The dictionary defines a moraine as an accumulation of earth and stones carried and finally deposited by a glacier. This 10,000-year old geologic wonder has all the attributes that made its preservation a must – spectacular views from its towering bluffs above Lake Michigan, varied terrain which hosts unusual communities of plants and wildlife, and a location within easy walking distance of the village of Leland.
This is a very pretty hike with a gradual ascent through hardwoods that in the fall provide an excellent color tour hike. In the spring, sweet woodruff crowds the understory. This pretty, sweet-smelling plant is an invasive species that gives the woodland an almost fairy-like appearance; unfortunately it chokes out all but the hardiest natives, such as baneberry, jack-in-the-pulpit and squirrel corn. Conservancy naturalists are working to create a more balanced environment.
As you walk north along the top of the bluffs, look left for a patch of thimbleberries (their leaves resemble those of the maple). A very common plant near Lake Superior, thimble berries only grow in this one stretch of the natural area, and they are extremely uncommon in Leelanau County. Before reaching the overlook, notice how tall hemlocks and hardwoods create a cathedralesque canopy. These trees shelter bald eagles: look for them flying above the observation deck as well as out over the water.
Directions: Beginning from the junction of M-22 and M-204 (3 mi S. of Leland), take M-22 north approx. 1 mile. A sign on the west (left) side of M-22 marks the entrance to the parking area. Continue straight for a few hundred feet on the gravel road entrance to the parking area. Follow the marked trail through private property to the natural area. PLEASE NOTE: If you approach from the north, the sign is difficult to spot, so look carefully as you approach 3 miles south of Leland.