Old Indian Trail

Two skiers make a trail through snow covered woods
Old Indian Trail is a favorite for winter fun.

NPS credit

Quick Facts


An area surrounding and including the Old Indian Trail system is closed. An infestation of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) has been identified in the area. HWA is an exotic invasive insect that can rapidly defoliate and kill hemlock trees.  Read the news release for more information.

A beautiful loop trail that promises a quieter experience than most trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes, the Old Indian Trail follows a portion of a pathway early Indians established along the coastline and between sites and shorelines where they fished and camped.

Pets are NOT allowed on trail from December 1 to March 31. 
Pets are NOT allowed on the beach.

Old Indian has two, 2.3 mile loops. Both loops follow crests of tree-covered ancient dunes. The dunes mark the post-glacial shoreline of Lake Michigan. There is a mix of maple, aspen, oak, and birch with sections of hemlock and pine. In fall the trail is blanketed with a diverse array of colored leaves. Since this trail is relatively isolated and quiet, it is easy to tune in to botanical details like fungi, wildflowers, and dune vegetation.

The terrain of the Green Arrow Loop is flat to gently rolling while the Black Arrow Loop can be challenging with some steep hills and sharp curves. A 0.2 mile spur through an expanse of low beach dunes dotted with shrubs, grasses, and other dune plants leads to scenic views as it makes its way to the Lake Michigan shore.

During warm weather, mosquitos abound so be prepared with insect repellent.

Take the Trail Trekker Challenge

Do you think you can hike all of the trails in one year? Want to explore the landscape of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, exercise, and have fun all at the same time? Join the Trail Trekker Challenge! Earn a prize and bragging rights by successfully completing each of the 13 mainland trails in the National Lakeshore. Hiking is a great way to get daily physical exercise and promote health while also discovering the beauty of the area. What better way to get your muscles warm, your heart pumping, and your senses savoring the views!
Pick up a copy of the Trail Trekker Challenge brochure/logbook at the visitor center in Empire.

Hike Safely

Before you take off down the trail, take time to prepare for a successful hike. Make sure the trail is appropriate for your ability, and travel with a companion and notify someone of your route and expected return time.
Take plenty of drinking water, bring sunscreen, wear a hat, and be prepared for mosquitoes.

Be careful of your footing-trails have uneven ground, exposed roots, etc.
Sand slide danger is always present on steep dunes. Stay off steep bluffs to avoid falls and dislodging rocks that can injure people below. Because of heavy treefall, avoid forested trails on windy days.

Remember, deer rifle season is November 15-30. Other hunting seasons occur throughout the year. Wear bright-colored clothing to be seen and safe in the woods.

Please stay on designated trails and help prevent erosion and damage to vegetation. Off-trail hikers can quickly produce paths that take years to revegetate. Threatened and endangered species occur in the park, avoid disturbing plants and animals.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect that poses a new threat to northwest Michigan forests. Learn more about how to prevent the spread of HWA.

Poison Ivy: leaves of three, leave it be!
Poison ivy grows plentifully in many areas of the Lakeshore as a vine or low shrub. The leaves are red in early spring, shiny green in summer, and an attractive red or orange in the fall. Each leaf consists of three leaflets. Most people are sensitive in varying degrees to the sap of this plant, which makes the skin itch, blister, and swell.
Avoid contact with all parts of the plant. Avoid plants with three leaflets.
If exposed, wash the affected skin with soap and water as soon as possible.

Don't get ticked!: protect yourself from tick bites
Avoid ticks by walking in the center of trails and avoiding contact with vegetation.
Use a repellent (on skin or clothing) and wear close-toed shoes, long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to easily spot ticks.

Check your clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks. Avoid sitting directly on the ground, fallen logs, or stone walls.

After being outdoors
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, and remove any ticks you find.
Check your clothing for ticks. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat for at least an hour.
Shower soon after being outdoors; it may reduce your risk of being bitten.
Check these parts of your body and your child's body for ticks:
Under the arm, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around hair, between the legs, around the waist.

If you are bitten by a tick
Remove an attached tick as soon as you notice it. Using fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and then slowly, but firmly, pull it straight out. Immediately wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water, then apply an antiseptic to the bite wound.

Watch for signs of illness.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: March 1, 2024