Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County, Wisconsin isn’t about fish, but it is about dunes … sort of. And dogs. There’s a dog beach and that’s – of course – important.
First, the dunes at this 867-acre state park are not the rolling hills of deserts you (and me) are likely visualizing when you think of sand dunes. At this state park, it’s hard to tell there are dunes at all because they’re covered with grasses and trees and look like regular hills flanking the Lake Michigan beach.
Also, you can’t walk on them. Gone are the days when locals rode dirt bikes up and down the ecologically sensitive area.
Second, where people can go … and do… is the beach. Fine lakeside sand extends for miles and regular entry points – breaks between the hills – allow access to an easy-to-navigate trail system. The 2.8 mile Red Trail takes you via packed trails, boardwalks and stairs to Old Baldy, the highest sand dune in the state – about 93 feet above sea level (Note: Wisconsin is kind of flat).
Whitefish Dunes is one of the state’s most popular day parks (no camping) and the parking lot attendant keeps track of out-of-state license plates on a map. Usually on an August afternoon, the beach is full of sun seeking families.
Yet the day I’m there the air is chill and the water’s temperature has dropped ten degrees overnight. Attendance is sparse and only the dogs venture into the lake.
Yes, half the beach (about a mile) is dog friendly, and so is most of the park. People and their pets enter the beach through the Red Trail on top of the dunes. A sign indicates the path that takes you down to the water. Dogs are supposed to be leashed and two are today – but as regulars tell me that’s an exception, not the norm … kind of like today’s weather.
Other features of the Whitefish Dunes State Park:
- The 867-acre park in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin is open until 8pm each day year round.
- There’s a new nature interpretive centre with full bathrooms at the park’s entrance.
- A candlelight cross-country ski event takes place in January, and a similar summer walk in June annually.
- The park’s outdoor shipwreck museum features pieces of 100-year-old shipwrecks saving visitors the effort of scuba diving to see them. Before the building of the canal that links Green Bay to Lake Michigan, ships had to navigate north around the precarious peninsula – dubbed ‘death’s door’ – thus leading to Door County’s name.
If you want to have dinner with your dog in Door County, you can do that too at Harbour Fish Market & Grill.
MORE INFORMATION: For a complete travel guide to this dog-friendly outdoorsy state check out Moon Wisconsin travel guide.