Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI: North Manitou Island

Circumnavigate a wilderness island on this 15-mile loop on North Manitou Island.
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Circumnavigate a wilderness island on this 15-mile loop on North Manitou Island.

With waves lapping onto white-sand beaches, Manitou Island, an hour from the mainland, feels a world away. “And it’s downright tropical in high summer,” raves Backpacker Map Contributor Stuart Peck. His favorite hike: The North Loop, a 15-mile circuit with fire-tower-like views of Lake Michigan and shady stands of white pine and cedar.

At mile three, sidehike to the island’s highpoint (1,001 feet). At mile five, pass the apple orchards and abandoned homes of an 1800s farm town. Continue south to 300-foot shoreline bluffs and, on a clear day, spot the mainland’s Sleeping Bear Dunes. Camp in the Village Campground (in sight of the shore) and dayhike—or get a wilderness permit and camp anywhere on the island (at least 300 feet from shore).

Contact: National Park Service; nps.gov/slbe

-Info provided by Stuart Peck

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 24.2

Waypoints

NMI001

Location: 45.120984, -85.973768

After leaving the ferry, head to orientation at the ranger station, northwest of the docks.

NMI002

Location: 45.12165, -85.976225

Continue straight at the 3-way.

NMI003

Location: 45.121813, -85.97733

Turn right, then stop at the water tap on the way to the ranger station to tank up. Continue north to the station.

NMI004

Location: 45.122479, -85.977277

Pick up maps and advice at the ranger station. Then continue north on the main trail system to start your hike.

NMI005

Location: 45.138704, -85.977159

Continue following the trail as it bends from north to northwest. Enjoy fire-tower like views of Lake Michigan to the east.

NMI006

Location: 45.158438, -86.03488

Arrive at three enormous breaks in the ridgeline, known on this Island as the Pot Holes.

NMI007

Location: 45.158922, -86.040909

Pitch a tent on the white sandy beach for your first night's stay. Next day, get up early and continue west around the Island's perimeter.

NMI008

Location: 45.159073, -86.047711

From the this northwest point, side-hike inland southeast to reach the island's highest point at 1,001 feet. Backtrack to coastline, and continue trekking south for 3.4 miles.

NMI009

Location: 45.11436, -86.058582

Reach a great architectural photo op: stop for a moment at the Old Crescent Dock Ruins.

NMI010

Location: 45.111876, -86.054235

Here, pass through apple orchards and abandoned homes of an 1800s farm town. Another architectural highlight: you'll pass Swenson's barn, a huge structure left behind by the once-functioning town. Follow the trail east.

NMI011

Location: 45.097458, -86.00544

Bear left to start tracking northeast to close the loop.

NMI010

Location: 45.122051, -85.979691

Reach the ranger station area again. Take a ferry back to the mainland. Optional: If you choose to camp another night, follow the beach south to NMI011.

NMI011

Location: 45.107038, -85.981316

This campsite is less than a mile from the ranger station, once you reach the beach. Next day, backtrack to the docks and ride the ferry back to the mainland.