The numbered circles on the map correspond to the numbered junctions of the trails. The green circle denotes easy trail, the blue square- medium difficulty, the black diamond- difficult. There are laminated locator maps on the junction posts. There are benches (high- for skiers) at the junctions, and in some other locations.
Point 1 denotes the parking lot. Veer left on wide trail on the west side of the road, and in 2 minutes you will reach point 2. The times in parenthesis for each section are the time it took me to walk each. Skiing times will of course be very different.
Loop 1 is enclosed by points 2,3,6 - easy.
Loop 2 is enclosed by points 3,4,5,6 - medium.
Loop 3 is enclosed by points 4, 4 1/2, 5 - medium.
Loop 4 is enclosed by points 4 1/2, 5, 6 - difficult.
Point 2 to 3 1 mile (18 minutes). This section has the potential for seeing the most wildflowers of any on the Pathway. There are wintergreen and blueberries everywhere, but this section also has some trailing arbutus, wood betony, and lupine. Almost immediately cross the sand entrance road. The terrain is slightly rolling and follows a broad low ridge southward. There are ephemeral wetlands on each side of the trail. In about 8 minutes turn the sharp corner at the bottom of the loop, continue on the level, and after a short northward swing, turn west and cross another sand road. Reach point 3.
Point 3 to 4 0.7 mile (14 minutes). Take the western fork at Point 3. Begin in a red pine plantation with white pine grown in among them. Some of the red pine are 15-18 inches in diameter. Mostly flat with slight undulations and then climb to the southern point on the trail, where there is a bench. Turn to the northwest and continue on the level ridge top. To the south is an ephemeral wetland. On the north side of the trail you pass a huge dead white pine about 3 feet in diameter with a small red cedar beside it. Begin climbing gradually and to the south of the trail (about 50 feet away) there is a large silver maple that is an active porcupine tree. Climb almost immediately to the top of the next ridge and stay on this ridge till you reach Point 4.
Point 4 to 4 1/2 2.1 miles (36 minutes). Descend slightly and continue on the level through open woods. You begin to see a large wet meadow through the trees to the right full of big bluestem grass. Some 2-track road leads into this because it has been blocked with posts to prevent vehicles from entering the ski trail. Cross a small stream that possibly only flows in spring feeds into the wet meadow. Turn to the north and join what looks like an old grass farm lane. There are wetlands on the west. The lane proceeds on a raised berm with wetland on each side of the trail. There are more cottonwoods here. Re-enter the woods and begin to see through the trees to the right a clear-cut that is growing up with saplings. In about 20 minutes cross the sand access road, and you will see its crossing of 52nd Avenue just to the west. Almost immediately after this you enter the clearcut which is growing up thickly in cottonwood. Briefly parallel the road and then turn east, and cross the logging access road. In a couple of minutes re-enter the mature woods. There is a bench here. Begin crossing some small ridges, two of which have short steep downhills. Reach point 4 1/2.
Point 4 1/2 to 6
1.2 mile (30 minutes). There is a sign here saying "caution" and "by-path." The primary trail goes straight down the north side of the ridge on the longest, steepest hill in this entire Pathway. The by-path is just slightly to the west and is somewhat shorter, but not less steep. It quickly rejoins the main path. From this point on the trail crosses 11 small ridges and hills. At the top of the 3rd hill the trail turns to the east. At the top of the 4th hill cross a sand road. The 5th hill is longer with a gradual climb, short level space, and a steeper climb to the top. The trail begins to turn south at the top of the 6th hill, and there is a bench here. Follow the top of a ridge which drops off steeply to the left and more gently to the right. The descent of hill 7 is named "Deano's Downhill" with a marker sign most of the way down it. Private property signs to the left. At the bottom of hill 8 pass through a clearing. The single tree in the middle of the clearing is a serviceberry which is beautiful in spring. Enter slightly more dense woods than the rest of this section. Cross 2 undulations that don't really count as hills. Hill 9 is more gradual and there is also more red pine. Parallel 60th Ave to the top with small undulations. At the top of hill 10 cross a sand road, and at the top of the 11th hill you reach Point 6.
Point 6 to 2 0.6 mile (11 minutes). Descend slightly through open woods to level trail. Cross sand 60th Avenue and descend gently through mixed white pine and oak with private property on the north, pass a porcupine tree- a 2-foot diameter white pine leaning to the east on the north side of the trail. Turn south through red pine on the level. Reach Point 2.
Point 6 to 5 0.5 mile (8 minutes). Take the westward trail and descend to a level area, cross two small humps, and at the top of the third hump take a definite turn to the northwest. Continue mostly level, climb one more ridge and follow the top of that ridge. This is a very pretty section of trail. Reach Point 5.
Point 5 to 4 1/2 0.2 mile (4 minutes). Continue along the top of a ridge for this short distance, climbing gradually for about 2/3 of the way and then gradually descending to Point 4 1/2.
Point 6 to 3 0.3 mile (8 minutes). Take the southern trail which winds through medium density white pine and oak. This trail is narrower and used less than some of the others and has more of a foot-trail "feel." Although short, it is very pretty. There are some small undulations, but descends gradually, crossing the access road to reach Point 3.
Point 5 to 4 0.6 mile (12 minutes). Descend southward from Point 5 and then climb slightly through red and white pine, with oak and servicberry. Pine needles carpet the pathway as you cross a low hill. The young white pine become much thicker, cross a low ridge and drop to cross the sand access road. The red pine plantation with small white pine intermingled begins south of the road. Climb to Point 4.
Bicycling- The trail is managed primarily for hiking and cross-country skiing, but DNR permits multi-use.
Camping- The Pathway is within the Pentwater State Game Area. Therefore, camping is allowed only between September 10 and May 15 if all State Forest Regulations are obeyed. See Pentwater State Game Area
Rest Rooms- none
Potable Water- none
Access- Sandy dirt parking area is basically a widened space in the road
Restrictions- No motor vehicles. Trail was built for ski use and is groomed in winter. Please snowshoe beside groomed trails rather than in them.
Seasonality- Open all year
Distance and time- 7.2 different miles of trails. Do as many loops as you want
Trail Markers- a mixture of DNR blue trapezoids, blue disks with a footprint, and an occasional very old wooden blue diamond. There are handpainted signs numbering the junctions, and occasional arrows along the paths.
Condition of Marking- junctions are well marked with maps posted. Many of the blue reassurance markers are damaged or missing, but the trail is well-established and it would be difficult to get off the trail.
Treadway- sandy forest soil, wide pathway for skiing
Grades- flat to moderate with slightly steeper hills in loop 4. One steep hill north from point 4 1/2.
Ecosystem- Medium aged mixed woods on stablized dunes. Red and white pine, oak, aspen. Ephemeral marshes.
Maintained by - Oceana Cross-Country Ski Association
P.O. Box 138
Mears, MI 49436
Most recent date this info personally checked - March 16, 2010, portions skied January 2011, portions hiked 2012
More - Benches located along the trail. Constructed for skiiers, these are occasionally too high to sit on in the summer. The DNR supports multi-use trail unless otherwise posted. Biking is permitted, but not encouraged.
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