Hiking to Old Baldy

To me, fall is the most romantic time of the year in Door County. Spring often gets the credit as the season of love, when the birds and the bees awaken and get busy procreating. Then summer arrives, with “Summer Lovin’” playing on repeat and sunshine heating things up. But fall has always found a way to tug at my heartstrings. 

Maybe it’s the fleeting moments of brilliant colors that I know will inevitably pass too quickly, making the moment even more special. Or maybe it’s the sweater-weather effect — “cuffing season” — when (supposedly) the cooling temps subconsciously push people to cozy up to a partner. Or maybe it’s simply the time of year when the weekends return to being less booked and our focus shifts back to the immediate surroundings and the people closest to us. For me, fall means more quality time to share with my spouse. 

Whatever combination it is that makes fall seem particularly romantic, it’s something worth embracing and savoring. One way my partner and I do this is by taking fall hikes together. Having been together for seven years now, this hike has become a part of our seasonal transition. 

Whitefish Dunes State Park, Red Trail to Old Baldy

Clark Lake can be seen from the top of Old Baldy, the tallest dune in Whitefish Dunes State Park. Stairs lead to the top of Old Baldy. Take a mug of warm cocoa, coffee or cider to enjoy on the hike. Golden hour becomes more golden with fall foliage. Photo by Aleah Kidd.

This trail has special significance for me because it was where my now-husband proposed. It was a cool, but sunny Saturday near the end of October, and he was in an uncharacteristic hurry to get to the park. I later learned that this was because he had hired a photographer to capture the proposal, and we were running behind the anticipated timeline. We hiked at an unnaturally brisk pace to get near the top of Old Baldy, the tallest dune in Whitefish Dunes State Park, before he turned to me and asked the most important question of our lives. The awkwardness was well worth it because we have gorgeous photos through which we can always remember that fall speed hike. 

Old Baldy rises 93 feet above lake level and offers views of both the inland Clark Lake and Lake Michigan from the top of the viewing platform. To get there, hike south from the park’s main entrance on the Red Trail through rolling dunes and forest. Taking a right to reach Old Baldy, you’ll ascend and descend wooden stairs and pathways, finally climbing up to the top platform. The full trail is 2.8 miles, out and back, but it connects along the way to the longer Yellow Trail and multiple beach-access points. 

The day Aleah and Brody Kidd were engaged in Whitefish Dunes State Park: October 24, 2015. Photo by Chris Miller Photography.

The trail is best enjoyed when the shining sun lights up the changing leaves. Keep hiking through the Yellow Spur section of the trail to find tall pines and dramatic shadows. The entire Whitefish Dunes trail system is rich with diverse plant and animal life. 

I recommend planning a half day to explore and taking a picnic — complete with a canteen of warm cocoa, coffee or cider — to enjoy at the top of Old Baldy. Maybe it will mark the beginning of a new chapter for you, too.