sleepy hollow island trail, Michigan

 

Sleepy Hollow State Park, with more than 2,600 acres of prairie grasses, hardwood forest, and stands of pine trees, offers more multi-use trails than any other location near Lansing. A central feature of the park is Lake Ovid. The lake is quite shallow, covers over 400 acres, and has several small islands. Most of the trails in the park are located north of the lake, though one does sweep down the west side of the lake from the north. The main parking, camping, and recreation areas are all on the east side of the lake. Due to the layout of the parking and recreation areas, it is easy to miss one of the best short walks in the park, the Sleepy Hollow Island Trail.

trail bridgeThe Sleepy Hollow Island Trail, is the only trail in the park that takes hikers out to one of the islands in Lake Ovid. If you are at the main recreation area, where the beach and facilities are, it is a good long hike around the north end of the lake to the island trail spur. Then of course, you have to hike all the way back. There is another way that is much shorter, which makes it perfect for a nature walk, as part of a day trip. If you are approaching the park from U.S. 27 on Price Road, watch for a small sign indicating that, the boat launch entrance is a bit east of Shepardsville Road; take that entrance. At the curve just before the launch parking area, see a trail sign post marked with a large “L”. That sign post leads to the island trail. If you park near the exit of the launch parking area, you will be away from all the boat launching activity, and only a short walk to the trail.

Back at the post with the large “L”, you walk onto a wide two track trail, that is depicted on the map as a multi-use trail. You can walk that trail for less than half a mile, to reach the island trail spur, or you can take the small walking trail on the right, only a few steps from the “L” and enter a quiet forest path, that will ultimately take you to the bridge to the island. The forest trail option is beautiful, but it is a little rougher than the two track. The forest trail is also open to horses so you might encounter riders. It wanders through a variety of wildlife and mixed forest habitat. In early spring the wildflowers begin to peek through and the “peepers” are raising a cacophony, in the ponds and wetlands. This trail winds around, roughly following the shoreline of the lake, though for most of the way you can't see the lake. About half way there is an unusual pine tree on the right. It's main trunk has somehow split into six sections or branches that have formed a bulb shape, where they split before growing straight up again. Another interesting tree is an ancient apple tree, sitting at the last curve in the trail before you reach an open area, and the bridge to the island.

At this point, the two trails meet at a fine pedestrian/horse bridge, that crosses over to the island. The bridge is quite short, maybe a hundred steps, and puts you directly on the island trail. There are three ways to explore the island, all of them are good. As you enter the great stand of trees, the trail goes straight ahead with a branch going north and another branch going south. If you continue straight, the trail goes through the giant maples and beeches, directly across the island to the shoreline of the lake. This spot offers views of the lake and some of the other islands. On the other hand, taking the north or south branches, will lead to two entirely different environments. The north branch follows the shoreline around the island through a primarily, hardwood forest. The south branch also follows the shoreline, but very quickly takes you into a stand of enormous pines. Walking through the pine scented air with the wind gusting through the tree tops, is just like being in one of the great pine forests “up north”. Whatever option is chosen, the entire walk around the island will take less than half an hour, and then it is less than half an hour back to the boat launch parking. This is a gorgeous walk, and it can be quite crowded on weekends, when the park is full. Almost any other time, you could have it all to yourself. The variety of trees, flowers, birds, and wildlife make this an entertaining place to take a walk with the kids.