Hiking at Ridges Sanctuary in Door County



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Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI
Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI

An unusual textured landform at Bailey's Harbor caught early attention from conservationists. As Lake Michigan receded over time it left behind earthwork impressions of waves - a series of parallel sand dune ridges and wetland swales. This landscape was difficult to build on, but it turned out to be the perfect refuge for rare plants and wildlife.

In 1937 The Ridges were protected as the first land trust in Wisconsin. Today 1600 acres of  pristine land and indigenous ecosystem are preserved. A nature center in Bailey's Harbor hosts most visitors and this is the starting point for a network of hiking trails that exceeds 5 miles combined. These walks are very easy with many of them being on boardwalks. 





Lower Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI
Lower Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI



I first visited Ridges as a young child, and it was partly this exposure to nature center trails which led me to be an adventurous outdoors man as an adult. This year (2017) I returned to Ridges to attend their Festival of Nature - a long weekend series of guided walks and events. I stopped at the Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center and had an hour to meander around on their newly improved Hidden Brook Boardwalk.

The initial boardwalk is wide and wheelchair accessible. It leads out over the first few ridges and swales to an older crossing boardwalk which connects the upper and lower range lights. A range light is similar to a lighthouse - but there are two lights set apart in a line. Ships navigating into the harbor know they are on the right course when they have aligned their ship so that the upper range light appears to sit on top of the lower light. In this case, the upper range light is in a dormer of the lighthouse keepers house. You can visit the keepers house and take a brief 15 minute guided tour.

The network of trails that cross out on ridges from the Range Light Trail are single track footpaths that extend in parallel lines through the diverse plant life communities of the sanctuary. A few perpendicular trails with boardwalks and bridges allow you to cross from one ridge to the next over the wetland swales.

To me, this place feels like a labyrinth and reminds me of the Ramble in New York's Central Park - it is a place for a slower more meditative kind of walk - a place to become intentionally lost and disorientated. There is a unique feeling of discovery and exploration at the Ridges.

Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI
Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI



Hiking Trails at Ridges Sanctuary


COUNTY: Door
COMMUNITIES: Bailey's Harbor

TOTAL MILES: Approximately 5 miles combined
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy

TRAIL MAP DOWNLOAD



Directions and Map



If viewing on a mobile device, open the trail map above to load into Google Maps App by touching the expand rectangle in the upper right corner.

I didn't make a trail map for these walks as there is  perfectly good one you can download here

Address for your GPS: 8172 WI-57 Baileys Harbor, WI 54202
| coordinates: 45.067814, -87.124259 |

From Milwaukee2.5 Hours
From Madison3.5 Hours
From Green Bay1 Hour
From Wausau2.5 Hours
From Minneapolis5 Hours
From Chicago4 Hours


Photos


Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI
Ridges Sanctuary Boardwalk in Bailey's Harbor Door County WI



Upper Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI
Upper Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI


Wetlands at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI
Wetlands at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI

Lower Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI
Lower Range Light at Ridges Sanctuary Bailey's Harbor in Door County WI