Dunes Trails


Dunes Trail

Dunes Trails of Leelanau County, Michigan

Hiking Dunes Trails

Trail Distance:

3.6 miles long.

Trail Description:

The High Dune

  • Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot
  • Difficulty: moderately strenuous
  • One way distance and elevation gain: about 1 mile, about 650 feet

The "High Dune" is not the tallest in the dune field - it is about 650 feet from base to top - but it is one of the highest dunes above sea level in the dune field, and is the most accessible of the big dunes. Soft sand and steep slopes make this more strenuous that you'd expect. From the base, zigzag up the dune ridge lines. Hike before noon in summer to avoid extremely hot sand and sun. You'll gain terrific views of the entire dune field, the surrounding mountains, and the San Luis Valley from the top.

The Star Dune

  • Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • One way distance and elevation gain: about 4-5 miles, about 750 feet

The Star Dune is the tallest dune in North America (from base to top it is 750 feet). It can be approached from the High Dune, or from Medano Creek south of the Dunes Parking Lot. From the High Dune, the Star Dune is the very prominent high point about 1 mile to the west. To approach from the south, hike downstream from the Dunes Parking Lot about 2 miles, then begin watching for ridges leading north> It's about 1.25 miles to the Star Dune. Expect many false summits as you climb.

Medano Creek

  • Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot
  • Difficulty:easy
  • One way distance and elevation gain: go as far as you like, minimal elevation gain

Explore Medano Creek, flowing at the base of the dunes. During dry years, the creek disappears. In years of adequate snow and rainfall, the creek flows in April, May, and June, usually peaking in late May. Observe the creek closely. Do you see anything unusual? Medano Creek exhibits a phenomenon called surge flow. Watch for animal tracks and signs of insect life in the damp sand--there are 6 species of insects living in the dunes which are found nowhere else on earth!

Dunes Trail

Return to Leelanau County, MI Trails Page


Permission and information sources are from Contributers to this Web Site, the Department of Natural Resources, Michigan.gov, National Park Service, and the USDA Forest Service.

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