Mount Baldhead, or “Mr. Eyeball” as I like to call it, is one of those not-so-hidden gems that we love to recommend to visitors looking for suggestions of what to do. Sure, it’s a popular attraction for those in the know, but a surprising number of guests who sail with us ask what that “big white ball” on the horizon is when we pass by. If you’re planning your first trip to the Saugatuck and Douglas area or you’re a frequent visitor but have never experienced Saugatuck’s big “Ball and Chain,” then read on!
So what’s the deal?
Water tower? Spaceship? Super fancy exclusive AirBNB? We’ve heard all kinds of guesses as to what the actual structure is (spoiler alert, the truth is way cooler than any of those– it’s a Cold War Era Soviet detecting radar!) but what I’m here to tell you about is the super fun, challenging and FREE hike to get an up-close and personal look at Mt. Baldy him/herself.
Baldhead Peak, Radar Hill, Friendly Eye of Sauron. Call it whatever you like, just don’t underestimate the 600 foot ascent to the top of the sand dune. With over 300 wooden stairs to climb, you might find yourself racing up the first couple flights only to stop at the first lookout pretending that you have to tie your shoe. But good news! All of that work really pays off at the top. Not only is there a picture-perfect panoramic view of the Kalamazoo River and Saugatuck to the East — if you turn around and look west you can see an eagle’s eye view of Lake Michigan!
And maybe the best part of all of this? After you catch your breath, you can pretend you’re a kid again and run down the other side of the dune straight to the beach and dip your weary toes in the rejuvenating waters of Lake Michigan. Ahhh.
A Unique Challenge
Mount Baldy hike too easy for you, tough guy/gal? Sounds like you should sign up for the annual Mount Baldhead Challenge, a 7 or 12 mile multi-terrain race that includes a heart pumping jog up the stairs as part of the course. Not only is it a great way to beef up those calves, they also use the proceeds to benefit worthy local causes on a rotating basis. That’s what I call an all around win.
To Sum It Up
Reasons we love the Mount Baldhead hike:
1. Family friendly
2. Challenging but accessible workout with resting spots
3. Did I mention that it’s FREE?
4. Any hike that ends at the beach is a-okay in my book.
If you go:
– Take the chain ferry for $1 to bring you to the bottom of the stairs.
– There’s a small but nice picnic area (with bathrooms!) at the base by the stairs if you’re looking for a shaded spot to have lunch before your hike.