Hiking the Bay Shore Blufflands Nature Preserve

If you’re looking for a hike to take you from Little House on the Prairie into magical fairy woods in fewer than three miles, the Bay Shore Blufflands Nature Preserve is the perfect place to start. 

Overlooking Green Bay.
Photo by Maddy Schierl.

The 2.5-mile loop through this Door County Land Trust property begins in level fields of windswept grass. Open fields spread into the distance like a carpet, punctuated by stands of young trees, and end at the foot of the bluffs that dominate the landscape. As you make your way toward the bluffs, the forests gradually thicken with sugar maple, beech and red oak trees. The trail begins to rise along the bluffs, and the cool, damp atmosphere provides a refreshing contrast to the exposure of the open fields. 

The difficulty increases slightly as the trail climbs up the bluffs, which, as part of the Niagara Escarpment, run the entire length of the preserve. The trail rises steeply until the forests thin and you emerge into a clearing along the edge of the bluffs, about 200 feet above Green Bay. Pause to take in the spectacular view from two benches that face the water. 

White trilliums. Photo by Maddy Schierl.

The trail continues from the bluffs’ edge back into the forest, climbing slightly in elevation in several areas. The bluffs provide a highly specialized habitat for many plant and animal species. Eight species of orchid, for example – including the ram’s head lady’s slipper, which is on the state’s threatened list – grow along this hike. Bay Shore Blufflands is also home to land snails that are on the federal endangered list. 

During the early summer, white trilliums and other spring ephemerals such as delicate anemones line the trail, and lacy, blue woodland forget-me-nots are easy to spot against the lush, green background of mosses and ferns. Although maps and blue arrows are posted intermittently along the trail, it sometimes branches without notice. To prevent any confusion, print a map from before to you to keep handy as you enjoy your walk. Overall, this hike ranges from easy during the level portions to moderate during the elevation changes. 

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