Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Published on
June 24, 2022
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Glen Arbor, Michigan

A map showing the location of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan
National  Park Service Website
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Camping  Reservations
Sleeping Bear Dunes Camping Information


Fees
Sleeping Bear Dunes Fees and Passes

Tourism  Website

Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Bureau

Along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, clear blue waters rise up to the faces of dunes and sandy beaches backed by densely packed forest. Inland lakes and rivers dot the landscape making it a water lovers dream while the extensive trail system and "share the road" mentality welcome bicyclists of all kinds. This National Lakeshore is part of the National Parks Service and offers camping and activities for varying tastes. You'll need either a day pass or a National Parks Pass for entry.

A view of Lake Michigan and the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan

The shoreline and dunes are a key component to visiting the park, with the teal blue lake waters and sandy beaches that stretch as far as you can see. Fitness fans will enjoy the massive "dune climb" with it's sliding sand and steep slope. The name is pretty self explanatory. You climb up a giant sand dune. From the top, you will get a beautiful view of Glen Lake and then have a very important decision to make. You can either run back down the hill, or hike to the shores of Lake Michigan on a 3.5 mile 3-4 hour round trip adventure over more steep dunes and rugged terrane. We opted to sit at the bottom and watch, but if you do make the journey, take lots of water.

The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan

For those of us who are a bit less ambitious, there is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive that could be 20 minutes or an all day venture, depending on how many stops you make for how long. There are several scenic overlooks and chances to explore the area on foot, with convenient designated RV parking spots! If you are pulling a trailer, you will get a chance to unhitch before entering the drive to make it easier.

The one way road through the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan
A view from one of the overlooks at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan
A view of the sand dunes and Lake Michigan at one of the stops along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan

Choose to camp at the Platte River Campground with it's electric hook-ups and modern amenities, or go a bit more rustic closer to the shoreline at the D.H.Day Campground with only a few electric sites and no modern toilets or showers. We loved the winding layout of the D.H. Day campground and found the quiet depth of the forest to be a refreshing contrast to the dunes and beach just a short walk away. This park is a nature lovers dream versus being geared towards families with young children.

A trail that leads from D. H. Day Campground to the beach.
The clear blue waters of Lake Michigan meas a beautiful beach t the D. H. Day Campground.

Just a short drive will take you to Glen Arbor and a full coastal town experience with shopping, amazing food, local coffee roaster, and a well supplied grocery store. If you want to explore a little or a lot via bicycle, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail will meet your needs. This 20 mile trail goes from the town of Empire to Port Oneida. You can access the trail at several points including the Dune Climb, DH Day Campground, and the town of Glen Arbor. If you didn't bring a bike, there are several rental companies that will be happy to help you out! It is a great way to explore the area!

A sign displaying the trail map for the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail.

I suspect that we will be sweeping sand out from the rig and shaking it out of our shoes for the foreseeable future, and find it was well worth the inconvenience.  Short hikes led to amazing views and such striking contrasts all around.   Of course the beaches are amazing, but a highlight for us was making the short hike up to the Mama Bear from the Sleeping Bear Dunes fame while taking the scenic drive.  

A view of the Mamma Bear dune along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan


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