Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Jake Rajs/Photodisc/Getty)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies in a hilly region fringed with massive coastal sand dunes and dotted with clear lakes. It is a diverse landscape, embracing quiet, birch-lined streams, dense beech-maple forests, and rugged bluffs towering as high as 460 feet (140 meters) above Lake Michigan. Offshore, surrounded by the unpredictable waters of Lake Michigan, sit the Manitou Islands, tranquil and secluded.

For thousands of visitors each year, Sleeping Bear Dunes offers a wealth of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Many come to play at the Dune Climb or to savor sweeping views of land and water from the park's roadways. Others come to hike the trails, where they find a rich variety of wildflowers, mammals, and birds. Beachcombers can enjoy a walk along Lake Michigan's shore, pausing occasionally to examine an interesting pebble or shell. Canoeing down a slow-flowing stream offers a quiet, intimate look at the countryside. Fishing fervor peaks in the fall, when coho and king salmon, sport fish introduced from the Pacific, return to the Platte River to spawn. In winter, cross-country skiers tour snowy woodlands. The possibilities for relaxation and challenge are almost unbounded.

Visiting the Lakeshore
The visitor center offers exhibits, a slide program, and book sales. Park headquarters, in the same building, is open weekdays. Exhibits are also at the Maritime Museum, at outdoor mainland locations, and on South Manitou Island.

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
This 7.1-mile (11.4-kilometer) route offers panoramic views of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Lake, and Lake Michigan. It is open from mid-April through mid-November, weather permitting. Trailers are prohibited because parking areas do not have pull-through parking spaces. Bicycles are permitted.

Exploring the Dunes
Climbing to the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes at the Dune Climb is strenuous but rewarding. From the crest you can view Glen Lake. You can also hike the Dunes Trail, a 3.5-mi (5.6-km) round-trip, or walk a 2.8-mi (4.5-km) loop trail to Sleeping Bear Point. The dunes cover about 4 square miles (10.4 square km). No water or shelters are provided. Watch your children; it is easy to get lost in this expanse of sand. Hikers should use a map and plan a route. Wear shoes to protect your feet. Stay on designated trails to prevent erosion and damage to vegetation.

More on Hiking Trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Deer, rabbit, squirrel, ruffed grouse, and waterfowl hunting are allowed in season under state regulations. Special park regulations prohibit hunting near the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive when the drive is open.

Enjoying the Water
The park's lakes and rivers offer opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing. Canoes can be rented on the Platte and Crystal Rivers. Anglers with a Michigan license can fish for trout, pike, bass, and salmon. Certain fish may be contaminated and should be eaten in limited amounts or not at all. Check the Michigan Fishing Guide for details.

South Manitou Island
Points to visit include the huge white cedar trees, the lighthouse, and historic sites. Ferry service from Leland is available May to mid-October.

North Manitou Island
Hikers and backpackers can explore 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) of wilderness. Ferries from Leland are available on a regular basis June through August; limited service is available in May, and September through mid-November.

Winter Recreation
About 50 mi (80 km) of trails are marked for cross-country skiing. Obtain a map at the visitor center headquarters or at a trailhead. Snowmobiling is prohibited except on rights-of-way along some state and county roads.

Do not drive off established park roads. Always keep your pet on a leash. Pets are not allowed on the Dune Climb or Manitou Islands. Camp only in campgrounds. Campfires are permitted only in campgrounds and picnic area fireplaces. Beach fires are restricted to bare beach sand between the water and the first dune and are not permitted on the Manitou Islands. Do not collect ghost forest or other wood on the dunes or disturb plants or natural objects. Campers can collect dead and down wood elsewhere. You may pick mushrooms and fruit for personal use. Bicycles are not permitted off roads.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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