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The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor is known for its gorgeous wildflowers and ecologically diverse landscape, but it may be even more beautiful to explore come winter.
That’s when the preserve’s five miles of trails are open for snowshoeing. If you’ve been to the Ridges Sanctuary in summer, you’ll stunned to discover the transformation it undergoes come winter.
Snowshoes are available to rent at the Cook-Albert Fuller Center, the gleaming new LEED-certified home of the Ridges that opened in 2015. Snowshoes are just $5, easy to use, and make a winter hike much more enjoyable. The snowshoes disperse your weight so your feet don’t sink into the snow, keeping your feet dry and making the hike easier (and warmer!).
There are two trail loops to follow or head out and create your own. The Orange Loop covers 1.6 miles and takes about 60-90 minutes. The Blue Loop covers .9 miles and takes about 60 minutes. All trails are on level terrain perfect for all levels of fitness.
Maps are available at the front desk of the nature center, where a huge wall of windows brings the outside in, summoning you to nature. Strap on your shoes and step outside directly to the new boardwalk extension that will guide you to the heart of the sanctuary. Just a few steps down the trail, you’ll be in a peaceful new world.
The trails at the Ridges are constructed delicately, with minimal intrusion on the plants, wetlands, and wildlife that make it so special. Once on the trail you’ll soon find yourself crossing trickling streams as you pass through the wooded canopy.
After a big snowstorm you'll find boughs dressed in thick blankets of white snow, and if snow cover is ample you're free to wander off the trail to parts of the sanctuary you can't explore in summer. Bring a camera, as there will be ample opportunities for great landscape photography and possibly wildlife photography.
If you like lighthouses, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be a highlight of your visit. Not far into your hike the woods will open up to the boardwalk that connects the Upper Range Light and the Lower Range Light.
Built in 1869, the Range Lights guided ships around the treacherous reefs of Baileys Harbor. From the water, a sailor would line up the lights of the Upper and Lower Range Lights to make their way safely into the harbor. For an excellent look at the history and significance of the lights, click here.
If you follow the boardwalk to the Lower Range Light and across Ridges Road, you will find yourself walking out to the shoreline of Ridges Beach. This reveals an ever-changing winter shoreline that may feature stunning icicles and ice shoves, and a winter view of the Town of Baileys Harbor across the water.
If you want a more detailed tour of the trail, join an expert for one of the Ridges Sanctuary’s Guided Snowshoe Hikes. The hikes are held January through March on Fridays at 2 pm, and Saturdays at 10 am and 2 pm,
The naturalist-guided hikes give participants a tour of the cultural and natural history of the ridges and swales of the preserve. If there isn’t enough snow for snowshoeing the hike will go on by foot. The hikes are free for kids under 18, $8 for adults, and end with hot chocolate at the Cook-Albert Fuller Center!
The Ridges Sanctuary isn’t the only place to snowshoe hike in Door County. You can also enjoy a snow shoe hike at the following locations:
View the full January 2017 Newsletter here.
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