Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area is a Federally designated wilderness in Michigan's lower peninsula and encompasses 3,450 acres of National Forest.

Nordhouse Dunes is part of the Ludington Dune Ecosystem, which also includes Lake Michigan Recreation Area, and Ludington State Park.  The dunes were formed 3,500 to 4,000 years ago and stand up to 140 feet high.  Ludington Dune Ecosystem has the largest area of fresh water interdunal ponds in the world.  The interdunal ponds, small water holes and marshes, decorate the area.  Dune grass covers many of the dunes and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

The Nordhouse Dunes are interspersed with woody vegetation such as juniper, jack pine and hemlock.  Plant life is varied and includes the Federally Endangered Pitcher's Thistle.  The sand beach along the lake varies from narrow to wide and is home to the Federally Endangered Piping Plover, a shore bird that nests on the ground in small cobbles.

The wilderness area is popular for hiking, camping, hunting, nature study and wildlife viewing.  There are approximately 10-miles of trail that can be accessed from 2 developed trailheads at the end of Nurnberg Road and Lake Michigan Recreation Area.

For more information on the Ludington Dune Ecosystem visit the MI-DNRE website.

Brochure with Map: This brochure is set to print on 8 1/2 x 14 paper, landscape (wide) orientation.  To print on 8 1/2 x 11 paper set the print area to "shrink to printable area", this will make the text on the page smaller.

Flickr Photo Album

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Nurnberg Trailhead: managed Season starts April 1, 2016 and ends Nov. 30, 2016. Lake Michigan Recreation Area - Day Use Area - Beach Access: managed Season starts April 1, 2016. Lake Michigan Recreation Area - Day Use Area - Picnic Area: Managed Season starts May 1, 2016 and ends Dec. 1, 2016. This area is gated when closed.
Operational Hours: Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week unless otherwise posted.
Area Amenities: Parking
Fees Recreation Enhancement Act Fee - Nurnberg Trailhead Day Use -
  • Day: $5.00
  • Week: $15.00
Permit Info: Special Use Permit -
  • No commercial, event or large group (75 people or more) permits are issued in the wilderness area.
Open Season: January 1 - December 31
Usage: Light
Best Season: January to December
Busiest Season: May to October
Restrictions: Allowed -
  • Nonmotorized use
  • Pets, on-leash
  • Nonmotorized nonmechanized snow use
Prohibited -
  • Motorized vehicles
  • Over-snow motorized vehicles
  • Nonmotorized mechanized equipment including, but not limited to, bikes and wheelbarrows
  • All pack and saddle livestock
  • All livestock
  • Collecting woody material from beaches or other sandy areas. Woody material includes, but is not limited to:
    • driftwood
    • shipwreck timbers
    • pine knots
Forest-wide Closures - Camping in dispersed areas:
  • Camping permitted 400 feet from Lake Michigan shoreline
  • Camping permitted 250 feet from trails and Nordhouse Lake
  • Camping in an area which is posted closed and/or no camping.
  • Camping within 450 feet of developed recreation areas.
Being publicly nude. Storing Watercraft
  • Storing, mooring, or leaving a boat or raft over 24 hours.
  • Parking in violation of posted instructions at Nurnberg Trailhead.
Closest Towns: Manistee, Ludington
Passes: Recreation Enhancement Act Fee - Day Use -
  • Nurnberg Wilderness Trailhead
Concessionaire Fee - Camping -
  • Lake Michigan Recreation Area
Day Use -
  • Lake Michigan Recreation Area
Operated By: Cadillac Manistee Ranger District - (231) 723-2211
Information Center: Cadillac/Manistee Ranger District 231-723-2211

General Information

General Notes:

Location -Lake Michigan

Nearby Recreation Areas -

  • Lake Michigan Recreation Area

Trailheads -  Lake Michigan Recreation Area, Nurnberg Trailhead

County -  Mason

Seasonal and Other Information -

  • This site is not gated during the off season.
  • This site is not maintained in winter:
    • Parking and/or access road are not plowed.
    • Trails are not groomed in winter.


Nurnberg Trailhead

From Manistee -

  • Travel south on US-31 for 7 miles.
  • Turn right and travel west on W. Forest Trail Rd. for 2.5 miles.
  • Turn left and travel south on Quarterline Rd. for 1.5 miles.
  • Turn right and travel west on Nurnberg Rd. for 6.5 miles.


Beaches & Dunes

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Nature Viewing

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Water Activities

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Parking 24 vehicle capacity