When it comes to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there is no shortage of “wow” factor. Nestled along the freshwater coast of Lake Michigan, it’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of people flock to this scenic Midwest destination every year.
Known most notably for its sizeable sand dunes, the views offered at the “Dune Climb” are nothing short of breathtaking. The beauty doesn’t stop there, however.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore encompasses the northeast shore of Lake Michigan and includes both the South and North Manitou islands. From there, one can find numerous beaches nestled throughout, or even hop on The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and explore on bike or by foot.
Even named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore puts Midwest vacation destinations on the map. Perhaps what sets Northern Michigan apart from so many other destinations is the amount of untouched beauty the area holds.
As experts, there are a few must-sees when visiting. As a luxury to our readers, we’ve gone ahead and laid out our top attractions.
The Dune Climb:
Starting with the standout, The Sleeping Bear Dune Climb. With a sprawling picnic area nestled at the base, the dunes can make for all day fun if one plans accordingly. While the climb itself can be challenging, the walk (or run) back down is easy, breezy. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can take the dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. But, be cautioned, this hike can take up to 3-4 hours. We highly recommend bringing plenty of water and snacks, and ensuring you are up for the challenge before descending down to the water. The Dune Climb is located 5 miles north of Empire M-109. The Dune Center offers a public restroom and bookstore for visitors.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail:
An easy, fun, and immersive way to get around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a paved, multi-use trail that spans over 20 miles. Park your car and lace up your running/walking shoes, or opt for travel via bike or rollerblades. Trailheads are located at Port Oneida, Bay View, Crystal River, Alligator Hill, Glen Haven, Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking, and Bar Lake Road. The trail itself is handicap accessible.
Point Betsie Light:
Rich in history and beauty, the Point Betsie Light is worth adding to your itinerary. Standing tall in its original 1858 form, visitors can explore an area where Great Maritime history is waiting around every corner. Located in Frankfort, Michigan, this breathtaking piece of history sits on one of the most pristine, secluded beaches around. Open to the public, the lighthouse “Boathouse Museum” offers gifts, apparel, toys, and plenty of other items to remember your trip to this iconic destination. Beach day highly encouraged.
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive:
Looking for something a little less physically taxing during your visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore? Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is the perfect way to enjoy all of the views without breaking a sweat. A self-guided driving tour allows you to follow the numbered signs as they direct you from one educational stop to another. While bicycling is permitted, the route is expert level and quite steep.
Last, but certainly not least, Empire Bluffs hike is an absolute must. An easy, out and back hike for individuals of all physical ability, Empire Bluffs offers a sweeping view of the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and Lake Michigan. High above the water, 400 feet to be exact, the culmination of the hike is set on a dune overlooking the water. For just about 40 minutes round trip, plus time spent admiring the view, Empire Bluffs is a stop worth your while.
Where to Stay:
Now that you know all there is to know about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the immense amount of beauty it holds, all that’s left to do is book the trip. If you’re looking to stay as close to the heart of it all as possible, we highly recommend The Homestead in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The Homestead is a beachfront resort offering a wide range of unique lodging choices supported by luxurious facilities designed for romantic getaways, family vacations, weddings, and meetings. It is located on the beach chosen by Money Magazine as “No. 1 of the 8 Best Beaches to Visit this Summer” and is surrounded by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore which was chosen by the viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America as the “Most Beautiful Place in America”. Guests enjoy its mile-long beach, spa and salon services, golf courses, granular surface tennis courts, watercrafts, pools, and hot tubs, restaurants, meeting facilities and, come winter, skiing, riding, snowshoeing, and skating. The Homestead offers a variety of lodging options that include hotel rooms, suites, villas and homes are offered in seasonal packages at the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.