Sandy Hook Nature Trail

Kristin Bienert, Michigan Travel Ideas editor, shares her explorations from the Sandy Hook Nature Trail, part of Tawas Point State Park in northeastern Michigan.

It’s late in the afternoon when I arrive at Tawas Point State Park. The Tawas Point Lighthouse is closed for the season, but the park grounds and trails remain open. I check my watch, there’s just enough time before dusk to hike the two-mile Sandy Hook Nature Trail.

Along the Sandy Hook Nature Trail

I sling my backpack over my shoulder and set out on a well-worn dirt road. Within a few yards, the nature trail veers off onto a sandy path. It’s been a while since I’ve walked on sand. I’m a little unsteady at first, but my feet quickly adjust. The trail reveals itself as I wind along Tawas Point, a spit of land.

While I hike, I scan the ground. I’m looking for a fox den. I’m not sure what one looks like, but the park ranger mentioned it when I paid for my day-use pass. She sounded confident, which I took as you can’t miss it. Now, I suspect that assurance meant it’s there—try to find it. The ranger said the den was about halfway. Am I halfway? Maybe I should have asked for a sign. That thought makes me laugh. Other than a few placards, it’s all natural.

The short dune climbs are deceiving. I’m in fairly good shape, but welcome a rest stop—a built-in bench along a boardwalk. I pull my binoculars from my backpack and use my self-imposed break to scan Tawas Bay about 100 yards away. A few egrets and a heron dot the shore, nothing compared to migration season. The trail sits on the Mississippi Flyway, attracting shorebirds and waterfowl, not to mention birders every spring.

The View of the Bay from the Trail

Near the end of Tawas Point I lose the path. I’m fairly sure the trail parallels the U.S. Coast Guard road I’m on, but I’m not sure. I keep walking, scanning the grass for wildlife. Who knows, maybe that elusive fox lives along this stretch? Farther up the road, I spot a boardwalk and cross over. Standing in thigh-high grass, I listen to waves ripple against Lake Huron’s shore. The vastness is mesmerizing. I try to determine where the blue water ends and the sky begins. I don’t need to take a picture to remember this incredible view.

My shadow grows long as I walk along the trail. All too soon, I find myself back at the parking lot. Before I leave, I capture one last image with my camera. A few miles down the road, I check into two-story Tawas Bay Beach Resort. I imagine this hotel and its private beach draws a summer crowd. Tonight, the only beachgoers are sandpipers and ducks. Sitting on the end of the pier, I watch the sun set—the perfect ending to an almost perfect day.

Kristin Bienert, Midwest Living’s Custom Media Editor, loves exploring Northern Michigan.