Sturgeon Bay sprawls around a 7,400-foot canal, constructed in the late 19th century to connect Lake Michigan with the waters of Green Bay. Two historic lighthouses sit at one end of the canal, and a 445-acre swath of land on the canal's southeastern end has been turned into the Ship Canal Nature Preserve. A 2.5-mile hiking trail traverses the preserve. The trail is advertised as easy- to moderately difficult and is said to go through sand dunes, old-growth hemlock stands and open fields, offering "outstanding views of the ship canal and two historic lighthouses." Unfortunately, it's quite a disappointment.
The trail appears to be a work in progress. Though some sections have a distinct trail, in many places the trail is extremely rustic, overgrown and nearly impossible to find. At one point in the dunes, the path splits into three sections, and there's no signage. Even more puzzling, a map shows you where to go for a scenic view of the canal. When you get there, only a tiny strip of the canal is visible. The trail does take you to the outstanding beach, with fantastic views of both lighthouses (one red and short, the other tall and white) and the entrance to the canal.
Don’t waste your time on the trail. Instead, drive down Lake Lane past the trail heads and straight to the beach. Walk along it until you see the lighthouses. Then, get back in your car and drive to the U.S. Coast Guard station on the other side of the canal. You can walk along the pier to the red lighthouse, although the white lighthouse is on governmental property controlled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, so you can only view it from a distance.