For many people one of the major benefits of living in the Crystal Highlands is the extensive hiking trail system that traverses approximately 150 acres of unspoiled forests and meadows with seasonal views of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Crystal Lake. It is truly special to be able to literally walk out your door and be on a trail system that rivals some of those in nearby parks and preserves. The trails have existed since the early days of the Highlands and have been expanded in recent years to take advantage of easements the Crystal Highlands Owners Association (CHOA) was been granted.
The trails are intended to provide an outing of whatever length and difficulty a user might want. The loops and options are almost endless and offer everything from a quick easy stroll to a long trek up and down the hills. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails. Detailed trail maps are available on this website.
All of the trails are marked at regular intervals with light blue blazes painted on the trees. The trails are shown as green dashed lines on the trail maps. The locations where the trails can be accessed from the roads are marked with signs and have been assigned a designated letter. The signs are primarily larger wooden ‘Crystal Highlands’ signs as seen above, a couple of the signs are smaller ‘Private Trail’ signs and one just has the small letter sign. Spots where the trails intersect each other are marked with small wooden signs with a ‘CH’ and a designated intersection number. All of the trailhead letter and intersection numbers are shown on the trail maps.
The signs are small and unobtrusive and aren’t designed to be foolproof way-finding tools. The intended purpose is to help newcomers or guests learn their way around the trails and to make it easier to describe where maintenance is needed. Signs also could be helpful in an emergency to identify your location.
One trail south of Highland Drive near Jack’s Way is marked with yellow blazes and shown as a yellow dashed line on the map. That trail is an old one, popular with some trail users, but it is not on association property and it’s not one for which we were granted an easement, therefore, it is ‘unofficial’ and subject to closure at any time.
The maps, available in this area of the website, were prepared with a computer program that overlays actual GPS data from our trails onto underlying base maps that were included with the program. The locations of roads, lake boundaries, and topographic information are all from the base map supplied with the software. It merged well with the added GPS data, so the locations of roads and trails seem very accurate. The boundaries of the association property shown on the maps are not as accurate but should provide a good indication of approximately where our property lines are located.
The base map does not distinguish between public roads and private roads. Like the public roads, private roads are on the maps as white lines, but only the public roads are named on the maps. It is best to stay on the public roads and our marked trails in order to avoid wandering where you might not be welcome.
Use the trails at your own risk. Although the trails are generally in good condition, the trails are not regularly patrolled and are maintained sporadically, so conditions can be variable. A few trails have some very steep sections, some with rudimentary steps, so persons using cross-country skis, snowshoes or mountain bikes should choose their routes with care.
Most of the trails are on property owned by the CHOA, but some are on property owned by others and we have only a narrow easement for trail. Please be respectful of others’ property, especially residential property, and stay on the trails. All of the trails in the Preserve (southwest of the Recreation Area and towards Crystal Lake) and a few of the easternmost trails (those closer to White Birch Trail) are on easements. The current maps show (in thatched green) the property the CHOA owns.
Even though hunting is not allowed on association property, neighboring property is actively used for hunting. Some of our trails are quite close to property lines, so it’s not unusual to see hunters or their deer blinds from our trails. During deer season, be aware that the trail from the frog pond to the cul-de- sac at the end of Deer Ridge Trail, and some of the ‘back’ trails north of Highland Drive, especially the new trail out to Cooper Road, border on property that is actively hunted. There are deer blinds only a short distance from the trail. Wear hunter orange or just avoid that area during firearm deer season (Nov. 15-30).
Direct any questions, maintenance concerns, or suggestions for improvement to the Chair of the Trail Committee or to the CHOA president. (For contact information, look under “contacts” in the “member area” of this website.)