Hike the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for free on June 5th and June 6th as part of National Trails Day. Before you hit the 100+ miles of designated trails within the Sleeping Bear Dunes, grab a map at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center in Empire and pack water, snacks and sunblock. Here’s a rundown of some of the best spots to discover the diversity of the spectacular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Bay View Trail: Those ready to lace up their boots and trek a more strenuous route should check out this 8-mile trail, a mostly hilly track that leads through beech-maple stands, pine plantations, wildflower fields, historic farmsteads and panoramic views of Lake Michigan. Find the trailhead on Thoreson about 3 miles north of Glen Arbor.
The Dunes: If you are going to expend all your energy in one place, this would be the spot to do it. While the round-trip hike up the sandy steeps to Lake Michigan and back is easily a half-day workout, the views from the top are unbeatable—as is the workout. Access this trail from the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on M-109 between Empire and Glen Arbor.
Cottonwood: A short 1.4-miles may feel like a 10-mile hike, up loose sand and strenuous dune lands. The payoff is well worth it, however, with dune and Lake Michigan views that will take your breath away (even more). Cottonwood Trail is off of the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive off of M-109 between Empire and Glen Arbor.
Windy Moraine: A short but rolling 1.5-mile trail will lead you to views of even more water, this time in the form of Glen Lake. Find this trail off of M-109 between Empire and Glen Arbor.
Empire Bluff: Another 1.5-mile trail, this bluff-top trek has hikers head up with the promise of a sweet reward in the form of a dramatic overlook. Find it on the south end of the town of Empire.
Pyramid Point: Looking for a little longer trail? The 2.7 miles of hills that make up Pyramid Point offer yet another chance to soak up the sun atop a spot that offers jaw-dropping views of the big lake. Take M-22 north out of Glen Arbor about 3 miles, left on Port Oneida Road, follow it until it becomes dirt and turns into Basch Road (at Camp Leelanau), the trailhead is just up the road.
Sleeping Bear Point: the 2.8-mile trail still offers a taste of rolling dunes, loose sand and scrub grasses. It is the perfect path to take if your end goal is the beach: lake access is available here. Find the trailhead just west of Glen Haven. Take M-209 until it ends at Lake Michigan, turn right, continue on the dirt road, past the Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum, until the road ends.
Duneside Accessible: Not quite a mile long, this flat walk is also handicap accessible. From the trail, take in the dunes above, as well as beech, maple and white cedar stands. Find this trail at the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on M-109 between Empire and Glen Arbor.
Good Harbor Bay: Explore an entirely different ecosystem along this 2.8-mile wooded trail at the north end of the park. With a sprinkling of dunes, this flat wetland includes a boardwalk over a creek. From M-22 north out of Glen Arbor, turn left on C-669 and follow it to Lake Michigan.
Bring the beauty of Northern Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to life with the Beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes Book and DVD Package, produced by MyNorth Media. Click here to order yours today!