Pierce Stocking was a dreamer.—but he was also a man of action. Having wandered the bluffs along Lake Michigan, with their spectacular views of the shoreline, the islands and the big lake, during his years as a lumberman, Stocking came up with the idea to build a road to the top of the dunes so that others could experience the spectacular vista. Today, the 7.5 mile road makes the some of the most beautiful scenery found in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore available to everyone.
Stocking started the road in the early 1960s and it was completed in 1967. Pierce Stocking operated it until he died in 1976 when the National Park Service took over operations and, with great public support, named the drive after Stocking.
The park service provides an interpretive guide to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which you can pick up for free at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Empire or at the drive's entrance. Numbered markers along the drive coincide with explanations on the guide. This autu-tour will take you to some of the most spectacular views offered in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The two stops on the tour that you absolutely don't want to miss are #9 and #10, both with stunning views, particularly at sunset. As you stand on the observation deck of the Lake Michigan Overlook you are about 450 feet above the lake. The drive is open from 9:00 am until 30 minutes after sunset every day.
While you can run down the face of the dunes at the Pierce Stocking Drive, the Park Service really encourages people not to do so. Not only can it be dangerous and physically demanding, it also can damage the face of the dune and increase the likelihood of erosion. In addition, the Park Service asks drivers to stick to the 20 mph speed limit and be very aware of pedestrians and bicyclers also using the path.
Sit back and enjoy the spectacular Pierce Stocking Drive and then make a plan to take the drive yourself!
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center, Empire. 231-326-5134, nps.gov/slbe.
For information on historic structures: Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, headquartered in the Olsen farmhouse on M-22 in Port Oneida. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 231-334-6103, phsb.org.
The Manitou Island Transit, in Leland, services North and South Manitou Islands. For schedule and reservations, 231-256-9061, leelanau.com/manitou.