Drive slow, our neighbors live here
We know you’re excited to get out on the trails! When arriving at and leaving Palmer Woods, please respect the neighborhood. Drive carefully and slow down along Wheeler and School Lake Roads.
1075 Acres–Our Largest Natural Area!
This majestic forest reserve offers miles of hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing through rolling hills and traditional northern hardwood forest. Palmer Woods is a great place to spend a day during any season. The Forest Reserve’s contiguous hardwood forest stretches over two miles north to south and shares a nearly 5-mile boundary with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is located just over a mile from Big Glen Lake and just beyond the bluff that marks the western edge of Miller Hill.
Palmer Woods is one of the Conservancy’s two “Forest Reserves,” managed for sustainable harvest. Two deer exclosures on the property provide opportunities for ongoing research in forest health, and a boardwalk through the Helen and Dan Palmer Fern Garden located in the heart of the property offers interpretive signage about the many unique fern species within Palmer Woods.
There are a number of old logging roads that are not part of our marked trail system. Please pay attention to our signage so you don’t get lost. 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!
The 10-mile hiking/cross-country skiing trail system here is a work in progress; more trails will be created over time.
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 flat-to-gently rolling trail with a gradual ascent toward Darwin Road. A great 2.6 mile roundtrip excursion is hiking out to the Fern Garden on the Price Valley Trail.
Check out the beautiful “Darwin Loop Trail,” added when we purchased an additional 14 acres in 2017. Catch a glimpse of Sugarloaf through the trees. Park on Darwin Road to hike or 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.)
Mountain Bike Trails
As of summer 2023, 17 miles of mountain bike trails are open to the public.
Summer 2021: Four miles of new mountain bike trails are officially open to the public (Read More Here). The focus of the Phase 2 trails at Palmer Woods is to expand the options for mountain bikers of all ability levels. Watch the video below to learn more.
Phase 1 Trails: the Enlightener (formerly the East Ridge Loop) and the 2.75 mile “Acer Ridge” (formerly Central Ridge) Intermediate Loops were built in 2018-19. Both are intermediate level, single track flow style trails. The Acer Ridge Loop features a challenging climb with a rewarding downhill descent featuring rollers, berms and drops that will be a fun challenge for intermediate riders. The Enlightener Loop offers more challenging riding for intermediate riders with tighter corners, steeper slopes, and “most difficult” optional sections with table tops and jumps.
In fall of 2018, we built the first public flow-style mountain bike trail in Leelanau County at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve. Learn more about the first new trail loop and click here to read about our decision to embark on this new endeavor. The Enlightener (East Ridge Trail) opened to rave reviews from the mountain biking community. It is an intermediate flow single-track trail with advanced optional sections. The trail is one-way, counterclockwise and offers challenging riding. A second intermediate-level loop is planned for construction in 2019.
If you are a cross-country skier, trails are considered to be fairly easy with intermediate, more challenging 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 to two sets of tracks laid for classic skiers depending on the width of the trail. If you are snowshoeing, please stay OFF the classic tracks.
The land was owned for many years by the Palmer family and operated as a working forest. The family operated in a sustainable fashion, growing and harvesting the timber with keeping the forest healthy in mind. The old logging roads have turned into hiking trails.
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. The land shares a 2.4 mile border with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Black bear, coyote, bobcat call this place home.
Protecting an Intact Northern Hardwood Forest
There are 34 species of trees here, although it is predominantly a beech – sugar maple 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:
- Help with forest restoration efforts. Within a few years we expect to see a lush green forest understory.
- Document the long-term impacts of deer browsing. Example: Is the wildflower seed bank totally depleted from years of deer browse? We’ll find out.
- Help our staff to make management decisions for the optimal health of the forest.
- Provide research and educational opportunities that could help other landowners.
How Palmer Woods is Helping to Offset Climate Change
Learn more about how our Palmer Woods and Krumwiede Forest Reserves are helping to offset climate change by visiting the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science Climate Change Response Framework. The Framework is a collaborative, cross-boundary approach among scientists, managers, and landowners to incorporate climate change considerations into natural resource management.
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.