Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
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Historic Walking Areas • National Parks • Nature & Wildlife Areas
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This national park includes a 35-mile stretch of beach on Lake Michigan for swimming plus 13 hiking trails.
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  • EvalKnievel
    Boston, Massachusetts115 contributions
    Wait for a good day for the hike
    First time in Northern Michigan, and this was a real highlight. We were lucky to have had a day of rain in the middle of our trip, which made the sand hard enough to climb down (and, especially, back up) to Lake Michigan. Whole family enjoyed this -- multiple cousins, ages 6 to 15 plus adults. For those of us not from the midwest, Lake Michigan looks like the Caribbean because it's so huge and blue!
    Written September 18, 2022
  • I AM Clearly Crystal
    Michigan20 contributions
    Beautiful Afternoon
    The lakeshore is beautiful with the different colors of blues and greens. The walk up the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear is doable...but the lakeshore is miles from that sand dune. Along the scenic drive is more sand dunes with the lakeshore in plain view. Those sand dunes have a pretty steep incline. The sign reads if you need to be rescued it is a $3,000 dollar fee. No joke on the work out there.
    Written September 12, 2022
  • dreamspeaker
    Middleton, Wisconsin455 contributions
    Unbelievable
    This area is just unbelievable. I thought I had grown up around dunes, having grown up in Door County (favorite beach there, Whitefish Dunes, had dunes but NOTHING compared to this!). Clearly, I had no idea how big they could get. Between insanely large sand dunes (both grass covered ones inland, and bald ones by the lakeshore), and azure water on a sunny day, this was just stunning. We did the scenic drive, then drove to Glen Haven and the Maritime Museum. The scenic drive has a large pullout. If you don't stop here and walk down the sandy path to the "Lake Michigan Overlook", you will miss the largest dune. We stayed here I don't even know how long until we could feel our skin burning in the sun and had to leave. All three of us (two adults and a teen) agreed watching people on the huge dune was a highlight of our trip to Michigan. Glen Haven was very busy, but cute looking. The lifesaving station at the Maritime Museum is interesting, but better yet is the path that leads to the beach there. With some sunscreen, I could have stayed here much longer than our day allowed for.
    Written July 30, 2022
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
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pshurd
Everywhere USA786 contributions
Jul 2021
We started the visit with a stop at Phillip A Hart Visitor's Center. We both have our Senior Park Passes, so they gave us a National Park Card sleeve to hang from our Rearview Mirror when entering the Pierce Stocking Scenic drive or parking at any of the trailheads. Then on to the scenic drive. There are several suggested stops on the brochure handout & most had scenic views of Lake Michigan and/or the dunes. The NPS app's titled stops do not match the current numbers on the road, but it was easy to figure it out. Although not the most exciting of drives we have taken through recent National Park visits, it is well worth the time & we had absolutely gorgeous weather (clear, sunny, & high 70's with a slight breeze) for our stop. Lake Michigan is as blue as blue can be & reminds us of ocean views. It was fun watching the folks run/slide down the dunes & then start the long 450' slog back up. Signs warn of how difficult the climb can be on the slippery hot sand, but all that we saw seemed happy & healthy. We expended enough energy trudging through the slight uphill to the viewpoint platform of the Dunes Overlook, so didn't give it a try. We didn't take any hikes yet, we plan to visit again later this week.
Written July 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

ImmerWandern
Palos Heights, IL7,238 contributions
Jul 2020 • Couples
This is one of 3 National Lakeshore on the Great Lakes, the others being Pictured Rocks (MI) and Apostle Islands (WI). The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was elevated to a National Park recently.

Sleeping Bear is much more than massive sand dunes and the infamous “Dune Climb”. The National Lakeshore stretches for 35 miles on the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. Beyond dunes and beaches there are forests, lakes large and small, and rivers to explore. During our 2 days in the area we hiked the Empire Bluff Trail to the high dune overlook, did the Dune Climb and continued on the Dune Trail to the shores of Lake Michigan. We also checked out Bass Lake, Otter Lake and Otter Creek for a chance to hike in the woods and perhaps see some wildlife.

We did not get to explore Glen Haven or Port Oneida.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the National Park Service had cancelled the ferry trips to the North and South Manitou Islands.

One of the dunes was thought to look like that of a sleeping bear. The Ojibwa legend was that a mother bear and her 2 cubs took to the water to flee a fire on the western shore of Lake Michigan. She made it across as her cubs lagged behind. She climbed on top of a bluff where watched and waited for her cubs to join her. In vain. They had drowned. The Great Spirit created the two Manitou islands to commemorate the cubs. The sands eventually covered the sleeping bear.

We hiked the Empire Bluff trail which led to the high bluff rising over 400 feet above the lake. There are are epic views to be enjoyed along the way but especially once you make it onto the bluff itself. The hike is just 1.5 miles round-trip, mostly in the shade of a forest.

The Dune Climb was a brief challenge best tackled first thing in the morning while the air was still cool and before the sun got too high. The view of Glen Lake from the top of that dune was good, even better from the dunes further in. The challenge lay in making it through and over the series of dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. It was worth the effort.

Bass and Otter Lakes were peaceful, as was Otter Creek. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any wildlife and mosquitoes

There is truly a lot to see and do, easily worth 3 days worth of exploration.

Written October 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Mike T
Eagle, ID1,632 contributions
Oct 2021
Fun place to visit, lots of great views and great hiking spots. We also had a picnic here. Very quiet in October, I’m sure it’s packed in the summer months. $25 entrance fee.
Written October 15, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

susanrL1721ZD
Keene, NH73 contributions
Jun 2022
The dunes were amazing! Since we came in from the north our first stop was at the Dune Climb. If you are traveling with children this stop is a must. As it was the last day of school in the area there were busses of children here enjoying themselves walking up the dunes and rolling back down, burying each other in the sand, and just having a wonderful time. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy!
We also drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and it was lovely. Beautiful views of the dunes, Lake Michigan and Glen Lake.
Would highly recommend if in the area.
Written June 11, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Wendy O
40 contributions
Jun 2021 • Couples
If you are anywhere near Sleeping Bear and have even just an hour to spare, you must use your National Park Pass or purchase one to enter and drive Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to visit any or all of the 12 points along the way. Starting with the Covered Bridge, Dune Overlook, Lake MI View and Sleeping Bear Overlook is totally worth the easy walk to each point. Rest rooms available along the way. Will do this again!
Written June 24, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Diana H
6 contributions
May 2022 • Friends
The day we went was foggy, so at some of the viewing areas you couldn’t see anything. I would recommend checking the weather prior to your trip to make sure it will be clear enough to see. Otherwise, it was a beautiful drive, none of the viewing areas were difficult to reach even for the elderly people in the group, and the folklore surrounding the dunes is very interesting!
Written June 20, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

David M
Grand Rapids, MI291 contributions
Jul 2022
Another check off on the bucket list. My wife and I have wanted to see Sleeping Bear Dunes for years and finally made it happen. While there were lots of folks in the area - traffic move smoothly. Were able to visit the various marked areas, climb some dunes, and get some great views (and pictures). I would highly recommend taking Pierce Stocking Drive - very scenic and picturesque.
Written July 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Mike
Cleveland, OH117 contributions
Sep 2020
Definitely worth the stop and the hike. The hike to the lakeshore of Lake Michigan was long exhausting and we were not prepared - definitely make sure you bring water. Hiking through the sand was challenging but the beach was beautiful and peaceful and the views along the way were great!
Written September 25, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

DRMIZZOU
Columbia, MO134 contributions
Sep 2022
We enjoyed visiting this national park while in the Traverse City area. I would suggest stopping at the Visitor Center in Empire to get oriented and pick up some maps. Next, take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It is a great drive with several stops and overlooks. Be sure to stop at the Dune Climb (north of the scenic drive, not on it). It is something to experience! This is a huge sand dune that is quite a climb. Only attempt if you are able. My wife and I are in our 60's, but we took our time and made it up the large portion. It is supposedly over 2 miles up and then over to Lake Michigan. We went up the steep part to say we did it and to see the view. That was enough for us! We wish our grandkids had been along. The kids that we climbing there were having a blast! There is a park fee since it is a national park. We had our Senior Pass, so it did not cost us anything extra. We would definitely recommend a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes!
Written September 29, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bill T
Columbus, OH348 contributions
Aug 2020 • Family
Short synopsis. Climb a sandy hill, see sand. Repeat.

That said, it's magnificent. We started at the dune climb. It's certainly not an easy climb, and the trail and subsequent Dunes are also moderately difficult. If there's any chance you are going to take the trail, make sure to bring water. Don't just look at the map and think it's super close to Lake Michigan. We walked 45 minutes then met someone who said we were a third of the way there. Granted, we were doing a lot of stopping and picture-taking. Not thinking we'd want to do the whole trail, we left our water in the car. So that ended any hope of changing our minds.

Don't be daunted, though. People of all ages, including small kids, were managing fine. At least the first few hills and valleys.

If you just want to go far enough to get a good view of Lake Michigan do 3 or so hills and plan an hour or so round trip. We did about twice that and the view didn't change that much.

Pro tip. You can follow the blue-tipped posts that mark the trail and at one point it goes down and to the left. That flattens out (some) one of the bigger hills.
Written August 8, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Empire) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

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