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Palmer Woods Forest Reserve

Palmer Woods Forest Reserve at a Glance

Features: birding, challenging terrain, uphill climbs, deer exclosures, groomed cross country ski trails, guided tours, hiking, moderate terrain, some hills, mountain biking

Acreage: 721

Year Preserved: 2016

Trail Mileage: 4 miles and growing

Trail Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Trail Map
Guided Hikes

721 Acres–Our Largest Natural Area!

This majestic forest reserve offers miles of hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing through rolling hills and traditional northern hardwood forest. it’s a great place to spend a day during any season.The Forest Reserve’s  contiguous hardwood forest stretches over 2 miles north to south. It is located just over a mile from Big Glen Lake and just beyond the bluff that marks the western edge of Miller Hill. The trail system here is a work in progress; more trails will be created over time.

About the Hiking Trails

There are three main options. Two of them can be accessed from the kiosk on Wheeler Road. The 1.8-mile “Loop Trail” is a bit more challenging than the “Price Valley Trail.”

The “Price Valley Trail” is 1.7 miles long (one way) ending at Darwin Road, a seasonal road that is not plowed. This is a flatter trail with a gradual ascent toward Darwin Road.

New in December, 2017: Check out the beautiful new Darwin Loop Trail, added when we purchased an additional 14 acres this spring, where you can catch a glimpse of Sugarloaf through the trees. Park on Darwin Road and ski into the northern end of  Palmer Woods along this beautiful winding section of road. (Darwin is a seasonal road not plowed by the county.)

About the Mountain Bike Trails–Closed for Winter

New: First 3-mile loop mountain bike trail opened briefly at Palmer Woods in fall, 2018

In 2018, we built the first public flow-style mountain bike trail in Leelanau County at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve. Click here to learn more about the first new trail loop and here to read about our decision to embark on this new endeavor. The new, intermediate-level loop trail with advanced features opened November 4th. 

Click here to see the video by The Boardman Review about the trail

Click here for a map of the mountain bike trail

Info For Mountain Bikers: Current Trail Conditions

Posted 11/12/18: Due to current weather conditions, the newly-built Palmer Woods mountain bike trail is closed to prevent it from degrading.

Info For Cross-Country  Skiers

If you are a cross-country skier, both trails are considered to be easy with intermediate sections along the way. All the trails are very wide with no hair-pin turns. The wide trails are groomed with corduroy for skate skiers and also feature one set of tracks laid for classic skiers. If you are snowshoeing, please stay OFF the classic tracks.

Get the Latest Trail Grooming Update

Groomed cross-country ski trails! Click here to learn more:


Please have patience as we work to mark more trails over the coming months. We strongly encourage you to stay on trails we have already marked. Also, please be aware that cell phone service is spotty to non-existent at Palmer Woods. We hope you enjoy this spectacular Leelanau Conservancy property!


See Google Map above. Palmer Woods is located in Cleveland Twp. off of M-22 on Wheeler Road. From M-22, turn south onto Wheeler Road (the only way you can turn), and go about 3 miles. Look for signs on your right.

Helping to Keep Glen Lake Pristine

The majority of groundwater that recharges Glen Lake flows from the eastern side of the watershed, where Palmer Woods is located. Protecting upland forests and wetlands is the best way to ensure the clean water of one of Michigan’s most beautiful lakes.

Preserving Wildlife Habitat

Palmer Woods provides a beautiful and wild home for native mammals and birds that require large, unbroken expanses of forest cover for nesting habitat. Protecting the land preserves an important conservation corridor.

Protecting an Intact Northern Hardwood Forest

Northern hardwood forests are under attack by disease, pests, invasive species and climate change. By acquiring Palmer Woods, the Conservancy has the unique opportunity to manage a large, healthy, intact forest in Leelanau and fight back against the challenges facing our native forests. The Conservancy will be able to experiment with and implement timber management prescriptions that promote forest health and native species diversity, ensuring that generations to come can explore a great and historic Northern Michigan forest.

Notice the Deer Exclosures

There are two areas on the property along the Price Valley Trail that are enclosed to keep deer out. The 8-foot-tall fencing encloses two 2 plots totaling about 35 acres (small mammals can still come and go). Deer exclosures will:

Plants at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve

In 2015 Palmer Woods underwent a Rapid Ecological Assessment or REA, an assessment designed to characterize the landscape and its natural communities and to identify conservation opportunities. A part of this process was a Floristic Quality Assessment, or FQA. The Palmer FQA and Summary is available here. The FQA tells the story of the types and quality of flora at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve.

Delve Deeper

Saving Palmer Woods: Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, November 2017

Forestry Work at Palmer Woods: What’s Ahead–Dec. 2016

Trails Groomed for X-C Skiers at Palmer Woods!–Dec. 21, 2016’s Interview with Director Tom Nelson about the Vision for Palmer Woods–March 2016

Moving Forward on Palmer Woods–November 2015

A Family’s Legacy: A Story about Dr. Dan and Helen Palmer–July 2015

Video about Palmer Woods Project–May 2015