I had one condition about our trip to Michigan, I wanted to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I’m the proud owner of a National Parks Passport and feel giddy, like a little kid, when I get a new stamp. Okay, that’s not the only reason I wanted to go. The park offers stunning views of Lake Michigan and many miles of hiking trails. In true form I Googled the park to find out more information, and suddenly became overwhelmed with the amount of trails and scenic spots. I needed help! I had remembered that there was a lady on #hikerchat that was from Michigan. I contacted @Ciesla504 and as luck would have it she lived not far from Sleeping Bear Dunes and visits it all of the time. Our luck would continue once we got out to Michigan, Kim and her husband Mike would be available to spend the day with us to show us around.
Kim and Mike somehow found us the day before during Paddle For Pints so when we met at the Philip A Hart Visitor Center in Empire we knew who to look for. They offered to drive us around for the northern section of the park and give us the tour that way. The plan was to hit up some of the hot spots first, before they got over crowded. We did the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, drove by the Dune Climb, and headed north to Sleeping Bear Point. A cold front blew through the night before so the day was a bit chilly and super windy. I gladly accepted this weather since it meant that the smoke from the Canadian wildfires was no longer obstructing our views as it had the past two days. Right before reaching the opening at Sleeping Bear Point there was a sign warning us to not go down the dune or it might take upwards of 2 hours to get back up. I laughed a little inside until I got to the top of the point and looked at the steep, sandy drop below me. It was almost too much to take in. The aqua blue waters. The sounds of the waves pounding below. The slight fear that if I tripped I would tumble a few hundred feet down into Lake Michigan. We were in awe.
From Sleeping Bear Point we headed into the cute town of Glen Arbor. I was on a hunt for a picture of Sleeping Bear Dunes to match my other National Park Posters so we got out and walked into a few shops. They insisted we go to Cherry Republic. I had no idea what this was and would NEVER have thought/known to stop in, but boy was I happy we did. Good Morning America has refereed to this place as, “The Willy Wonka of cherries.” Needless to say we got some goodies.
After Glen Arbor we headed north on M22 to Pyramid Point. At Pyramid Point you can see North Manitou Island, South Manitou Island, and Sleeping Bear Point. It was so interesting to see how the crashing waves were really mixing up the sand along the shoreline in contrast to the blue waters of the lake. Here we got to see people struggling to climb back up the dune after going down to get a view from lake level. I was tempted to go down and try to run back up. There was just too much more I wanted to see and only one day to see it all though.
Our adventures then took us south where Kim and Mike brought us on an unmarked trail. One the locals like to keep a secret. Wanting to fully respect our hosts I am not posting any pictures from the spot or giving away its location. I’ll just leave it at, it’s good to know the locals.
In the southern end of the park our foursome did one last uphill hike to Empire Bluffs. Here we met a super friendly dog that was trying to snuggle up next to an erosion wall to block the wind. That was one smart lab. We also noticed a sign that said Launch Zone. It seemed a little odd and Kim decided to cover the a and make it Lunch Zone. My guess is that you could hang glide from this location. The dune went higher up behind the boardwalk so I’m thinking that would give hang gliders running room for take off.
A tour of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore would not be complete without actually seeing Lake Michigan from lake level. Kim and Mike brought us to beaches that didn’t include hiking up extremely steep sand to get back to the car. My favorite lake level beach we went to was Platte River Point. Kim and I worked on our rock art skills while Jayne was in heaven skipping stones. While the Platte River felt very warm and inviting for swimming, Lake Michigan is cold. I don’t know the actual temperature of the lake at Sleeping Bear, but later in the week we encountered Lake Michigan at 43 degrees much further south in Grand Haven.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located 25 miles from Traverse City in northwestern Lower Michigan. While we only spent a day at the park there are plenty of activities to do in and around the area. You can rent bikes and cycle along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail or rent kayaks to take a trip along one of the local rivers. I recommend spending at least half day for a visit to the park.
Thank you Kim & Mike!