Places We Protect

Portage Point Woods Preserve

Michigan

Hikes move up a grassy areas as the sun sets over Lake Michigan.
Portage Point Woods Fall Hike 2018. Guided hike through the forest at our Portage Point Woods Preserve. © Mary Louks

The historic Portage Point Inn is located near this preserve. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Overview

Description

The Portage Point Woods Preserve lies in Eastern Lake Michigan near the town of Onekama and protects coastal ecological processes, including dynamic foredune and successional backdune systems.  

The shelter of back-dune forests provides habitat for spring wildflowers such as trillium, hepatica, jack-in-the-pulpit, spring beauty, dwarf ginseng and bloodroot. 

As you hike the looped trail, watch and listen for a variety of animal species, from songbirds and raptors to reptiles and amphibians. Be on the lookout for pileated woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, eastern box turtles, American toads and eastern newts. 

Predators like coyotes and red foxes also hunt here for small mammals seeking shelter from the often-harsh coastal environment nearby.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Parking available on Herkelrath Road

Highlights

Spring wildflowers, loop trail, unique back-dune forest,

Size

120 acres

Explore our work in Michigan

Photos from Portage Point Woods

Tag your preserve visits on Instagram with #TNCMichigan to have your photos featured here!

Plants grow along a forest floor in Lukas Woods at Portage Point Woods Preserve in Michigan.
A group of people walk along a trail through a forest.
The sun sets over Lake Michigan. Clouds cover the sky. Waves roll across the water surface.
Sun shines on a dune blowout rising 200 feet above Lake Michigan.
Hikers walk up a grassy incline as the sun sets over Lake Michigan.
A bright green leaf on a tree.
Hikders gather in the forest to listen to a presentation.
A person stands with a Nature Conservancy Flag and looks out onto Lake Michigan.
A group of hikers listen to a presentation as they observe a dune.
A view from the ground, looking up the base of a tree trunk to the green leaves at the top of the trees.

Plan Your Visit

  • When to Visit

    This preserve is open year round. The presence of blooming wildflowers, make spring a popular time to visit. 

  • What to Bring

    While the preserve is mostly shaded from the forest canopy, hats and sunscreen are recommended. Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots for the occassionally hilly or wet terrain, and bring bug repellent.

  • Trail Info

    Trail is .75 miles of easy/moderate (easy surface, flat-well-packed, moderate due to some elevation change) plus .6 miles of hard ridgeline trail (narrower, lots of elevation).

    Trail Map

  • Permitted Activities
    • Hiking
    • Photography
    • Wildlife observation
    • Geocaching
    • Snowshoeing
    • Cross country skiing
  • Prohibited Activities
    • No building of new trails
    • No pets
    • No removal of trees, plants or animals (alive or dead)
    • No removal of rocks, water or other non-organic materials
    • No camping, bonfires, fireworks or other fires
    • No firewood collecting
    • No littering
    • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles
    • No hunting or trapping
    • No trespassing on adjacent land
  • Questions?

    Have questions about the preserve? Contact Shaun Howard, TNC protected lands project manager in Michigan.

The sun sets over the sand dune as dark clouds form.
Portage Point Woods Fall Hike 2018. Guided hike through the forest at our Portage Point Woods Preserve. © Mary Louks/TNC

Background

The preserve lies within the Eastern Lake Michigan geography and protects coastal ecological processes, including dynamic foredune and successional backdune syste...

The preserve lies within the Eastern Lake Michigan geography and protects coastal ecological processes, including dynamic foredune and successional backdune systems.

Unlike the open foredune areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline, backdune areas are more sheltered from wind and sand deposits, slowing the erosion process. 

Over hundreds of years, organic materials accumulate and provide moisture and nutrients for forest species such as sugar maple, American beech, basswood, red oak and even Eastern hemlock, eventually becoming the mature hardwood forest it is today.

Forested habitat types provide important migratory stopover sites for Neotropical landbirds, as well as travel and dispersal corridors for insects, birds, herpetofauna, and mammals.

 

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Boot Brush Installation

You wipe your shoes before you enter someone's house. Why wouldn't you do the same when you enter a nature space? A new boot brush installation was installed at the Portage Point Woods Preserve in 2021 thanks to the generous support of Portage Lake Watershed Forever.

Stop by for a quick brush before and after you hit the trail. This simple action is important to stop the spread of invasive species. 

Boot Brush (0:42) A boot brush was installed at the entrance of the Portage Point Woods loop trail in 2021.

Keep Exploring

From shifting sand dunes to granite bald mountains, explore over 35 preserves and reserves spread across the state of Michigan.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map

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