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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) has started clearing the Alligator Hill Trail. The trail has been impassable since August 2, 2015, when a severe storm caused extensive tree damage. The National Lakeshore’s goal is to clear the Stocking Road Trailhead and the two western loops of the trail system before ski season. Trails will remain closed until the clearing work is done as this is an active work area with chainsaws, heavy equipment, and falling trees. Updates can be found on the park’s website.
National Park Service crews made good progress removing downed trees last week, with over 2,000 already cleared. Acting Superintendent Tom Ulrich said, “Although the work has been heavy, we decided to open up the entire trail rather than close off the hardest hit sections. It is a well-used trail, our only horse trail, and it will give people a great opportunity to hike or ski through the dramatic effects of the windstorm and see the forest slowly recovering.”
The Islands Lookout on the westernmost loop is the most popular spot on the trail, and one of the best views in the entire park. The clearing crew expressed confidence it would be open to skiers this winter. Longtime National Lakeshore maintenance worker Dale Holmgren visited the Islands Lookout as they were assessing progress this week, saying, “I’ve been almost everywhere in the park, but that was the first time I’ve seen that lookout. It makes you just say ‘Wow!’” The National Lakeshore hopes to get the trail section to the Big Glen Lookout open sometime in the spring.