Warren Dunes State Park is a little over 100 miles from Chicago and located directly off exit 16 in southwest Michigan right off of I-94. Lake-effect snow make this a popular location to cross-country ski as the snow is somewhat dependable here.
The park does not groom the trails and that is usually a negative mark for cross country ski destination; however, in this case it created more of an adventure. Right from the start the trail zigs and zags through the woods on a narrow trail in the shadows of huge dunes that rise 240 feet high.
The first mile of the trail is completely flat and follows a creek. After gliding in the shadows of the steep dunes one wonders when the trail will become more exciting. The wait is not long as after a mile the trail leaves the flatlands and ascends the steep dunes.
The trails are all numbered from 2-13 and once the trail hits the first junction there are a myriad of loops and intersections. At the first junction, veer west toward the lake and the dunes. There is another junction that immediately turns left. This is a small loop.
The trail goes downhill, but be careful about speed as halfway down the trail there is a log over the trail, so one must control their speed with the snowplow maneuver, come to stop at the tree, and then gingerly step over it. The loop is only about a half mile, so it will only take a few minutes.
Once done there is another junction almost immediately after the loop. It does not matter which route the skier takes here as they both lead straight up hill and the two trails come together for a loop near the beach. Before the trails connect they go up and over a large dune for a nice downhill stretch.
The areas exposed to Lake Michigan are without snow as the force of wind blows the snow right off the dunes. The views of the lack from these dune tops are sensational and awe the visitor with beautiful views of the lack. Due to lack of snow here it is impossible to complete the loop unless one takes off the skis and walks over the sand.
Since the trails are not groomed and there are many hikers that walk along the trails, the downhill section of the trails can be trecherous and bumpy. The moguls created by hikers make it difficult to snow plow so it is necessary to proceed with caution as the hills can be dangerous.
There are another set of loops north of the campground, but these are flat and without hills. There are 6 miles of total cross-country ski trails in the park. Check back for a review about this park in the coming days.
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