Big Bay State Park – Boardwalk Trail

Shifting gears during the midpoint of this road trip and floating my car & camping gear to Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island.  I was getting cranky from all the driving so my first action item was to stretch out my legs and hike the Boardwalk Trail.  Originally I was going to make a loop with the Lagoon Trail but it was closed from storm damage.  Maybe next time.

The Boardwalk Trail stretches north all the way to Big Bay Town Park and is approximately 1.5 miles one way.  This is a very accessible trail with ramps and relatively flat surface – a great feature for disabled nature lovers that maybe can’t visit other places due to the rugged terrain.

Part of this area is designated under the Big Bay Sand Spit and Bog State Natural Area which allows extra protections of sensitive ecosystems.

Signage details how the bog contains some of the richest flora in the entire region, asking visitors to “please use with care” so future generations can enjoy the same experiences.

Some sections are touching the lagoon/bog water surface and wind through dense vegetation like a tunnel.

Other spots open up into dense undergrowth that crowds the planks lined by tall 2nd growth pines and cedars.

At intervals along the path are small spur trails leading onto the sandy Barrier Beach.  Weather today was right around 75 and nearly perfect but not many swimmers in the frigid Lake Superior waters.

Here’s a view of the bay from the southern end.  The beach wasn’t very populated here today and turns to round stones about 1/2 way up the cove from where I was standing.

Skipping forward in time here is the view from almost the far northern end.  The beachfront stretches the entire 1.5 mile length of the boardwalk.

Most areas along the trail are blanketed by ankle-high shrubbery.  Signs again ask visitors to respect the fragile vegetation and stay on designated paths.

Many of the bushes are wild berry plants of mixed variety.  I found some still had vivid pink-colored flowers.  Not sure which variety this was – possibly raspberry or blueberry?  These are abundant on the island and give excellent food sources to local wildlife.

Near the midpoint the boardwalk splits around a central “island” into two separate paths – one being closer to the beach, the other closer to the bog/lagoon side.

No matter which side you take both offer amazing scenery and a very pleasant walk.  Skies today were hazy, but the late afternoon sunlight peeked through splashing fantastic orange & yellow hues across the forest.

At the far north terminus of the boardwalk you can continue hiking across a large inlet from the lake and into Big Bay Town Park.  This is managed by the local township and outside of DNR lands but also offers camping & several wooded trails.

I climbed the staircase to get better aerial views of some kayaks paddling in from Big Bay Lagoon.  You can rent kayaks here but it becomes very difficult to launch your own without a very long portage.

After taking in the sights it was time to reverse course and hike back to camp.  Funny how the same trail can give different views when moving the opposite direction.  No bad views on this trail.

Back at camp I quickly threw up the tent and settled in.  Forecast was calm, perfect temperatures, and no rain – all welcome adjustments to what I have seen thus far.


Strangely the DNR site lists this trail as being 0.5 miles but my calculations show it to be 1.5 miles each way instead.  Maybe the north portion is considered part of the town park?  No big deal, it is very flat and easy.  I turned it into 4+ miles by checking every small spur trail looking for photo ops.  Can’t go wrong here, it’s a great easy hike.

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