Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, tucked away in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, won the title of Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Place in America”.
Tens of thousands of viewers voted online for this National Lakeshore Park, which is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. The hidden gem boasts 64 miles of beaches along Lake Michigan, two islands, 26 inland lakes, more than 50,000 acres of land, and the monumental sand dunes from which it gets its name.
Top 10 Things to Do at Sleeping Bear Dunes
The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is a great starting point to get your park pass but maps, brochures and to learn about the history of the dunes and the surrounding area. Park Rangers are available to help plan your visit and answer any questions you may have about the park.
Memorial Day to Columbus Day (Summer ) – 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Rest of Year – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Phone: 231-326-4700 Ext. 5010
The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
This is a must-do activity when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 7.4 mile drive takes you over a covered bridge and loops through Beech-Maple forests and sand dunes and best of all are the spectacular overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Lake Michigan. You can take a dune hike along the Cottonwood Trail or stop for a picnic at one of the picnic areas on the drive. Download a copy of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore map here.
Hike one (or more) of the 13 Scenic Trails
Wow! Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has approximately 100 miles of hiking trails for you to explore. There are 13 trails located on the mainland and most these trails are maintained in the winter for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The trails vary in length and level of difficulty and each trail has a trailhead for parking. There is a trail for just about everybody regardless of your abilities. Click here for detailed information on each of the 13 trails.
The Dune Climb
The Dune Climb is located 5 miles north of Empire on M-109. You can see it on the west side of the road. The Dune Center, located at the base of the Dune Climb, has restrooms and a bookstore. Climbing to the top of the Dune Climb is strenuous but rewarding, so be sure to evaluate your physical abilities before you start. The good thing about the Dune Climb is that if you get tired before you get to the top, you can just come back down to the picnic area.
Go to the Beach
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore consists of 35 miles of Lake Michigan frontage. Most of this lakeshore has beautiful sand beaches with views of the adjacent dunes that rise as high as 450 above. The fresh water is deep blue in color and just in case you wondered, you can’t see the other side of the lake! Click here for detailed information on each of the 7 “named” beaches inside the National Lakeshore.
In addition to the beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes, there are many more public beaches in Traverse City and most the other little villages located along the Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay coastline. Click here for our list of Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches.
Bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The Heritage Trail is a paved trail that meanders through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It currently spans more than 22 miles with the southernmost starting point just north of Empire at the Bar Lake Trailhead. From Empire the trail heads 5.2 miles north to the Dune Climb. The first stretch of trail is very challenging with several fairly steep hills. From the Dune Climb the trail goes through the historic Village of Glen Haven and then on to Glen Arbor (approximately 5 miles). From Glen Arbor, the trails continues through Historic Port Oneida Farm District and ends at the Good Harbor Beach. This trail is planned to span a total of 27 miles when completed. It will run from Good Harbor Beach to a starting point south of Empire.
This is a fabulous trail with several places to stop to stretch or have a bite to eat. The trail runs past several of the hiking trails and some of the beaches. Click here for a copy of the Heritage Trail map.
Kayak the Platte River
The most popular kayak trip is the Lower Platte River starting at Lake Michigan Drive and M22. It’s a very easy trip that takes only a couple hours. The Platte River empties into Lake Michigan at the Platte River Point Beach which might be the most popular Sleeping Bear Dunes beach. This is probably due to the popularity of the kayaking trip down the Platte.
Explore Historic Glen Haven Village
Glen Haven is a small preserved village located a few miles west of Glen Arbor and located on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The town consists of a historic cherry cannery now converted to a boat museum, a blacksmith shop, a general store and the Sleeping Bear Inn. From the Glen Haven Beach, you can get a good view of the Manitou Islands, and you can see the pilings remaining from the old Glen Haven dock.
The Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum is located just west of Glen Haven. It is the original Sleeping Bear Point U.S. Life-Saving Station which was moved to its present location because the encroaching sand dunes were beginning to bury it in sand. Download a copy of a pdf map of the National Lakeshore.
Visit the Port Oneida Historic Farm District
The farms of the Port Oneida area consists of 5 turn of the century farms. The District consists of the Carsten Burfiend Farm, Charles Olsen Farm, Dechow Farm, Elkhart Farm and the Thoreson Farm. Here’s a link to a map and virtual tours of the Farms.
Take a Trip to one of the Manitou Islands
North and South Manitou Islands are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and can be accessed via the Manitou Island Transit which leaves daily from Leland. The Ferry leaves for South Manitou Island daily in the summer at 10am and departs the island at 4pm for the return trip to Leland. Trips to North Manitou Island require overnight camping and you catch the same 10am ferry that leaves daily from Leland. South Manitou Island has a small village with restrooms, running/drinking water but no showers. North Manitou Island is more rustic with no running water or restrooms. Click here for the Manitou Transit website.