Hiking the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park



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Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Beach Access #2 Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

The Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park is a 3 mile loop which leads to three beach access points, to the top of Old Baldy Lookout, and through the Whitefish Dunes State Natural Area. The eastern portion of the trail is the main route for accessing the beach and is open to bicycles as wells as walkers and joggers. The complete loop is a rock star among hikes in the state of Wisconsin, offering a scenic and unforgettable one hour hike. 




Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County


Whitefish Dunes State Park, established in 1967, encompasses the northern shoreline of Whitefish Bay between Cave Point County Park and the small community of Whitefish Bay. A large portion of the park is dedicated to preserving its signature sand dunes and beech forest. The state park is typically considered a beach destination, however, it includes a number of notable hiking trails which are less congested than popular trails on the Green Bay side of Door County. The Lake side of the county is considered "The quiet side of the Door."

The Red Trail begins behind the nature center near the main parking lot. It heads south through a pine and beech forest which has taken root on the older dunes set off from the current shoreline. This eastern leg of the trail is wide and packed with gravel and sand. It is popular for beach goers to bike this portion of the trail on their way out to Beach Access #2. Swimming is not permitted at beach access #1 due to rip currents - So Beach Access #2 is the default entry for most beach goers.

The red trail continues to wind along the shore ascending in elevation between surprisingly large dunes which are fully covered in thick vegetation and support a thriving forest. The trail reaches the third beach access which is also designated as a pet beach. A short distance after reaching the pet beach the Red Trail veers off to the west - climbing further into the highest collection of dunes.

A cordwalk winds up and over dunes and leads to the top of Old Baldy - the highest point in the park. A permanent overlook deck is installed on the top of Old Baldy. From here you can survey the rolling dunes in the natural area to the north and west and also get good views of Lake Michigan to the southeast.

From Old Baldy back to the nature center the Red Trail becomes more of a narrow nature walk designated for walkers and joggers. This quieter inland portion of the trail meanders through the pristine ecosystem supported by the dunes. Song birds are plentiful and other wildlife such as deer and porcupine make this part of the the park home.

Whitefish Dunes is also steeped in history. The area has been excavated and it has been revealed that the park has been occupied by eight communities separated by time between 100 BCE up to the late 19th century. The North Bay People, Heins Creek People, Lake Woodland People, The Oneota People, and a 19th century maritime trading village all once laid claim to these dunes. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Six shipwrecks have been documented in Whitefish Bay.

The Red Trail is the premiere hiking trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park, but the Black Trail which leads out to Cave Point may be the park's most popular trail. I'll cover that trail in a separate article. 

Pet Beach on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Pet Beach on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County


Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park


COUNTY: Door
COMMUNITIES: Jacksonport, Sturgeon Bay, Whitefish Bay

TOTAL MILES: 2.8 mile loop
DIFFICULTY: Easy




Directions and Trail 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.

Address for your GPS: 3275 Clarks Lake Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
| coordinates: 44.928090, -87.182246 |

From Milwaukee2.5 Hours
From Madison3.5 Hours
From Green Bay1 Hour
From Wausau2.5 Hours
From Minneapolis5 Hours
From Chicago4.25 Hours


Photos



Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

Beach Access #2 at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Beach Access #2 at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

Beach Access #1 at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County WI
Beach Access #1 at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County WI

Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

Beach Access #3 Pet Beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County WI
Beach Access #3 Pet Beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County WI

Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Observation Deck at Old Baldy on the Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County

Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County


Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County