Explore the beauty hidden in Little Lake Nature Preserve on Washington Island

When I was younger I thought the woods were home to fairies and elves. Even now, the joy of discovering a new hike or a place of hidden beauty is magical. While talking about magic might sound silly coming from a 20-year-old, I’m reassured that I’m in good company: famous naturalist and conservationist John Muir has also recognized the otherworld of natural spaces. “Between the two pines is a door to a new world,” he said.

Access to the doorway to the Door County Land Trust’s Little Lake Nature Preserve is one of those gates. It is not between two pine trees, but it is announced by a small wooden sign on the side of the main road on Washington Island. Located between Gudmundsen Drive and Boyers Bluff Road, the entrance to Little Lake Nature Reserve is easy to walk through without a second glance. On paper, the 0.8 mile trail that runs from the access point looks as unassuming as its entrance. In fact, the trail is a hidden gem worth a visit on your next trip to Washington Island.

The Little Lake Trail winds through part of the reserve’s 33 acres. Little Lake, located just 250 feet from the waters of Green Bay, was created thousands of years ago when waves swept over gravel and cobblestones in a shallow bay in glacial Lake Nippising (now Lake Michigan).

Photo by Len Villano.

Today, the trail crosses stands of white cedar and hemlock with striking architecture. Although uneven and sloping with slight drops, the trail is an easy hike.

Along the way, the lacy blossoms of wild parsley sway on slender stems, and delicate marsh bellflowers begin to appear as the trail approaches the shore of Little Lake. The reserve contains over 5,000 feet of shoreline in all. In addition to being home to many types of wildflowers, it also provides nesting and feeding habitat for waterfowl and migratory songbirds, including bald eagles, white pelicans, herons and warblers. black throat.

As you walk the trees start to thin out and the trail eventually comes to a rocky isthmus, with Little Lake to the left and Green Bay to the right. Little Lake is peaceful and swampy, its water is dark and calm. If you wait long enough and be calm enough, you might see a Kingfisher diving to disturb the peace in a colorful and vibrant moment.

To the right of the isthmus, the view opens onto a hidden beach, but not just any. It’s covered in smooth white rocks, which makes it look like the little sister of Washington Island’s famous Schoolhouse Beach, without the crowds. The only sound comes from the waves washing up on the shore and filtering through the polished rocks.

In arguably the most definitive word on initially modest paths, Robert Frost says: “I took the less traveled one, / And that made all the difference.” The unexpected beauty of Little Lake Nature Preserve reminds me that Door County is full of hidden wonders, especially for those who wish to explore the less traveled trail.

Hike in Door County Land Trust’s Little Lake Nature Preserve

Location: Washington Island

Distance: 0.8 mile

Difficulty: Easy

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