Sand Lakes Quiet Area - Summer Trails
You don’t have to go far to replace the traffic, summer crowds, or the relentless commercialization of Traverse City with woods and a bit of quiet. A short drive – but a world away - from northwest Michigan’s largest urban area is the Sand Lakes Quiet Area, five small lakes surrounded by rolling hills of oak and pine. This 2,800-acre tract does not posses the stunning scenery of nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes but it is quiet, thanks to a ban on motorized activity. It is also a great overnight escape from the city as Sand Lake No. 1 features walk-in campsites and vault toilets.
Part of the Pere Marquette State Forest, Sand Lakes was designated a non-motorized “quiet area” in 1973. There are actually 12 lakes and ponds within the tract that can be accessed by a system of maintained trails as well as old fire lanes that are unmarked and slowly becoming lost in the undergrowth. The five Sand Lakes are marl lakes, glaciated-created body of waters that contain a high percentage of calcium carbonate in the sediments at the bottom, the reason some of them feature an unusual greenish color. Several of the lakes are more than 40 feet deep and Sand Lake No. 1 is managed for rainbow trout while Sand Lake No. 2 has brook trout.
The tract’s maintained trails form a 6-mile loop, with eight trailheads providing access from four different roads and the Guernsey Lakes State Forest Campground. The trails are wide, well-marked with locator maps at the junctions, and generally easy to follow. The posts are numbered in a clockwise direction, with Post No. 1 located at the Broomhead Road Trailhead parking area. From this trailhead it’s only a 1.1-mile trek to the walk-in sites on Sand Lake No. 1. For an even shorter route to the campsites begin at post No. 6, a trailhead located on Sand Lake Road, and you’ll be pitching your tent in less than a half mile.
This description begins at the trailhead in Guernsey Lakes State Forest Campground, the best place to start if you want to turn Sand Lakes into a pleasant overnight adventure that includes the entire loop. You begin with a 4.5-mile walk the first day and then conclude the outing with an easy 2.9-mile hike the second day to return to the rustic campground.
The North Country Trail (NCT) utilizes 3.5 miles of the Sand Lakes trail which resulted in many of the trail posts being re-numbered in 2007. Also keep in mind that mountain biking is allowed on the trails and the area does attract a fair number of off-road cyclists, mostly after work or on the weekends. But you’ll find that most mountain bikers arrive at Sand Lakes looking for a leisurely ride to enjoy the scenery. Hard-core mountain bikers head over to the much more challenging VASA Single Track that is only 2 miles away. In the winter Sand Lakes is an entirely different experience see Sand Lakes - Winter Trails for a map and description.
|Difficulty - Moderate|
|Mountain Bike Single Track|