiosk—something I would definitely recommend as the entire route is about six miles and has a couple of jigs and jogs. Moosewood Trail, the spur that links The Homestead to the Bay View Trail, wanders up and down for about a mile through a dense hardwood forest. It didn’t take us long to come to the intersection of the High and Low Trails on Thoreson Road, a seasonal dirt road. Here you take a left and follow the High Trail signs. Up and down the tree-lined Thoreson Road we walked—to be rewarded by an absolutely lovely, bucolic scene when we crested a hill. The old Thoreson farm—a white farmhouse, barn and outbuildings spread across the valley below, while Lake Michigan shimmered in the distance.
The Thoreson farm was built by Norwegian immigrants, at the turn of the last century. The family farmed it into the 1960s when it became a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In recent years, volunteers from the Glen Arbor Art Association have worked with the Park Service to restore the farm buildings and use them for an arts education center.
Soon after coming to the first view of the farm, our trail turned back to the woods, to emerge a short time later at the official Bay View Trailhead. We’d already logged a couple of miles, but we headed on for a half-mile or so to Lookout Point—a knoll that looks out over the valley below.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but though this view has been painted and photographed many, many times it has more stories to tell. Foremost there is the natural beauty—Lake Michigan with the Manitou Islands floating on the horizon and the crescent-moon shaped shoreline that ends at the tawny bluff known as Pyramid Point. But there are history tales here, as well. The view is dotted with old barns, farmhouses and outbuildings, most built in the 19th century by German immigrants. When the Park Service purchased the farms in the 1970s, several of the families still possessed homestead papers signed by President Abraham Lincoln or President Ulysses S. Grant. It was the perfect place to open that bottle of wine and pull out our picnic.
If we were to have completed the Bay View Trail loop, we would have passed by the old farmhouse where Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear—the nonprofit that works with the Park Service to care for and interpret the old farms—is located. You can also visit Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear by bike or car, so we saved that for another trip, and retraced our steps back to The Homestead. A little over two miles separated us from a couple of ice-cold draft Oberons at that outside bar. Now there’s an incentive to get moving along!