The lakeshore gets its name from a heartwrenching Ojibwe legend about a mother bear waiting for her cubs who drowned after swimming across the lake. Sad stories aside, this is one incredible beach. The two-thousand-year-old dune itself is about 100 feet tall and can be summited at the park's designated Dune Climb; the trek up can be tiring, but jumping off the dune is a one-of-kind variety of fun.
“voted one of the best beaches in America”
Where should we go when we come to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore? Good question! With 35 miles of pristine Lake Michigan beaches, two large islands, enormous sand dunes and bluffs, rivers and inland lakes, there are plenty of choices. Head for the beach! The clear water of Lake Michigan and beautiful sandy beaches draw many visitors during the hot summer days. Walk along the shore and look at the wide variety of rocks. Maybe you will find a Petoskey Stone or find the remnants of a shipwreck. Float the Platte River. Get a tube, raft, canoe, or kayak and head for the river. Pay attention to the shoreline as you float down the river and you'll see a variety of wildflowers and waterfowl. If you have only a few hours to spend at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you will want to start at the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, MI to get oriented, get your maps and see the slide show. You will find amazing views of the dunes and Lake Michigan, great hiking, interesting local history, and of course some incredible sand dunes to climb. Take a drive on the 7-mile drive Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Trek up the Dune Climb-or watch the kids enjoy the sand. Explore Glen Haven and the Maritime Museum Dip your toes in the tranquil Loon Lake Attend a ranger-led program Walk or bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail Go for a bike ride on the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail! Enjoy cruising along the paved trail from the Dune Climb to the village of Glen Arbor 4.25 miles. Ride through the historic logging village of Glen Haven and D.H. Day Campground on your way to Glen Arbor. The trail is paved and is relatively flat the whole way. Most of the trail is through shady, wooded areas, providing a cool, shaded place to play on a hot day. The trail is also accessible for those with disabilities. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is rich in history and culture. Visit our museums and drive, bike, or hike through the Port Oneida Rural Historic District and see farmsteads and fields that represent farming in the late 1800s or early 1900s. - NPS.gov And don't let cold weather turn you away from visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes! During really cold periods during the winter, you can see a crazy phenomenon: Ice balls! As parts of Lake Michigan freeze, chunks of ice break off from the sheet and are tossed about in the waves, which smooths off the rough edges and shapes the ice chunk into a ball, or even a big, round boulder shape... kind of like sand, or sea glass. They then wash up on shore, creating a strange landscape of round, smooth ice balls.
Beautiful! 12 breathtaking turnouts on Pierce Stocking Drive and each one is unique. Great for anyone not able to walk far! Imagine standing on a 450 foot tall sand dune, staring out across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin and swear you were at the ocean, but it's salt free! The sand runs into the water changing it to 20 shades of blue. #homeistruenorth
If you have small ones that have tons of energy, take them here and let them run up and down the dunes. They'll have a blast and perhaps latter go down for their nap.
A little further south, in Empire, there is a Sleeping Bear Dune Climb. It's definitely fun, but bring water!! It's about a 3.5 mile trek to the beach up and down dunes, but it is honestly so much fun. The day my friends and I went it was incredibly windy, which made things a little tricky (not to mention we ate a bunch of sand) but the views are breathtaking and it's such a remarkable experience. Highly recommend trying it at least once. But like I said, be prepared physically and bring water!
Just got back from a scenic road trip from Chicago to these Dunes. It was so peaceful and quiet but most of all beautiful. Some of the turnouts / turnarounds were great for picture taking as well as stretching your legs. Pierce Stocking Drive scenic route is fantastic especially with all the fall colors. We ended up in a little park called Cartier which had some lovely views as well. I highly recommend taking Blue Star Highway up to M-22 which runs along the lake. Its officially called the Lake Michigan Circle Tour route or something like that...my only complaint was most of the "rustic bathrooms" at these lookouts were closed for the season. Most of the little towns too were boarded up as well for the season. We also really enjoyed Ludington State Park
One of the most beautiful places in Michigan. We climbed the dune, which offered great views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan. Off in the distance you can see South and north manitou islands. If you enjoy hiking there's a 3.5 mile hike to Lake Michigan. Nothing like hiking in sand to tire out the kids (and adults).
Also worth mentioning are North and South Manitou Islands. You can do day trips to South, or camp in one of four campgrounds on the island, but you have to carry all your gear. North Manitou is much wilder and is more for backpacking, but there is also a campground near the dock. And both islands have awesome beaches all around.
I loved coming here as a kid. Walking up the dunes was exhausting, but running and sliding down them was just so fun!
Our family had a blast here! We could have spent multiple days, so deciding how to spend our time was tough. We ended up spending about an hour at the visitors’ center for a picnic and for our kids to do the Junior Ranger program. Then we headed to the dune climb, which was fun, but it was a HOT day, so we only climbed the first dune. Then we went to Glen Arbor and spent a few hours at the rocky beach. Good times!
Sleeping Bear Dunes is a MUST experience for every generation. I've experienced this area with family and as a romantic weekend away with hubby. There is so much to see and do in this area regardless of your activity level. The towns of Glen Arbor and Empire offer quaint shops and great food not to mention the beautiful accommodations like The Homestead. If your looking for a Michigan Lakeshore experience "away from it all" Sleeping Bear can't be beat.
Be prepared! Bring lots of water and consider wearing shoes with arch support. A 1.3 mile walk/hike through the dunes took us 40 minutes and we're all college students in good shape! A great workout, for sure. When we finally made it to the lake, the beach was very rocky and the water was cold and wavy but still beautiful! Not the best kind of beach for relaxing/swimming though.
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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Good for bird watching, hiking, and swimming.
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