If you are looking to an alternative to the ever-popular Empire or Old Baldy trails, check out the Treat Farm Trail just up the road. The cool thing about this hike is you get the breathtaking views overlooking Lake Michigan AND a step back in time when you discover the historic buildings along the route.

The trailhead is at the end of Norconk Road off of M-22 near Empire (look for the old Tweddle School on the corner where you turn – the first indicator of stepping away from today and back into the past).

You will park along the side of the road across from the Tweddle Farm, which is now used for National Park Service (NPS) seasonal employee housing, as well as the park’s Artists-In-Residence program.

Tweedle FarmThe Tweedle Farm

Farmhouse Treat FarmThis less-traveled trail is about 2.2 miles round trip and mostly flat – with just one stretch uphill that might have the less-traveled members in your group asking for a break!

Start your hike by walking around the gate (which prevents motorized traffic) and head down the old two-track dirt road. Along the way, look for wildflowers and nearly every kind of tree found in the National Lakeshore. About a half-mile or so in, you’ll come across a meadow opening where you’ll find the Treat Farm.

Treat Farm OuthouseIf you walk straight ahead, you can go up to the white farmhouse and sit on its front covered porch. You can also get a look at the age-old outhouse off to the side! Take a moment to notice the aging gardens still growing from the Treat family. In mid-May, there are lilacs and trilliums in bloom everywhere.

Double back from the farmhouse and wander the old buildings. The barn was restored by the National Park Service in 2004.

Treat Farm BarnThe NPS.gov website offers history on the landmark buildings, including: “Charles Treat and his wife, Martha, purchased 220 acres west of Norconk Road from John Tweddle in 1912. Treat purchased the barn in the Detroit area and had it disassembled, with each piece numbered. The barn was shipped in two railroad cars to the Empire area. From there it was moved to the site using a horse-drawn team. Charles Treat built the foundation and reassembled the barn. The house, chicken coop, and carpentry work shops were already at the farm when the Treat family moved here.”

Farm Implements Treat FarmBe sure to poke around and go down to the lower barns, where some farm implements rest in their rust, a reminder of days gone by. Other buildings include sheds, a cistern (water tank) behind the house and a concrete dome garage and root cellar.


Treat Farm TrailAfter being reminded of how much the world has changed, keep going down the footpath through the open field – pausing to look back at the majestic farmhouse above you. Imagine the days of the farm being in full swing!

As you walk, you’ll see a sandy UPHILL trail to your right – that will take you up 100 feet to the Old Baldy Dune overlook – an adventure best saved for kids and kids at heart. Carry on along the well-worn flat path, and you’ll end up at the stunning overlook above Lake Michigan.

The thrill of this trail is that there are no improvements along the bluff’s edge when you get there – it’s straight down. Be sure to hold on to your little ones because it’s just as the Great Lakes made it!

If you are looking for adventure, you can scramble and slide along the dunes to your right, on the other footpaths (ever changing) that will lead you to Old Baldy from the water side instead. Again, this is not for the faint of heart! You might be content (as I was!) to keep your feet on solid ground and wander the little forest edging the bluff instead.

Before you turn back, get a picture of the endless blues below (and above!) and then head back through time on your way back to the car.

Treat Farm View

This trail is open year-round and visitors are required to have a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore pass, which can be purchased from the Philip Hart Visitor Center in Empire. You can visit the park's website here.