Stites Natural Area Addition Adds 20 Acres - The Leelanau Conservancy

Stites Natural Area Addition Adds 20 Acres

Just off the beaten path of downtown Suttons Bay is Stites Natural Area. The 1.6 miles of trail surrounded by lush woodlands is a favorite hike among locals and visitors alike. Though it’s only a quarter mile from the post office, Stites feels like a world away. We’re excited to announce an 20 acre addition has expanded this beloved natural area to 70 acres.

Something that makes Stites Natural Area feel special are the ridges shaped by ancient glaciers. Valleys, carved out by melting streams, offer a glimpse into the region’s geological past. These natural contours set the stage for a lovely outdoor experience, with trails winding through the rolling countryside, promising an enjoyable adventure.

As the seasons shift so does the scenery. The forest is a fall color dream in autumn, popping with shades of gold, crimson, and amber. Come spring, a delicate carpet of wildflowers dot the forest floor. Amongst the blooms, trilliums and yellow and pink lady’s slippers add bursts of color, inviting visitors to revel in the seasonal shift.

Photo by Mark Smith

The forest, carefully tended by stewards like the Pezzis, boasts diverse native flora and fauna. Midwest crab apples, American hazelnuts, and majestic white oaks serve as havens for wildlife. Towering sentinels, some aged over a century and spanning three feet in diameter, stand as witnesses to the forest’s past and present. Among the trees, wildlife thrives. Grouse, woodcock, turkey, deer, and elusive bobcats call this woodland home, while the occasional sighting of bear tracks adds an element of mystery to the woodland allure. With each rustle of leaves and chirp of bird song, Stites Natural Area invites visitors to connect with nature. Donors Ray and Jan Pezzi are excited for folks to enjoy even more of this natural gem.

Photo by Ray Pezzi

“We love the towering trees rooted to the steep slopes of Stites Natural Area. We chose the Conservancy to permanently preserve this unique spot, so wild yet tucked in just above the bustle of Suttons Bay. We take comfort in the fact that the Conservancy will continue to keep this land as it is long after we are gone. We also partner with them to protect those grandiose oaks (grandi-oaks!) from Oak Wilt. We hope Stites Natural Area’s story will inspire others to preserve the places they love through the Conservancy, too.”

Next time you find yourself in Suttons Bay or in need of a hike, check out Stites Natural Area for exploration, contemplation, and appreciation of the wild.