Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Park Regulations & Safety

In Case of Emergency - CALL 911 or Contact a Ranger!

The view from the top of the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan at the #9 Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Drive is one of the most awe-inspiring views in the park, and it creates a desire to run down the bluff to the beach about 450 feet below. The bluff is very steep and is composed of stones, gravel, and sand deposited there by the glaciers. Going down the bluff is relatively easy, but can be dangerous to people below you as you dislodge rocks that roll down the bluff. Also, when you get down to the bottom and look back up (or maybe when you are part way back up the bluff), you may wish you had just looked from the top! The climb back up is very strenuous. Climbing the bluff also causes significant erosion to the bluff. Although going down the bluff is not prohibited, you are encouraged not to do so for your safety and the safety of others below you. Refraining from climbing the bluff will also ease the erosion that is occurring on the face of the bluff.

When hiking either in the woods or through the dunes, be sure to have a plan and communicate it with your group. Then stick to it. Cell phone coverage is not always reliable in the Lakeshore especially in remote or wilderness areas.

Out on the dunes, it is easy to get turned around and lose your sense of direction. The best plan is to follow one of the marked hiking trails and carry a map and compass. The trails in the dunes are marked with blue-topped posts.

Resist walking on ridges or steep sandy slopes. These can be hazardous especially in winter or early spring and you can trigger a sand slide.

Sturdy footgear is always a must when traversing wooded trails. Sandals and bare feet do not hold up well to the rigors of the forest floor!

Keep those handy for The Dune Climb and the beach. Even if you don't want to wear shoes at the beginning, take a pair along. The sand can be very hot and abrasive, and underground shoots of dune grass can stab your feet. Walking in the sand is more work than walking on solid ground. Shoes give you added support through the sand.

Remember to take plenty of water when you are hiking the dunes.

Cougar Safety

Over the past few years, there have been several cougar sightings reported in the area in and around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In 2004-2005, a study was conducted with motion-sensitive cameras and track identification techniques, but no evidence of cougar was obtained. If you see a cougar, please report it to Park Rangers, and if at all possible, obtain some evidence. A photograph is best, but if you spot some tracks, mark them and get a Park Ranger so they can confirm the animal that made it.

To see a cougar can be a thrilling experience, but these animals deserve your respect! While you are unlikely to see a cougar, it is wise to know how to behave if you do encounter one. Cougars are tawny-colored with black tipped ears and tail. Adults are 5-8 feet long from nose to the end of its long tail.

If you encounter a cougar:

  • Remain calm - DO NOT RUN.
  • Pick up small children immediately.
  • Stand up and spread your arms to make yourself look big.
  • Maintain eye contact, and back away slowly.
  • If approached, wave your arms, shout, and throw sticks or rocks.
  • If attacked, fight back aggressively.
  • Do not approach a cougar.

Please consider these precautions when hiking.

Please report any encounter to the National Park Service by calling 231-326-5134.

The cougar is a state-listed endangered species fully protected by law.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore welcomes you and your pets to enjoy the park together. Like most outdoor activities within a National Park area, there are some rules and regulations that apply to having a pet with you. These have been established for the safety and enjoyment of both visitors and pets alike. Violation of these rules and regulations could result in receiving a federal Violation Notice (ticket) which includes a fine and a possible appearance in federal court.

Trained assistance dogs accompanying impaired persons are permitted throughout the Lakeshore. Pets are generally permitted within the Lakeshore except in certain limited areas designated as "no-pet" areas. These areas can be identified by a "No Pets" sign and by referencing the map. A small percentage of the park has been closed to pets for the protection of wildlife and to ensure the enjoyment of all park visitors.

No Pet Areas

  1. Major use areas including the Dune Climb, backcountry campsites, group campsites, and areas where "NO PETS" signs are posted.
  2. North and South Manitou Islands.
  3. County Rd. 651 Beach, south & west of the road access for 1/4 mile.
  4. Cannery Beach to 1/4 mile northwest of the Maritime Museum.
  5. Little Glen Lake Picnic Area and beach.
  6. North Bar Lake, including 1/4 mile north and south of the outlet into Lake Michigan.
  7. Esch Beach, south and west of the road access for 1/4 mile.
  8. Peterson Beach, south and west of the road access for 1/4 mile.
  9. Platte Point Beach, 1/4 mile both sides of the road and the spit.
  10. Areas marked as CLOSED for Piping Plover nesting.
  11. All designated cross-country ski trails during the winter months (December 1 to March 31). This closure is due to possible conflict between pets and winter sports activities. However, this does not include all of the other hiking trails or areas of the park that are open year around.

Designated Cross-Country Ski Trails Closed to Pets from December 1 to March 31:

Trail #

Trail Name


Old Indian Ski Trail


Platte Plains Ski Trail


Windy Moraine Ski Trail


Shauger Hill Ski Trail


Alligator Hill Ski Trail


Bay View Ski Trail


Good Harbor Bay Ski Trail

Rule and Regulations

  • Pets must be controlled on a 6-foot or less leash at all times.
  • Pets cannot be left unattended or tied to an object.
  • Pet owners may not allow a pet to make noise that is unreasonable.
  • Pet excrement is the owner's responsibility and must be disposed of in trash receptacles.
  • Pets cannot be allowed to disturb or harass wildlife.
  • The training of hunting dogs in the park is prohibited. It should be noted that hunting dogs are not considered pets when used in conjunction with authorized hunting activities during the mainland firearms seasons set by the State of Michigan.

Pet Safety Suggestions

  • Always remember that your pet needs water as much as you do, especially when active for for long periods of time.
  • Be conscious of the possible temperature extremes which your pet may be exposed to here in Northern Michigan such as extremely hot sand in summer and the frigid cold water during winter.
  • Don't assume that your pet is physically able to negotiate the same terrain that you can.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle.
  • In the same way you may carry needed medicine or first aid supplies for yourself, don't forget the possible needs of your pet.
  • It is important for both the safety of your pet and the park's wildlife that you do not allow the two to interact.
  • During hunting season, it is recommended that park visitors wear blaze orange for their safety. It is equally important that your pet wears blaze orange as well.