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Wilderness State Park: Pondside Trail

903 Wilderness Park Drive
Mackinaw City, MI 49718
Phone: 231-436-5381

Get Driving Directions:

Emmet County
Lat: N 45° 45' 17.33"
Lon: W 084° 52' 37.40"
Distance: 0.25 miles
Trail Type: Interpretive trail
Terrain: Pond and wetlands
Difficulty: Easy
Nearest City or Town: Mackinaw City

Pondside Trail is a 0.25-mile loop around Goose Pond, with interpretive posts numbered clockwise. It also provides access to three other trails; Red Pine Trail, Big Stone Creek and Wilkenhs Trail. The trailhead for Pondside Trail is located a short walk from the Pines Campground entrance and is marked by post No. 1 and a large display map.

Trail Guide
Hours & fees

Pondside is an interpretive trail that never leaves the edge of the pond and features fifteen posts pointing out a variety of trees and other plants. Not all the post may still be standing.

Within 200 yard yards you pass a view of the pond and then reach post No. 2, marking the junction with Big Stone Trail and Wilkenhs Trail. You then cross a bridge over Big Stone Creek and reach post No. 3, marking the start of the Red Pine Trail.

Pondside then heads to the south end of the pond where it crosses another wooden bridge that runs along a beaver dam before swinging north to return to the trailhead.

The park has 250 modern sites divided among two campgrounds. The Lakeshore Campground is situated along Big Stone Bay in a semi-open area and among the 150 sites is a row right off the beach. Pines Campground is across Wilderness Park Drive and has 100 sites, most of them with paved pads and situated in a grove of mature pines. Both campgrounds tend to be filled weekends from early July to mid-August but usually have sites available midweek throughout the summer. The exception is the last week of August through Labor Day when the park is filled daily due to the Mackinac Bridge Walk.

Wilderness also has six rustic cabins scattered throughout the park with three of the trailside cabins situated on the Straits of Mackinac and a short walk from Wilderness Park Drive. Cap's Cabin and Waugoshance Cabin sleep eight each, while Station Point Cabin, an old log structure with wooden floors, has four bunks. Sturgeon Cabin, a short walk from the end of Sturgeon Bay Road, and Nebo Cabin sleep five. All cabins are well used and should be reserved far in advance.

The day-use area is located just east of the campgrounds on Big Stone Bay and includes tables, vault toilets and a wide stretch of sandy beach. The park also has an improved boat launch located just west of Lakeshore Campground.

There is a vehicle entry fee at Wilderness State Park. The park’s two walk-in campsites are $12 a night and its six rustic cabins, including Nebo, are $60 a night. The park also has 250 modern campsites in two that are $16 to $27 per night. Cabins and campsites can be reserved online ( or by phone (800-447-2757). The park’s backcountry campsites are reserved through the park office.

Wilderness State Park is 8 miles west of Mackinaw City and is reached by following County Road 81 and continuing west on Wilderness Park Drive after crossing Carp Lake River. The Nebo Trailhead is 1.5 miles east of the park office on Wilderness Park Drive. There is also an entrance and parking lot at the south end of Sturgeon Bay off Lakeview Road, reached from US-31 by turning west on Gill Road 4 miles south of I-75.

Contact Wilderness State Park (231-436-5381) for information on trail conditions or to reserve the walk-in campsites. For lodging or other travel information contact the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau (231-348-2755, 800-845-2828;

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