Sleeping Bear Dunes
Many people have long felt that the Lakeshore is the most beautiful place in the United States, and it seems that this deep love for one of the globe’s most stunning places is not misplaced. Within the last year, the Sleeping Bear Point Trail was selected as the best Hike-to-View option in any American national park in the National Geographic publication, “The 10 Best of Everything National Parks”, which also went on to recognize the Manitou Passage, a section of the lakeshore, as the 7th best scuba and snorkeling sites in North America. While these two accolades are worthy of respect, they are not the only honors bestowed upon this miraculous nature hub. The pristine beaches of Lakeshore were deemed the “Best on the Great Lakes” by renowned scientist and nature expert Dr Beach. All of these awards were made by experts, and sometimes this kind of praise seems out of touch to the views of the average tourist, but when it comes to Lakeshore it seems that everyone is agreement – the American public confirmed their admiration for the park by voting it the most beautiful place in America on the popular television show Good Morning America.
With all of these awards coming within a few short months in 2011, it is natural that we at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore expect 2012 to be yet another banner year. Obviously with so much to see and do you need as much information as possible before you visit us in order to have the perfect stay, and that is exactly what this Visitor Guide is all about. We have highlighted recreational opportunities throughout the 71,000+ acres of protected park lands, as well as some of the activities our employees and volunteers are undertaking to preserve this special place for future generations. First-time visitors may find there are so many experiences to choose from, they will just have to return, and repeat visitors will likely be inspired to experience something new and different. Keep reading to find out exactly what we have to offer you!
Please take note that you may have to put up with some inconvenience this year while we make improvements to the facilities, such as new paving in parking areas and on some roads. Please bear with us and accept our apologies in advance – the disruption will be worth it when the work is complete.
There are several new additions to the park that are sure to steal your heart, including the exciting new opportunity to bike or hike the first leg of the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The new four-mile section connecting the Dune Climb and Glen Arbor should be completed by July 4th. Pause in Glen Haven to see our new outdoor exhibits sharing the stories of the once-bustling coastal village. Should you be lucky enough to venture out to South Manitou Island, take our new tour of the island interior and walk the new boardwalk trail, which will take you past the famed giant cedars.
This spectacular place belongs to you and is yours to explore. Relax and revive your soul on well-maintained trails, perched dunes, pristine beaches, hidden lakes, quiet rivers, beautiful forests, secluded islands, and historic farmsteads. All this and more is waiting for you.
National Park Entrance Passes
To enter the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from any point you will need a National Park Entrance Pass, which must be displayed on the driver’s side of your vehicle windshield or dashboard. Keep it on your person if you enter by foot or bicycle too! Passes can be purchased year round at the visitor center or Platte Point fee machine; or during regular hours of operation at campground offices during peak season.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers camping facilities that cater to every desire. The Platte River Campground is equipped with modern facilities, tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings, and paved parking pads at each site. D. H. Day Campground is a popular, rustic campground with wooded campsites. Sites here have tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings and parking areas. If you would prefer something more rustic, try the facilities on the mainland at White Pine and Valley View Campgrounds, on South Manitou Island at Bay, Weather Station, and Popple Campgrounds (0.5, 1.5, and 3.5 miles from the dock), and on North Manitou Island at the Village Campground. A backcountry camping permit is required in addition to a park entrance pass. Obtain a pass and permit at the visitor center, campground offices, or Leland dock.
National Parks are wonderful places to see a great variety of wildlife, but we need your help to keep the wildlife truly wild and healthy by making sure you store your food properly. Animals are especially curious and can smell food and beverages in sealed containers. To animals, food includes your food, trash, and beverages. They will also be drawn to the following:
- insect repellent,
- pet food,
- empty food/beverage containers,
- tobacco products,
- dirty dishes,
- scented tissues, etc.
Store your food carefully when camping:
• Store all food, drinks, trash, and scented items (as above) in animal-proof food storage boxes or your vehicle trunk, with vehicle doors closed at all times.
• Never store food, drinks, trash, or scented items in your tent!
• Do not dispose of food or trash in fire rings.
• Do not leave food unattended, even for a few minutes, and never leave your food unattended when hiking or picnicking
There’s nothing like sitting around a warm, crackling campfire, roasting marshmallows to perfection as you laugh with friends and watch flames dance across the logs. Unfortunately, firewood can harbor harmful insects and pests which can destroy forests. In order to protect our beautiful forests from alien pests, the National Lakeshore has established a new campground firewood policy. Campers may only use firewood purchased from vendors approved by the National Lakeshore. These vendors sell firewood that has either been safely treated for pests, or is from a pest-free type of tree.
Unapproved firewood can spread destructive pests and diseases such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, Asian longhorn beetle , beech bark disease, and oak wilt; as evidenced by damage on the emerald ash borer. You may purchase approved firewood from firewood vending machines located in both campgrounds, or from local firewood vendors in the surrounding communities. Unapproved firewood may not be used in the campgrounds. Help us to protect the forest by leaving your firewood at home!
Sunshine, warm weather, and beautiful, clear water are a recipe for beach activities, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has miles of pristine beaches! You can sunbathe, build sand castles, play in the Lake Michigan waves, swim, or just walk along the beach. Lake Michigan is beautiful but can prove quite cold – prepare yourself for icy refreshment. The Lake Michigan lakeshore is open to swimming, but there are no lifeguards on duty.
Platte River Point at the end of Lake MI Road
Located where the Platte River flows into Lake Michigan, this is a popular spot on hot summer days, particularly amongst those who love tubing, canoeing and kayaking. The shallow, fast flow is ideal for this kind of fun, and the waves ensure a thrilling ride as you reach the lake itself. If this is out of your comfort zone, why not walk along the river to the beach and enjoy watching the merging of the waters. Fishing enthusiasts can make use of the launch here and take on the fish in the Lake too Whether you are int extreme excitement or a relaxing afternoon, you can find it here. Restroom facilities, parking. and an Automated Fee Station are also available
Peterson Road Beach
If you are looking for something more secluded and intimate, then the Lake Michigan beach at the end of Peterson Road is for you. Peterson Road is a gravel track that winds through the woods for about a mile to a small parking area with a restroom. Located at the southern part of the Park, near the intersection of M-22 and Deadstream Road, this untouched beach offers unparalleled views of Sleeping Bear Point and Empire Bluff, and on a clear day, you can see South Manitou Island. Try a secluded swim in the summer heat! Note that parking is limited, so you might have to park along the dirt road.
Another beautiful beach located at the mouth of Otter Creek. The warm water attracts swimmers, but there is also an amazing array of flaura and fauna on display along the river banks. Esch Road is located about 3 mile south of Empire on M-22. Turn to the west and follow the road about 1 mile to Lake Michigan. You can park along the road and there are bathroom facilities. For history buffs, the information on the logging village of Aral is sure to make for interesting reading.
North Bar Lake
Renowned for warm swimming water, North Bar Lake is amongst the most popular sites in the entire park, as it offers access to this and Lake Michigan itself. This intoxicating mixture of beaches and dunes is ideal for family beach days or hiking, and you are sure to find some intriguing plant life during your adventures – keep an eye out for dune grass, pitcher’s thistle, wormwood, sand cress, and others.
Once you reach Lake Michigan beach, take in spectacular views from the Pierce Stocking Drive Lake Michigan Overlook Platform, which is positioned to showcase the enormity of the bluffs.
To get to North Bar Lake, take LaCore Street north out of Empire to Voice Road, and then Bar Lake road. Large parking areas and with restrooms are available. Lakeshore Passes are also on offer here.
Glen Haven Beach
Another great spot for history aficionados. The Cannery Boat Museum in Glen Haven is located right on the Lake Michigan beach. View the Manitou Islands and the pilings remaining from the old Glen Haven dock from your beach vantage point. An information plaque displays a picture of the busy dock from over 100 years ago! Restroom facilities available.
County Road 669 Beach
For an unusual perspective, visit County Road 669 Beach in Good Harbor Bay. Look west to see Pyramid Point, or cast your gaze North to the Whaleback and North Manitou Island. The Fox Islands may even be visible on a clear day. Even the parking area is surrounded by the tranquility of Shalda Creek
You may use your ride your bicycle on any established road that vehicles travel along, but why not try the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail? Note that all other trails are off limits. Join a ranger for a ride or explore the following areas:
Port Oneida Rural Historic District:
These quiet country roads, a mixture of gravel and pavement, wind between farms, barns, and wetlands.
Platte Plains Roads:
Difficulty: Moderate. Located near the the Platte River Campground, cyclists can explore back roads to experience nature away from the highway.
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive:
Difficulty: Strenuous. (For experienced cyclists only!.) Tackling this demanding 8 mile rote will reward you with out-of-this-world views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding dunes.
You can rent bicycles in Glen Arbor or at the Scenic Drive parking lot.
Glen Haven Historic Village
Step into the colorful past in this company-owned steamboat stop that operated from 1865 until 1931. Sleeping Bearville, as it was originally called, was a natural harbor sought out by steamships sailing between Chicago and Buffalo. Learn more about area history by visiting the restored General Store and Blacksmith Shop. Flush toilets and picnic area with grills are available.
Glen Haven General Store
The old-fashioned candy available at lumber baron D. H. Day’s General Store, restored to appear as it did in the 1920s, will literally give visitors a taste of the past. Built in 1867 as a company store, it provided essential goods for local workers. Learn more about Day’s legacy in the exhibit hall. Today, the historic General Store carries merchandise and items related to the history of Glen Haven, including kitchenware, food, toys, and books.
For an insight into early industry, make a stop at the blacksmith shop, which is operational most days in the summer, and staffed by friendly volunteers. Watch as the blacksmith takes a piece of iron and manipulates it into detailed shapes and objects. The exhibit is very interactive, and questions are encouraged.
Open: Memorial Day weekend though June, Open 12:00 – 17:00 , Fri, Sat, & Sun only.
July 1-September 7, Open 12:00 -17:00 daily
Pets in the park
Leashed pets are allowed on these beaches:
• From Platte River Campground / Railroad Grade trail north to Peterson Road.
• From Esch Road north to the Lakeshore boundary (south of Empire).
• From the Lakeshore boundary north of Empire to just south of the North Bar Lake stream outlet.
• From Maritime Museum east (but not on the Maritime Museum grounds) to the Lakeshore boundary (west of Glen Arbor).
• From the Lakeshore boundary north of Glen Arbor around Pyramid Point to CR 669.
• From CR 651 north to the Lakeshore northern boundary
No Pet Zones
- Dune Climb,
- Maritime Museum grounds,
- Glen Lake Picnic Area,
- North Bar Lake,
- Platte Point Beach,
- group campsites,
- backcountry campsites,
- North and South Manitou Islands, and
- Other areas where posted.
- Pets are not allowed on designated ski trails from December 1 to March 31.
- Additional beaches may be temporarily closed to pets during piping plover nesting season.
• Pets must be kept on a six-foot leash.
• Pets may not be left unattended or tied to any object.
• Do not allow your pet to make unreasonable noise.
• Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles.
• Prevent interactions between pets.
Making the Most of Your Time
If you are pressed for time on your visit (less than 3 hours), consider these exciting options:
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
This driving loop overlooks some of the Lakeshore’s most unique scenery.
Open mid April- mid November (weather permitting)
M-109, 3 miles north of Empire
Length: 7.5 miles, 90 minutes
No visit would be complete without conquering this 110-foot high sand dune. Be sure to pack enough water, sunscreen, and good footwear. This impressive feat can be handled by children too.
M-109, 6 miles north of Empire
Length: 30 minutes
Explore Glen Haven
This steamship stop on Sleeping Bear Bay dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Visit the Blacksmith Shop, General Store, and D. H. Day Exhibit, and Cannery.
Length: At your leisure
The Maritime Museum
The famous U. S. Life Saving Service is on show here in a fully restored station. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Heroes of the Storm shipwreck rescue demonstration at 3:00 p.m. (seasonal).
M-209, 7 miles north of Empire
Length: 0.5-3 hours
With a view of the Glen Lakes, Alligator Hill, and North Manitou Island, this overlook provides the perfect finale for any trip.
M-22 to McFarlane Rd. (County Rd. 616), 8 miles east of Empire
Length: 5 minutes
If you have more than 3 hours– try these:
The Platte and Crystal Rivers
Canoe, kayak, or float down these majestic rivers. You can rent equipment near either launch site if you don’t have your own. Children are welcome.
Platte River: M-22 or Lake Michigan Rd.10 miles south of Empire
Crystal River: M-22 east of Glen Arbor
Length: 2-3 hours
Sleeping Bear Point Trail
This is a simple hike that will give you a glimpse at all the elements of the park, including the shoreline, dunes, and islands. Follow the blue-tipped posts to the overlook, and return along the same route. For a longer hike, complete the entire loop through a ghost forest, over dunes, and back through the woods. Pack appropriately.
M-209, 8 miles north of Empire
Length: 0.5 miles, 30-60 minutes Entire trail: 3 miles, 2-3 hours
Port Oneida Historic Farm Tour
Step into the past in the largest historic agricultural landscape in all of the national parks. Bicycle or drive the back roads to old farmsteads, fields, orchards, and cemeteries. A driving tour brochure and a cell phone tour are available. Stop in at the historic Olsen Farmhouse – office of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear.
M-22, 3 miles north of Glen Arbor.
Length: 1-2 hours
A great choice for the nature lover, as you can visit a beaver lodge and howl for coyotes. Enter the world of nature and discover fins, furs, and feathers. Experienced rangers lead these free activities across glacier and farmsteads (seasonal). For locations and topics, pick up a program schedule at the visitor center, campground offices, or entrance stations.
Length: 1-2 hours
Empire Bluff Trail
Winding through a beech-maple forest, this uphill trail leads to an overlook of Lake Michigan and the dunes.
M-22 to Wilco Rd., 1.6 miles south of Empire
Length: 1.5 miles, 1 hour.
If you are blessed with full day, consider these epic experiences
South Manitou Island
No trip is complete without a tour the famous lighthouse where the history of the South Manitou Island Lighthouse and U.S. Life Saving Service Station come to life. Climb the 100-foot tall tower for sweeping views of the Manitou Passage.
Length: 30 minutes
Giant Cedars and Shipwreck
The mystery of the hidden section of the forest of cedars called The VLLEY OF THE Giants awaits you! This untouched slice of paradise escaped ruin during the logging periods. You can also view the shipwrecked Liberian freighter, the Francisco Morazan, which ran aground in 1960.Tours begin and end in the village
Length: 7 miles round trip, 3-4 hours.
Motorized Island Tours Manitou Island Transit
Two exciting open-air tours are available for island visitors. Explore the old schoolhouse, cemetery, lake, and farms; or visit the giant cedars and view the shipwreck. Call 231-256-9061 for more information. Begins in the village after ferry arrives.
Length: 2 hours
Boaters – Obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card now.