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Lighthouse West Natural Area

Lighthouse West Natural Area at a Glance

Features: bench, birding, easy, flat terrain, guided tours, hiking, lake frontage, stairs, viewing platform or overlook, wildflowers

Acreage: 42

Year Preserved: 2004

Trail Mileage: 1 mile

Trail Difficulty: easy and moderate trails

Trail Map
Guided Hikes


For thousands of beautiful songbirds and broad-winged raptors that migrate to nesting grounds in the Upper Peninsula, our Lighthouse West Preserve at the Tip of the Peninsula is a godsend. Here, 42 acres and 640 feet of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan provide a place to stop, feed and rest before crossing the big water. Lighthouse West provides an array of habitat for over 100 species of our feathered friends.

Leelanau’s geological history is well told at Lighthouse West Natural Area. The steep drop levels off to what is called a “boulder terrace.” The stairs take you down to the ancient lake level and then you proceed to the current lake level. The terrace was created when waters in Lake Michigan were about 20 feet higher than they are today. Giant boulders left by the glaciers are also present near shore.

Trail System

Visit our spectacular trail and walkway that leads down the bluff to the lakeshore. Lighthouse West features a 1-mile trail network on flat terrain, with an 800-foot rigorous trail and stairs down a steep bluff to Lake Michigan.

Getting there: From Northport, head north on M-201 through the Village, taking M-201/Mill Street north out of town. M-201 becomes Co. Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd. Stay on Co Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd.  Stay straight as Co. Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd. becomes Co. Rd. 629/Woolsey Lake Rd (Co. Rd 640 splits off to the right). Continue on Co. Rd 629/Woolsey Lake Rd for approximately 3 miles when it becomes Co. Rd. 629/Lighthouse Point Rd. Continue on Co. Rd. 629/Lighthouse Point Rd for approximately 2 miles, then go left on Cathead Bay Dr.  Parking is approximately 0.1 mile on the right-hand side.


This land is part of a larger wildlife corridor we have been working to protect since we opened our doors in 1988. All told, the Leelanau Conservancy has protected 625 acres north of the village of Northport. Lighthouse West abuts 23 acres and 1,000 feet of shoreline on private land already permanently protected by a conservation easement. It is also very near the newly expanded Leelanau State Park. Both the State Park expansion and the Lighthouse West property were funded in large part by grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund—grants written and administered by the Leelanau Conservancy. We also depended on the generosity of many private donors to purchase Lighthouse West.


The fabulous cobble beach there features wetland vegetation that, depending on water levels, feeds wading birds and waterfowl. Offshore, you’ll find open, shrubby land with intermittent pockets of wetland ideal for sparrows, indigo buntings, waxwings and other open-land birds. Finally, further from shore is a terraced slope with boulders deposited by the glaciers and hardwoods like beech and maple. This land is home to woodpeckers, chickadees, jays, cardinals and many other birds that depend on seeds, buds and nesting sites that hardwoods provide. The native plants on the property host a wealth of insects, which are essential to migrating and nesting songbirds.

Also present on the property is Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), which is listed as threatened by both the state and federal government. In addition, Lighthouse West is a great place to view the evidence of receding glaciers.

Special note: Dr. Gregory Butcher, International Migratory Bird Species Coordinator for the US Forest Service, birded Lighthouse West in September 2013, his second visit to LHW.  Greg found what he called a “fantastic flock of migrating birds” at LHW.  Included were warblers, vireos and flycatchers, which took fifteen minutes to identify. 

Click Here to view a 36-second video tour of Lighthouse West!

Plants at Lighthouse West Natural Area

A Lighthouse West FQA and Summary is available here. The FQA, or Floristic Quality Assessment, tells the story of the types and quality of flora at Lighthouse West Natural Area.

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Poison Ivy is commonly found on impacted areas. Keep an eye out for this three leafed groundcover for it can give you an itchy rash. If your skin comes in contact with ivy, wash that area with soap a.s.a.p. Stay on the trails to reduce risk of contact.