Find A Trail
Old Mission Point Park
Old Mission Peninsula is 20-mile long finger that splits Grand Traverse Bay in half and is best known for its cherry orchards and vineyards. But at the tip of it are a pair of parks that combine for 650 acres on the 45th Parallel, include a historic lighthouse and are laced by almost 10 miles of trails.
The 120-acre Lighthouse Park preserves the very tip of the peninsula and is home to Mission Point Lighthouse. Built in 1870, the lighthouse lies halfway between the North Pole and the Equator and for 63 years warned mariners of the rocky and dangerous waters at the north end of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. In 1933, it was replaced with an automatic buoy light just offshore and in 2008 re-opened as a museum.
Adjoining Lighthouse Park to the south is the 520-acre Old Mission Point Park. Much of this land were cherry orchards before the state purchased the acreage in the 1980s. Eventually the land was leased to Peninsula Township which developed the current trail system, merging the existing trails in Lighthouse Park with new segments in Old Mission Point Park. Three trailheads serve the interconnecting trails with the most popular one by far being Lighthouse Park within a stone’s throw of the historic lighthouse.
This hike, a 5-mile loop through both parks, is a mix of foot paths and old two-tracks that passes through a variety of terrain and scenery, including both the West Arm and the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, before returning to Mission Point Lighthouse.
Trails in both parks are identified by a number and posted that way at the junctions. This hike begins with Trail 3, picked up next to the Hesler Log Cabin. The trail heads west through the narrow wooded strip of Lighthouse Park boarded by the Wet Arm to the north and M-37 to the south. You pass numerous unofficial spurs that extend in both directions to the bay and the highway before Trail 3 swings south and crosses M-37. Just on the other side, at Mile 0.7, you arrive at the posted junction with Trail 2. Head west (right) and shortly the trail merges into a well-defined two track that is Trail 1. Just before Mile 1 you arrive at an unofficial parking area just off Eagle Ridge Road. This corner can be confusing but departing south from the parking area is Trail 9.
In an open field the trial swings east and passes the junction with Trail 10 before returning to its southern direction and reaching the Murray Road Trailhead at Mile 1.4. Trail 8, a two-track designated as a barrier-free trail, heads north and climbs a low ridge, passing a spur to Trail 10 and arriving at views of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.
The trail swings east off the ridge and becomes more of the gravel surface it was designed to be. At Mile 2.7 you re-enter the forest and arrive at a junction with Trail 7. Head right to stay on Trail 8 which quickly swings south to climb a ridgeline. At Mile 3 you’re rewarded with views of both bays and a bench to rest and enjoy them. From the viewing point Trail 8 descends and within 200 yards arrives at a junction with a crossover spur that heads east (left) to Trail 7. Use the crossover spur to begin looping back north.
Continuing north on Trail 7, a posted junction is reached at Mile 3.7 where Trail 6 heads north (right) to re-enter Lighthouse Park. The terrain and the older forest that covers it is much more interesting as Trail 6 swings east to wind through a series of moraines before merging into Trail 1 at Mile 4.3. Here a side trail provides easy to access the shoreline of the East Arm.
Continue north on Trail 1 as it skirts the East Arm. At Mile 4.7 the trail swings west to arrive at a junction with Trail 4 that heads south (left). Continue west (right) on Trail 1 and within a quarter mile you’ll pop out of the trees at Mission Point Lighthouse.
In Lighthouse Park, the Mission Point Lighthouse and Hesler Log House have been set up as museums. Hesler Cabin was built in 1856 and then moved to its current location in 1992. Also at the park are picnic tables, toilets, drinking water and parking.
Old Mission and Lighhouse parks are open year-round and Nordic skiing is a popular activity during the winter. Mission Point Lighthouse is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from April through October and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in November and December.
There are no fees to use the parks' trails. There is a small fee climb the tower of Mission Point Lighthouse for the views of both bays.
From Traverse City head north on M-37, following the state highway for 18 miles until it ends at Lighthouse Park. Another trailhead and parking area is located in the middle of Old Mission Point Park along Murray Road at the end of Brinkman Road and reached from M-37 by heading east on Tomkins Road.
A third trailhead is near the hamlet of Old Mission and reached from M-37 by heading east on Swaney Road. Within 1.5 miles the pavement ends and you turn right on Ridgewood Road where in a half mile you find a small parking area and a display map.
Shop Our Trail Maps & Guidebooks
Need a good trail map or a guidebook to what lies beyond the pavement? Check out the MichiganTrailMaps.com Trail Shop stocked with our latest backpacking maps and books personally autographed by the authors who wrote them! It's the best and most affordable way to purchase maps and trail books to Michigan.
Heading up north and need a map right away? Stop at one of our growing network of
outdoor shops, visitor centers and stores that sell MichiganTrailMaps.com books
Click here for a complete list.