Exploring Grand Haven: Trails, Parks, and Waterfront Adventures

Aerial shot of Grand Haven Lights
Aerial view of Grand Haven Lights

Grand Haven is a sought-after coastal town in Southwest Michigan. Its location at the mouth of the Grand River creates stunning views of Lake Michigan. Visitors and locals alike revel in soft-sand beaches, picturesque sunsets, and the rhythmic sound of waves. The city boasts two historic lighthouses—the Grand Haven Lighthouses—which stand as sentinels on the south pier. These lighthouses guide ships into the river and serve as beloved landmarks. Check out this previous article for more information on Michigan Lighthouses.

While the lighthouses and beaches are the most popular and featured activities in the area, Grand Haven also has a unique blend of natural beauty and community spirit.

Join us on a journey as we highlight some of our favorite hiking areas and waterfront adventures.  Lace up your hiking boots, pack your curiosity, and let Grand Haven’s magic unfold.

Tall trees with exposed roots and a sandy trail in Michigan
Sandy paths to the beach at Kitchel Lindquist Hartger Dunes Preserve

Trails That Beckon and Where Nature Unfolds Secrets

Grand Haven, a place where the sun kisses the waves, beckons adventurers to its shores. Here, trails wind through ancient dunes, parks embrace visitors like old friends. Check out this article from the innkeepers at the Looking Glass Beachfront Inn for more details.

1. Rosy Mound Natural Area Trail

This trail invites you to wander through lush woods and emerge onto the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. A well-maintained path leads you past ancient dunes, wildflowers, and the occasional deer that pauses to meet your gaze. As you ascend the wooden staircases, the scent of pine fills the air, and the distant sound of waves beckons you forward. At the summit, a breathtaking panorama awaits—a canvas of blue water stretching to infinity.

2. Duncan Woods/ Mulligans Hollow 

Duncan Memorial Park, more commonly referred to as “Duncan Woods”, is approximately 40 acres of unspoiled virgin forest between Lake Forest Cemetery and Sheldon Road. This beautiful park includes numerous walking trails, as well as picnic tables near the parking area. Here you will find beautifully wooded nature preserve of beech and hemlock trees.

3. Hoffmaster Park

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park  is situated on 3 miles of stunning Lake Michigan shoreline and features a modern campground, towering dunes, 10 miles of scenic trails and the Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center.

One of the park’s main attractions is the dune climb along the Dune Overlook Trail, an approximately half-mile roundtrip climb with about 220 steps and benches along the way. For a more moderately steep hike, follow the 2-mile-long (roundtrip) Homestead Trail that includes a stop at Lake Michigan.

sandy paths on dunes in Southwest Michigan. Green shrubs on the side of the trails
Sandy paths over the dunes of Kitchel Lindquist Hartger Dunes Preserve

4. Kitchel Lindquist Hartger Dunes Preserve

Locals call this gem the KLH Dunes Preserve where 115 acres of protected dunes, forest, and wetlands await nature enthusiasts. Here you will find a freshwater dune ecology from open dunes to forested ecosystems. Wander along the well-maintained trails that lead you through the dunes and forests. Experience the beauty of all stages of dune development, from bare beach areas along the Grand River to climax dune forest.

Parks That Embrace You

Grand Haven has over 60 parks in the area for you to explore. Climb towering dunes, stroll the picturesque beaches, and explore the hidden forest trails. We are highlighting our favorites, but for a complete list check out this link provided by Visit Grand Haven.

Grand Haven Lighthouse in the evening
Grand Haven Lighthouse

1. Grand Haven State Park

This iconic park is more than a place; it’s an embrace. Sink your toes into warm sand, build sandcastles, and watch sailboats glide by. The Grand Haven Pier stretches like an open arm, inviting you to walk its length. At sunset, gather with fellow travelers, cameras in hand, as the sky ignites in hues of orange and pink. And when night falls, the lighthouse winks—a beacon of welcome.

Lush greenery and a sandy path in Michigan
Trailhead for the North Ottawa Dunes

2. Coast Guard Park/North Ottawa Dunes

The actual Coast Guard Park offers baseball and soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, picnic areas, restrooms, grills, and picnic tables. It also serves as a trailhead for the North Ottawa Dunes—parking is available at the entrance.

This natural area covers 593 acres of wooded dunes near Lake Michigan Ten miles of hiking trails connect North Ottawa Dunes to North Beach Park and PJ Hoffmaster State Park. The rugged landscape features eight distinct dunes exceeding 750 feet in height, offering spectacular scenic views.

Two kayaks beside a lake shaded by trees

Waterfront Adventures Await

1. Kayaking the Grand River/Lake Michigan

Rent a kayak and paddle the Grand River, where freshwater meets saltwater. Glide past historic bridges, under the watchful eyes of gulls, and feel the rhythm of the current. Explore hidden coves, spy on herons, and let the river carry you toward the horizon.

2. Sunset Cruises

Board a sailboat or catamaran for a sunset cruise on Lake Michigan. The sun dips low, casting golden reflections on the water. Sip local wine, breathe in the breeze, and toast to the day’s adventures. As the sky blushes, you’ll understand why sailors have always revered twilight.

A sky filled with kites at the Grand Haven Kite Festival
Kite Festival in Grand Haven

3. Watch a Kite Festival

Enjoy a day at the beach in mid-May as the sky is filled with colorful kites of all types and sizes. World-famous stunt kite fliers perform to music on the center flying field while kites larger than a school bus hover just to the south. Bring your kite to fly on the open flying field at the north end of the event, or test fly the year’s newest kites on one of the manufacturers’ fields.

Lake Michigan from Looking Glass Deck
Lake Michigan from Looking Glass Deck

Best Place to Stay in Grand Haven

And when your adventures lead you to seek refuge and respite, we know the very best place to stay in Grand Haven- The Looking Glass Beach Front Inn.

Water Room at Looking Glass Beachfront Inn

Here you will find a casual beach vibe with beautiful vistas of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven Lighthouses. Your experienced host has thought of everything to make your stay relaxed and memorable- including having sunscreen in his gift shop. A comfortable deck makes perfect viewing at sunset and later to see the twinkling lights on the pier. 

The quaint town of Grand Haven has wonderful laid-back eateries, award-winning Michigan breweries, and artisan chocolate shops and during the summer months enjoy an enchanting spectacle of water and lights creatively synchronized to a wide variety of well-known musical selections. Each 20-25 minute show is free and plays nightly at dark from Memorial Day through Labor Day as well as Fridays and Saturdays in May and September.

Your host is full of information on the best places to dine, especially the best place to enjoy local craft beer, as he and his bud from Washington Street Inn love to meet up at their favorite tavern or brewery. Favorite dining spots include Unicorn Tavern, Toasted Pickle, and the Paisley Pig Gastropub. This gastropub partners with local farms to bring in seasonal, high-quality ingredients. Its extensive menu covers seafood, comfort food and barbecue alongside local brews.

To book your stay – we recommend booking in advance as this delightful bed and breakfast fills up every season.