Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Quick Facts

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Michigan

(231) 326-5134

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Authorized by Congress on October 21, 1970, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore encompasses a 31-mile stretch of Lake Michigan's eastern shoreline, as well as North and South Manitou Islands. The park was established to preserve the "outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena...for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreation, and enjoyment of the public." The Lakeshore also contains many cultural features, including an 1871 lighthouse, three former U.S. Life Saving Service / Coast Guard Stations, and an extensive rural historic district.

Map of Sleeping Bear Dunes

Latitude, Longitude: 44.805224, -86.050415

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Activities

  • Boating

    Two rivers provide easy river paddling and floating. The Platte River is located in the southern part of the park, and canoes, kayaks, and tubes can be rented where the river crosses M-22. In the northern part of the park, near Glen Arbor, the Crystal River flows from Glen Lake to Lake Michigan and canoes and kayaks can be rented in Glen Arbor. Low water levels in the Crystal River can make canoeing difficult at times.

    Inland lakes offer some of the best wildlife viewing along the lakeshore. Loon Lake is located near the Platte River in the southern part of the park. There is parking lot and lake access just off M-22. School Lake and Bass Lake are small inland lakes in the northern part of the park. The public access for School Lake is from county 669.

    Lake Michigan is beautiful, but it can be treacherous as well. The cold temperatures, winds and waves can sometimes make canoeing or kayaking dangerous, so take appropriate safety precautions. Be sure your equipment is in good condition and that you don't overestimate your skill level. It is best to go out with at least one other person, who can help you in case of emergency.

    There are several good places to put-in at the lakeshore. One of the best is at Glen Haven, where you can park at the Cannery Boat Museum right next to the beach. The paddle around Sleeping Bear Point is beautiful with a blue sky overhead, crystal-clear water, and the sand dunes on shore. Esch Road, just south of Empire also provides a good access point for a kayak. On the northern part of the lakeshore, County Roads 669 and 651 both provide good access to the lake.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must-do activity when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 7.4 mile self-guided auto tour provides the visitor with insight to the history of the area, a sampling of the vegetative communities found within the park and, best of all, spectacular overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan. The drive is open daily from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset. Pick up an interpretive guide for the Scenic Drive at the Visitor Center in Empire or at the entrance to the drive (there is no charge for the guide). There are numbered signs along the drive that will refer you to the guide, making your visit an educational adventure as well. Please obey the 20 mph speed limit and drive carefully so that motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians can share this roadway safely.

  • Camping

    You can choose from a wide range of camping experiences at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Platte River Campground offers sites with electric hook-ups for RVs and trailers as well as walk-in sites for those who want to carry their tent off the beaten path. Showers and modern restrooms are available here. The Platte River and Lake Michigan are close by, too. Reservations are available by phone or over the internet.

    The D.H. Day Campground offers more rustic camping for RVs, trailers, and tents. You will find dirt roads, vault toilets, and ready access to the Lake Michigan beach. There are no electric hook-ups or showers. The campground is located in the northern part of the park mid-way between Glen Haven and Glen Arbor. Registration is on a first-come basis.

    Group Campgrounds are located in several areas throughout the Lakeshore to provide camping for groups of at least 7 people. The upper limit on groups depends on the specific site.

    Backpackers have several options in the Lakeshore. Some of the best backcountry camping in Michigan is located on North and South Manitou Islands. You can get to the islands by ferry operated by Manitou Island Transit out of Leland. Mainland backcountry camping is available at the White Pine campground on the Platte Plains trail system near the Platte River campground, or at the Valley View campground north of Glen Arbor near the Homestead Resort. White Pine is in walking distance to Lake Michigan, so water is available. If you camp at Valley View, you will have to carry your water.

  • Fishing

    There are several small inland lakes to fish in the Lakeshore. On the southern part of the park, you will find Loon Lake along the Platte River. There is a boat launch just off M-22 for Loon Lake. Otter Lake is near Trail's End road, but the boat launch is made for canoes and will not accomodate trailers. On the northern end of the park, Bass Lake and School Lake offer good fishing. Anglers with a Michigan license can fish for trout, pike, bass, and salmon. For some excellent smallmouth bass fishing, try Lake Manitou on North Manitou Island. Certain fish may be contaminated and should be eaten in limited amounts or not at all. Check the Michigan Fishing Guide for details about fishing regulations in Michigan and the Michigan Fish Advisory for information about fish consumption. Some creel and length limits may also be in effect for certain fish species.

  • Hiking

    You can hike about 100 miles of designated trails in the Lakeshore. There are thirteen trails on the mainland for hiking, and most of them are maintained during the winter for cross country skiing, and snowshoeing too. Each trail has a trailhead with a parking area. Hiking trails on the dunes are marked by blue-tipped posts. Each trail has its own unique beauty and challenges. Some have beautiful views from high vistas overlooking lakes, hills, or dunes. While others take you through fields of wildflowers with views of fields and lakes or forest in the background. Others take you through the sand dunes to explore the hardy vegetation and wildflowers that flourish in this harsh environment. Trail maps may be obtained through the various visitor centers at the lakeshore.

  • Hunting

    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore does allow hunting. Michigan hunting seasons often coincide with very popular visitation periods by non-hunters to the Lakeshore, such as during the time of changing fall colors. The Lakeshore Ranger staff asks both hunters and non-hunters to follow a few park rules and regulations and to work together in order to have a safe and enjoyable visit. A special Deer Hunt is also conducted on North Manitou Island each year.

    The majority of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is open to hunting. However, most high visitor use areas and facilities are closed and include a 450-foot safety zone. The safety zone is defined as the area beginning at the edge or exterior boundary of any road, site, or development and extending outward for 450 feet.

    Hunters are asked to be familiar with both the State of Michigan and federal rules and regulations concerning hunting in Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many park visitors are unaware that hunting activities may be ongoing within the Lakeshore.

  • Picnicking

    Picnic areas are located at many points throughout the lakeshore. Among these are the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, sections along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Dune Climb area, the Cannery Boat Museum and the Platte River Picnic Area.

  • Water Sports

    Visitors looking for water recreation will find several options availible to them. The Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve's protects four shipwrecks that can be explored by certified divers. For those looking to stay closer to the surface Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers many pristine beaches for sunbathing, making sand castles and swim. The whole Lake Michigan lakeshore is open to swimming, but there are no lifeguards on duty. Another enjoyable water activity is a relaxing float on a tube or raft down the Platte River on a hot summer day. This is one of the most popular recreational activities to beat the heat of summer. The river is shallow and clear, and while it moves along at a good pace, there are no rapids to contend with.

  • Winter Sports

    Winter activities round out the year-long recreation offerings at the lakeshore. Snowshoeing is permitted on all snow-covered dunes, fields, and forests, although it is recommended that you stay on well-marked pathways. If you are snowshoeing along a cross-country ski trail, please stay off to the side of the skiers' tracks. Guided snowshoe hikes with a ranger are offered on Saturdays and during the winter holidays. Hikes will start at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center at 1:00 pm. Bring your own snowshoes or try out those available for use on the hikes. Cross Country Skiing opportunities are plentiful as popular hiking trails turn into snow-covered paths. Designated trails for cross country skiing include Old Indian, Platte Plains, Scenic Drive, Windy Moraine, Alligator Hill, Bay View, and GoodHarborBay. Maps are available at the visitor center in Empire and at the trailheads. Please note that these trails are not groomed, and for safety purposes it is always recommended that you ski with another person.

    Sledding is permitted at the Dune Climb in the designated area when it is covered with snow only. Sleds, toboggans, saucer sleds, inflatable tubes or similar equipment as well as downhill skis and ski boards are prohibited at all other sand dunes in the National Lakeshore.

    Ice fishing in compliance with State of Michigan regulations is permitted.

    Snowmobiling is not permitted on lands or waters of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

    Please exercise caution! The lakeshore offers fascinating winter activities, but freezing temperatures, as well as slippery and unstable surfaces, create hazards. Ice formations along the Lake Michigan shoreline may be tempting to explore but are dangerous. Avalanches are a possibility on steep, snow-covered dunes.

Seasonality/Weather

Sleeping Bear Dunes is located in northern lower Michigan. Summer days have highs ranging from upper 70's to 90's with lows typically in the 50's to 70's. Winter days have highs ranging from 20's to 30's and lows in the 10's to 20's. Snow is usually on the ground from late November through March.

Park Partners

Eastern National

(215) 283-6900

Directions

Driving

Motor vehicle access from Michigan's Upper Peninsula: cross the Mackinac Bridge, southbound on I- 75; exit I-75 on US-31 (Petoskey/Charlevoix) to the west side of Traverse City; turn left on M-72 to Empire (25 miles/43 km). Alternatively, you could stay on I-75 South to M-72 at Grayling. Travel M-72 westward through Kalkaska to Traverse City and onward to Empire. Access from points south by US 31, US 131, US 27, or I- 75, through Traverse City and onward to Empire as above. Also from the south by M-22 from Ludington/Manistee/Frankfort.

Flying

The Traverse City Airport (30 miles/51 km from Lakeshore) has connections with Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis. The Traverse City Airport (TVC) is serviced by Northwest, United and American.

Public Transportation

Traverse City has a Greyhound bus station with local buses (BATA) connecting to the lakeshore.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(231) 326-5134

Links