Arcadia Dunes Baldy Trail Photo Guide

Explore the Arcadia Dunes Baldy Trail in Michigan’s C.S. Mott Nature Preserve

If there is any place in the beautiful state of Michigan that holds a space very dear to Jess and my heart… It would be the Arcadia Dunes Baldy Trail. I’ll tell you why, a bit later in this post.  To start though, you can rest assured this amazing nature preserve holds it’s own simply based on it’s unique & delicate ecosystem, and it’s stunning natural beauty.  Enjoy this gem, right on the M-22 corridor.

The scene facing North from the Old Baldy Dune.
Here is the scene you’ll be met with when you finish the hike to the Old Baldy Dune. Well worth the (somewhat) strenuous hike up the chained stairs to the top.
The entrance to the Baldy Trailhead
The view of M-22 from the vehicle entrance to the Arcadia Dunes (C.S. Mott) Baldy Trailhead.
The main sign at the Baldy Trailhead
Your journey begins here! This is the sign at the various trailhead entrances.

A real treasure of the Lake Michigan Coastline.

The Baldy Trail is located just North of Arcadia Michigan. And, is one of many separate trails in the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve. As you meander through the trails here, you will find an unbelievably diverse and unique ecosystem. After many explorations of this exceptional trail system – Jess and I fully understand why this land has been protected. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has taken the charge here. We fully applaud their efforts in keeping the special and unique areas surrounding the Sleeping Bear Dunes safe from development.

Enjoy some beautiful scenes along the Arcadia Dunes Baldy Trail!

A tract of Pine Trees near the beginning of the Old Baldy Trail.
In the past, when clear-cut logging and tree harvesting was more prevalent in Michigan, these pines were planted to be harvested later on. Over the years, this grove of pines has steadily gotten smaller and smaller as the trees indigenous to the area have taken over… (with the help of the GTRLC).
A close up of the pine trees near the entrance of the trail.
A closer look at some of the remaining pine trees near the entrance of the trailhead.
A unique tree on the main trail to the dune.
If you don’t take the “scenic route” to Old Baldy Dune, you’ll follow the trail straight through. Along the trail, you’ll eventually encounter this cool tree which has literally branched out. It is unusual to find trees like this in natural forests as they typically grow up and not out.
A trail scene along the path.
If you take the scenic route around the conservancy to the trail, this is a pretty typical trail scene in the middle of summer. Just beautiful!
A late spring scene at Old Baldy Trail in Arcadia Michigan
Late spring will give you abundant beauty with wildflowers dotting the path along the side of the trail, and brilliant green as the trees fill in. Click on the image above to buy this piece of art for your home or office (or even as a digital stock photo)!
The view south from the Old Baldy Dune.
In the above images, you can see just how diverse the landscape and plant life is along the trails, and on Old Baldy Dune of the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve. This is the view you can expect to enjoy when you reach Old Baldy and Lake Michigan.
An autumn scene at the Arcadia Dunes Old Baldy Trail
Old Baldy is gorgeous in all seasons we’ve been blessed to visit. The tall old trees in the older growth areas create a stunning canopy of color and light! Click the image to own a copy of this gorgeous photo.

What makes the Baldy Trail so special to us?

A beautiful soul introduced us to this particular spot. In 2013, Jessica’s grandmother sadly passed away after losing her second bout with cancer. Instead of a cemetery, this is where she wished to be her final resting place. Her children, grandchildren, and other loved ones were happy to grant her final wish. Shortly after her passing, those who were closest to Sandra made the trip to the Old Baldy Dune together. Thus ensuring that her spirit would forever roam through the wooded lake-shore of this incredible location.

We visit at least one time a year. If only, to be reminded of what a strong, beautiful, wonderful, and passionately caring woman she was.

A view of Lake Michigan from Old Baldy
The view from Old Baldy is beautiful, and so peaceful.

What makes the Old Baldy Preserve special to the region?

Aside from being an amazingly beautiful landscape, there is good reason for the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy to have this region protected. Most notably, is the unique (and in some cases threatened) vegetation found in the dune area. For example, the Pitcher’s Thistle, is protected due to endangerment by both the state and federal government. Some of the flora found at Old Baldy, is not found anywhere else in the world, but in the dune areas here in the Great Lakes Basin. You’ll also find beautiful Wood Lillies, Windflowers, Hairy Puccoons, and Harebells dotted throughout the landscape on Old Baldy.

Take a look at some of the beautiful and unique flora found throughout these trails.

Goldenrod – Bluestem Solidago caesia
What I believe to be Goldenrod – Bluestem or, Solidago Caesia. I could be wrong though. Wasn’t easy to find a good I.D. photo reference.
Aster-Smooth Aster laevis L.
A close up of an Aster-Smooth (Aster laevis L.) on the trails of the Old Baldy Trailhead.
Indian PIpe (Monotropa uniflora) found on Old Baldy Trail
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) blooms in Late Summer & Fall in this region. It is a parasitic, fungal plant and lacks clorophyll… Feeding off of decaying plant remains.
Knapweed – Spotted Centaurea maculosa
Knapweed – Spotted Centaurea maculosa as found on Old Baldy Trail
Daisy – Ox-eye Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Daisy – Ox-eye (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) captured just after a light rain on the Ardadia Dunes Old Baldy Trail.
Columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). We saw all kinds of these on our latest hike here.
Wood Lilly (Lilium philadelphicum)
This is a Wood Lilly (Lilium philadelphicum), found both in the forested areas of Old Baldy and along the sandy dune areas (where this photo was captured).
A Yellow Puccoon Lithospermum canescens found on Old Baldy
A yellow Puccoon or, Lithospermum canescens found on the slopes of Old Baldy Dune.
Mystery flower
Well, this is the only flower I was unable to identify from our last visit to the Arcadia Dunes. Since it looks as though they haven’t opened, it made it difficult to ascertain. If you happen to know, drop a note below! We’d be grateful for the assistance.
Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
I believe this tiny little flower is a Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum). This was right on the side of the trail.
Sarsaparilla Araalia nudicaulis
Sarsaparilla (Araalia nudicaulis) found just off the side of the trail.
Pitcher’s Thistle Cirsium pitcheri
Pitcher’s Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri). This beautiful and unique thistle is indigenous only to the Great Lakes sand dunes. If you encounter this plant, do not touch it! It is protected as endangered by both the state of Michigan and the United States.

About the trail throughout the forested areas of the preserve.

While on the forested trails in the Old Baldy Trail, you’ll enjoy a variety of different trees as you pass underneath the forest canopy. The woods are classified as a northern hardwood (mature mesic) forest. Here you will find an abundance of Sugar Maple and American Beech. There is also a smattering of the less dominant White Ash, Basswood, Hemlock, Black Cherry, Red Oak, and Ironwood.

In our years hiking here, we have found that portions of the older parts of this forest, are starting to give way to the younger trees. Especially on our last visit, we noticed quite a few more of the older giants that had recently fallen back to the earth than we had in the past. While it is sad, in a way, these older trees now get to provide nourishment to the younger trees that will rise up in their place.

There is so much more to see than Old Baldy!

Trail marker on Arcadia Dunes Old Baldy Trail
After the first leg of the “old” trail, you’ll come to this crossroads. Here you can choose to take the longer scenic route through the woods (our recommendation) or hike directly along the shorter path straight through to Old Baldy.
Trail marker to Baldy Dune
Here’s the straight path to Baldy Dune. If the coastline is your sole goal, this is the marker to follow!
A typical trail marker on Old Baldy
There aren’t many divergent pathways here. But, if you’re ever in doubt, just follow the purple markers on the trees along the path.
Old maple tree at Old Baldy Trail
I believe this is an old Maple tree. Didn’t want to trek off path to verify but, based on the leaves I can see in this photo… Definitely look Maple-ish to me.
The beginning of Old Baldy Dune's trail.
As you emerge from the forest from the climb up the dune, this is the scene that will greet you. Be sure to stay on the path to ensure you do no damage to the very delicate ecosystem here. The fence and guideposts will ensure you know where you are!
Heading back to the woods from the Baldy Dune
Here’s the scene heading back to the woods with Lake Michigan at our backs.

Definitely check out the newly added Overlook Trail!

One of the newer features in this preserve, is the newer “Back-dune Forest Boardwalk”. It is what we would call an interpretive trail. As you meander through the mesic northern forest, you’ll be able to learn more about this unique habitat by stopping and reading the signage installed at intervals throughout the trail. This was made fully open last year, we believe. At least, that is when we first discovered it. One of the biggest perks to this new trail is that it is designed to accommodate universal access. This is awesome, as we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy nature as often as possible.

Enjoy the varied views along the new trail.

The beginning of the new Overlook Trail at Arcadia Dunes Old Baldy Trail
Follow the sign to enjoy the newly made, easily accessible Overlook Trail.
The beginning of the Overlook Trail
As you begin your short journey down the Overlook Trail, you will be greeted to beautiful forested scenes like this.
An informative sign on the Overlook Trail
Be sure to stop and take in some of the bits of knowledge found periodically along the trail, as provided by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.
The scene near one of the signs.
The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has installed easily navigable boardwalk.  They did this to protect the delicate ecosystem, and provide an easy path for all.
Another scene from the Overlook Trail
Another common scene from along the Overlook Trail.
A sign providing information about the dune system near Arcadia
One of the signs on the Overlook itself, providing information about the beautiful dune you are standing on.
The second sign on the Overlook platform.
Here’s the other sign located on the Overlook. This one is regarding the birds often found migrating through the dunes at various points of the year. The Overlook is a great spot to take a break and do some bird watching.
A view of the entire Overlook platform.
After you finish the Overlook Trail, this platform will greet you.

We hope you enjoyed this Old Baldy virtual tour!

The Sleeping Bear Dunes/Grand Traverse area is full of amazing beauty. To us, this trail and nature preserve is one of the hidden gems in the area. Nowhere near as popular as the actual Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, nor the Pierce Stocking Scenic drive. And, while we’d like to keep this trail to ourselves, we don’t mind sharing the information with fellow nature lovers like ourselves.

The next time you head up to this area, you really should check out this amazing nature preserve!

Jess & Jeff of Michigan Photography
A selfie of Jess and I enjoying the Arcadia Dunes Baldy Trail… Michigan Photography style. Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Old Baldy Trail.  Feel free to follow the link below to see other artwork we have for sale from the Arcadia area.  And, after that, is a link to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s website. If you’d like to learn more about the great things they are doing for the region, definitely check them out.

Happy Shooting!



Check out our Arcadia Michigan Artwork For Sale!
Take a deeper look at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, and the awesome things they do for the region.
Nothing in the world is more exciting to a photographer than, the perfect light at the perfect moment. However, if this convergence of events happened all the time, perfect light might become imperfect, and the amazing could become mundane. Since the perfect scene is dictated by nature... a travel photographer must make the best use of the opportunity at hand. Attempting to make the mundane, extraordinary with creativity and a variety of techniques. This pretty much sums up my experience with nature and scenic photography. Which forces me to do my best to make the most of the opportunities at hand... regardless of what mother nature has planned. I look forward to sharing our adventures in Michigan, and showing off the beauty of our mitten-shaped corner of the world. While also sharing some of my knowledge of photography, which might be helpful in your adventures.

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