Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a recreation destination on Lake Michigan that features magnificent,
rolling sand dunes and pristine sandy beaches. The national park spans nearly 40 miles
of shoreline on Lake Michigan and includes North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is open year-round for outdoor adventures, but you'll need to have a
national park pass
before entering/using parts of the
park. A park 7-day pass or annual pass can be purchased at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center
in Empire, Platte River Campground Office, Dune Climb Entrance Station,
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Entrance Station, Leland Boat Dock, and
D.H. Day Campground Office. There are also self-pay stations at spots
around the park. There are fee-free days on select weekends, but otherwise,
you'll need a pass displayed in your vehicle to avoid a fine.
The park has several campgrounds
including D. H. Day Campground and Platte River Campground.
The park has miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails, with most routes
passing through wooded areas and near Lake Michigan. You may see deer, chipmunks or other wildlife.
Be sure to carry drinking water and other supplies, and
look out for poison ivy if you travel into the woods.
Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Brightly covered clothing is recommended, especially
during hunting season. Trails vary in distance:
- 1.5 miles or less - Cottonwood Hiking Trail,
Empire Bluff Hiking Trail, Windy Moraine Hiking & Ski Trail,
Duneside Wheel-Chair Accessible Trail.
- 2 - 3 miles - Good Harbor Hiking & Ski Trail,
Old Indian Hiking & Ski Trail, Pyramid Point Hiking Trail,
Sleeping Bear Point Hiking Trail.
- 3.5 miles - Dunes Hiking Trail (includes Dune Climb).
- 8 miles - Scenic Drive Ski Trail, Bay View Hiking & Ski Trail.
- 9 miles - Alligator Hill Hiking & Ski Trail.
- 8 miles - Platte Plains Hiking & Ski Trail.
During the winter, snow-shoeing is allowed on Empire Bluff Trail,
Scenic Drive Ski Trail, and Pyramid Point Trail.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes area has beautiful swimming beaches on Lake Michigan.
- Esch Road Beach is located off Esch Road, a short drive from M-22.
Restrooms are located near the parking lot.
- Glen Haven Swimming Beach is located near the Glen Haven Cannery Co. Museum.
Restrooms are available at the Glen Haven General Store.
- Peterson Road Beach is north of M-22 off Peterson Road.
Restrooms are near the parking lot.
- Lake Michigan Beach Park is a public park in Empire. The park has a
couple playgrounds, picnic facilities, restrooms, and a basketball court.
Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse is located at the north edge of the park.
The Dune Climb
One of the most popular things to do when visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes is
scaling the Dune Climb, a steep hill of sand. You'll want to be in relatively good shape
if you want to march up the Dune Climb since it is a strenuous challenge. You'll
climb up a 45-60 degree incline of loose sand which is a couple hundred feet above
the area where you park your car. The view from the top of the dune is spectacular, and you
can see for many miles on a sunny day. If you want to further challenge yourself after you reach the top
of the Dune Climb, you can walk the Dunes Trail towards Lake Michigan. The trek to the end of the trail
and then back to your car is 3.5 miles and can take close to four hours to complete. The Dune Climb alone is a
pretty good challenge by itself if you don't want to walk the Dunes Trail.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes can also be experienced from your car. During spring, summer and fall,
you travel on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and see scenic views of Lake Michigan and more.
During the winter, the drive is closed to vehicles and is used by cross-country skiers.
Canoeing and Kayking
The Platte River is commonly used for canoeing, kayaking and tubing.
If you don't bring your own, you can rent a canoe, kayak or tube
from Riverside Canoe Trips on M-22. If you're adventurous, you can
try kayaking along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
There are a few historic places and museums at Glen Haven, a village within the
boundaries of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The building for the old Glen Haven Canning Company
now houses the Cannery Boathouse Museum, which has a large exhibit small crafts
that were once used on the Great Lakes. The Maritime Museum is located in the original Sleeping Bear Point
Life Saving Station building and features exhibits on the Coast Guard and the
Great Lakes. Other historic structures are the Blacksmith Shop and the Glen Haven General Store.
North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island
You can camp and hike in the wilderness on North and South Manitou Islands.
Both islands are accessible by private boat or by a ferry from Leland. The ferries for each island leave
daily from the Fishtown Dock in Leland at 10 a.m. Lighthouse enthusiasts can see
North Manitou Island Lighthouse Crib from the ferry and view
South Manitou Island Lighthouse on a trip to that island.
Lighthouse enthusiasts can see North Manitou Island Lighthouse Crib from the North Manitou Island ferry and view South Manitou Island Lighthouse on a trip to that island.
You don't need to board a ferry to visit the Point Betsie Lighthouse and Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse. Both are located on the Lake Michigan coastline and can be accessed by car.
Point Betsie Lighthouse is four miles north of Frankfort, east of M-22 on Point Betsie Road. The lighthouse is not part of the the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but it is worth a visit. The lighthouse tower has been in service since 1858 and is connected to a beautiful, cottage-style
lighthouse keepers' quarters. The Fresnel lens from the lighthouse is no longer in use and is on display at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Maritime Museum.
Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse is located in Empire, adjacent to Lake Michigan Beach Park.
The lighthouse was built in 1991 to honor Robert Manning, a long-time resident of Empire.
Frankfort is the largest town near the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The town is about 8 miles
from the southwest edge of the national park. Frankfort has a grocery store, hospital, downtown shopping district,
several grocery stores and gas stations. The Frankfort area has scenic
biking and walking trails
Frankfort has a few bed and breakfasts for lodging.
Empire is a small town with a gas station and a handful of shops. If you intend to drive north on M-22 past Empire and do not have much gas in you vehicle, fill it up in Empire since the next gas station will be in Northport, which is 44 miles away.
Empire's Lake Michigan Beach Park has a very nice swimming beach and playground.
Glen Harbor is near the northern part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The town has a grocery store, a few shops, and