Most people don’t think of visiting the beach in the late fall. That alone is an excellent reason to go. The tourists have left and the few people left at the beach are there for the beauty and solitude that this season promises.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a tiny gem along the Lake Michigan coast. The park is only about 1,000 acres, but the beach is beautiful and the hiking trails are superb. Located just north of the artist’s community of Saugatuck, Michigan this state park has a small parking area on the backside of the dunes. In order to get to the lake the visitor must hike over half a mile through the wooded dunes. The hike isn’t overly difficult, but it isn’t flat either. These freshwater coastal dunes top out at over 200 feet tall. The trail to the beach is framed by pine, poplar, maple and oak trees. This makes for a very relaxing “walk in the woods”. The trail deposits the hiker on a small bluff overlooking an unspoiled 2.5 miles of shoreline.
This is a very different picture in October and November than in July and August. In the summer, every Lake Michigan beach seems to be covered with people playing in the water and enjoying the sunshine. In the fall, the multitudes have melted away along with the hot sun. Shorter daylight hours and howling winds off the lake mean that winter is on the way. But before the snow and ice cover the sand, the visitor can take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of the lake and the park. On overcast days the power of the lake is evident as wind whipped waves crash against the tiny beach. But on a sunny fall day there is nothing better than walking along the water’s edge trying not to get your feet wet.