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Saugatuck has been on my To Hike list for awhile, but it got bumped up in priority after I saw my friend's Instagram pics from a weekend hike there. I knew I had to go ASAP! Even the drive there was pleasant-- from Simpaug Turnpike to Marchant to 53, I passed an old one-room schoolhouse and a few quaint farms. I had read it's best to park at John Read Middle School across the street, but school was in session- I opted to park right at the entrance even though it was a small space. Luckily (as far as parking goes), I was the only visitor there this morning. Not until I left did another human come. And it was pretty much a 2-vehicle maximum. There are other entrances-- perhaps some of them have better parking. As per usual, there are no facilities at the trail head, so potty first and/or pack some toilet paper! This trail is dog-friendly and wheelchair accessible according to the sign, though it is limited how far a wheelchair can go.
The trail head is easy to spot-- there is a sign and a map. I immediately took a picture of the map, since I had not found one online beforehand. I decided I'd try a loop this morning, so I mapped out a plan to take the Falls Trail to the Power Line Trail to the Oak Trail to the Hemlock Trail and back toward the entrance. A loop offers double the eye candy, double the adventure, double the variety than an out & back.
The entrance trail takes you past some educational signs-- I'm sure the middle school makes great use of this area-- that are great for the kiddos and adults alike. Also, to the right, I noticed a large square slab that seemed to be a closed up well. If your kids are anything like mine, they might hop on top and use it as a little stage. I know I wanted to perform a monologue, but I stayed focused and continued. You will arrive at a good-sized wooden bridge that spans the Saugatuck River. Both sides are quite scenic. From here, take the Falls Trail, which is marked white. This is a nice flat trail and would be easy for trail running, but very short!
You'll turn right around .2-- at this juncture you will hike past a small meadow and there's a sign about bird-watching. You will cross a small wooden bridge right before you see the sign for Hemlock Trail. Keep going straight because we are hiking first to the falls. The meadow might seem boring, but do look out for birds. After you pass the meadow, here is where the beautyand excitement begins. On your left you will see some high rocky ridges covered with moss and bejeweled in ferns and trees. I caught sight of at least four different bird varieties within one minute or entering this haven. There is some traffic noise here, & that's a shame, because it might make you miss all the birdsong.
Around .5 you will see more of the Saugatuck on your right-- it looks more like a pond. The cool thing about the traffic, despite it being loud, is that it vibrates this little pond, creating a magical shimmery surface. I stopped for and excessive amount of photos! It goes without saying, but I will mention it anyway, be cautious hiking along the water with little ones! Obviously a hike can be ruined if a kid falls in!
At about .82 you will be able to hear some waterfall. This inlet of water flanked by gorgeous trees and rocks is epic beauty! Everything is covered in moss, adding to the magic. The terrain is very technical here, so watch those little ones and go slow. The trail here is more like a scramble over large boulders. I would not go on a rainy day as the rocks might be slick! One mile in is where you will come across the falls, and it requires climbing to get there. It's totally worth it! Between the beauty of the falls and the moss covered rocks and trees behind you, you will be surrounded 360° by sheer majesty. Stop here to take photos, picnic, meditate. The sound of the waterfall is so calming. But be warned, it may lead to the urgent need to pee. (No problemo if you're prepared, ladies!) Now, you could opt to simply do an out and back and return from whence you came. Just be careful climbing down those rocks! I opted to explore a little more. Like I said, a loop trail provides more variety than an out and back, and if I can get a 2-mile loop, I'll take it.
If you opt to do the loop, you will go a bit beyond the falls, then you'll go hard left to stay on white around 1.1. Hop on the Power Line trail to your left. You'll have a good climb that'll get your heart rate up, but it's short. As soon as you come to the sign for Oak Trail, hop on that one. It will be on your left. Oak Trail is marked blue, and in the fall, inches deep in oak leaves. So follow the blue marked trees. This trail is meandering with gentle climbs.
At about 1.6, you will hit a fork with Knapp Trail to your right and the sign for Oak Trail on your left-- veer left. Technically that becomes Knapp trail, so you are back on white. You will stay on this stretch for a short distance, and it is a gentle descent. But watch your step. There's a lot of acorns in the fall that you can easily roll on and biff it! Of course, I paint these worst-case scenarios that never actually happen, but in the event that you, dear reader, are a clutz, it could happen, and you've been warned. Being a transplant here myself and used to Utah desert, I am still shocked by the copious amounts of acorns and leaves here!
As soon as you see the sign, hop onto Hemlock on your left. Hemlock Trail is also mostly a decline through tall hemlocks. This is a pretty stretch. Look for the dried up stream bed on your right with, you guessed it, moss-covered rocks. (Again, the moss is still a stunning novelty to me! I'm sure I mention it all too often, but at least I remind you to recognize the beauty you might take for granted.) You might even see a little bit of water if it's been rainy. At about mile 2, you will return to that small wooden bridge you crossed near the beginning. Simply follow it back out to the main entrance, and you got an epic hike with a variety of terrain, scenery, and wildlife. Admittedly, I got very little wildlife-- but isn't that a relief when you're all alone in the woods??
Please be sure to do this hike soon! It is incredible!
Mother of 3. Fit-philosopher. Showing my kids how to be fit via living life to the max. Newbie photographer. Simplistic cook who shares easy, healthy meals. Lover of kid-friendly hikes & getting outdoors & unplugged.