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Monday, July 27, 2015

Muskegon, Michigan / Hiking in PJ Hoffmaster State Park

July 2015, Weekday

The weather was not good for boating a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to do some hiking instead. Here are a few photos from Hoffmaster State Park, and some information about the trails we hiked.

Visitor's Center entrance

The campground in the park is located at the north entrance. We entered the park through the south entrance where the Visitor's Center is located. There are hiking trails and beaches in both areas. 

The Visitor's Center is a two level building with exhibits and information. A public restroom is located on both levels. We had visited the center last time we were in this park, so we just went inside briefly to get a trail map. We noticed a sign inside stating that bottled water could be purchased for 50 cents. 

trail map; click on photo to enlarge it
I thought the trail map left a lot to be desired; it was not well labeled. I have attached a photo of the online map, which is the same as the printed one we were given. I added a few notations to the map in red.

We usually hike in the spring and fall, when bugs are fewer, and the air temperature is cooler. Even though we had brought water, and we were wearing good walking shoes, this was only a brief hike for us. 

We started at the Visitor's Center, and walked out to the beach. The direction sign on the walkway when the trail split was not positioned correctly. After studying the sign for a bit, we figured out which steps would be going to the beach because one of the branches was handicap accessible, and it was easy to tell which trail was handicap accessible. There are three branches off from the walkway, and the handicap branch is not shown on the map. Also, the walkway to the beach is not exactly straight ahead as it appears on the map.
beach near the start, which
had more shoreline

Once we got to the beach, we walked south to Homestead Trail. The water on Lake Michigan was high, so we did not have much room to walk on the beach in most areas. The other option was to walk through the dune grass atop the hill overlooking the beach. We walked in both areas; depending how much beach room was available.
creation along the beach

There was no "Homestead Trail" sign when we got to the trail, although it was clear that it was a well traveled trail when we got to it. We had passed a couple of smaller foot trails, and an outside camera mounted on a pole, before we reached Homestead Trail. The distance from the Visitor's Center to Homestead Trail was about ¾ of a mile.

We then hiked through the woods to the first turnoff, and went left. The trail was hilly, although not difficult. Our highest elevation was 729'. Other than our walk along the beach, this hike was shady and secluded. We observed some paw prints in the soil, although we did not see any movement other than a few squirrels. We did not encounter any other hikers.

When we got to the next fork in the trail, we were momentarily confused about which way to turn to head back to the parking lot. There was a trail sign at this fork; however, since there are no trail numbers on the map, the trail sign did not do us much good. I added a red arrow to the map photo above to show where we were on the map when we encountered this fork in the trail.

trail sign for the red arrow on map
It appeared that the Homestead Trail we were on was trail 7, trail 1 headed to a picnic shelter, and trail 6 went back to the Visitor's Center. This was not a huge problem for us to figure out; however, for someone hiking on a hot day without water or a sense of direction, I think this could be confusing or cause problems. 

This entire walk/hike was only a little over two miles, and it took us about 45 minutes. We walked at a leisurely pace, and we did not stop other than to take a few photos. 

view from beach overlook
After this brief hike, we stopped at the center beach area where Walk-A-Mile Trail is located. There are two buildings with restrooms and changing rooms between the parking lot and beach. There is a vending machine in one of the buildings. The walk to the beach was a very easy walk with an overlook/viewing area just before the sand.

There are more trails in this park than I had realized, and if we had been camping in the spring or fall, we would have planned a day of hiking from our campsite. There are not as many trails as in Yankee Springs Recreation Area or Tahquamenon Falls in the upper peninsula, although there are a few miles of hiking trails within the park. Maybe we will squeeze an overnight hiking trip in this fall, if we can!