Lake Harbor Park
Lake Harbor Park is a small gem in the city of Norton Shores, Michigan, and even though it is small in size, the possibilities it offers are much greater than you may assume. It is less than 200 acres in size, there aren’t a lot of hiking trails within the park, but it has access to Lake Michigan, Mona Lake, and the Mona Lake channel, leading to the big lake. Here’s a link to the city’s web page about the park.
The park used to be the home of a very large resort hotel, much like the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, in fact, they were competitors. The hotel burned down quite some time ago, I don’t remember the exact date, but there are signs about the hotel and the property’s past in the park, and it leaves something for you to look for if you go. Some of the old building foundations are still there, I’m not sure how many yet, I’ll find that out on future trips.
There isn’t a defined system of trails in the park, other than the one trail that leads from the parking lot to the Lake Michigan beach, but there are many trails cutting through the park. One of the reasons I like this park so much is the forest behind the dunes, it is beautiful there. It seems as though there are more large trees than in the other parks along Lake Michigan that I walk in. Of all the parks along Lake Michigan that I walk on a regular basis, this park has the best forest. The dunes are low and easy to climb, easier than any of the other parks that I walk that are on Lake Michigan. It is only about two miles out and back along the beach, the park is a sliver of land along Lake Michigan, but it also butts up against Mona Lake and the channel to Lake Michigan.
That, and the woods, are what make this park such a great place, like a smaller version of Muskegon State Park. Lake Harbor Park has great access to Mona Lake for people who would like to kayak the lake, and if the winds are light, Lake Michigan.
Being in the city of Norton Shores, it isn’t wilderness by any means, but, this park is perfect for some one like me who likes to combine outdoor activities. I haven’t done it yet, I just found out about this park this winter, but I am planning on taking my kayak with me, and paddle Mona Lake, take a shore lunch in the park, then walk the beautiful forest there. There are several other parks along the shore of Mona Lake, and there are feeder streams, bays, and inlets to explore, with lots of waterfowl present.
Light winds would also make Lake Harbor Park a good spot to access Lake Michigan, the channel from Mona Lake to the Big Lake is short, and easily paddled. A person could even go to either Muskegon State Park or P. J. Hoffmaster State Park by kayak if they were of a mind to.
This park gets a lot of traffic, besides walking and the lakes, it is also a popular spot for sledding in the winter. The area near the parking lot is known as the “Sugar Bowl”, and you’ll see why if you visit. I have been there three times since I learned of it, and every time, the hills there were filled with people sliding down the hills. I would imagine that it gets extremely busy in the summer with people taking advantage of the lakes and the shaded forest there.
So while it is small and not the greatest place for hiking if you want to go for more than a couple of miles, it is a great little park that offers a lot more than just hiking.