• Looking out at the lake

    Sleeping Bear Dunes

    National Lakeshore Michigan

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you will find answers to your questions here or elsewhere on the web site, but if you don't, please contact us. We are interested in hearing from you, because we want you to have a wonderful experience at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, AND your questions will help us improve our web site.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Location and Hours

Where is Sleeping Bear Dunes located?

The park is located in the Northwest coast line in Benzie and Leelanau counties of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is about 25 miles west of Traverse City on M-72 in Empire. The Directions page provides an area map and directions.

 

When is the park open?

The park operates on a year-round basis. The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is open seven days a week with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Summer hours are 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.; the remainder of year the visitor center is open 8:15 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is open from late April through early November from 9:00 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset. The Dune Climb is open 24-hours, year-round. The Maritime Museum is open seasonally from, 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; the grounds are open year-round.

 

What does it cost to enter the park?

There is no fee to drive on the county and state roads that run through the park, but if you plan to stop at any of the attractions or use the park land for swimming, hiking, skiing, etc., you will have to pay an entrance fee that covers all passengers in the vehicle. There are also fees for camping and backpacking. Check the details on the Fees page. You can purchase a park pass at the visitor center all year long or seasonally at Platte River Campground, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Dune Climb, or D.H. Day Campground.

 

Can I use my Golden Age Passport or National Park Pass at Sleeping Bear Dunes?

Yes, Sleeping Bear Dunes is part of the National Park Service and Golden Age Passports and National Park Passes are accepted.

 

Where do I buy my Park Pass?

You can purchase a park pass at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire all year long or seasonally at Platte River Campground, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Dune Climb, D.H. Day Campground, or at North Bar Lake (self-pay station).

 

Facilities

Can I rent boats?

Canoes and kayaks (as well as tubes) can be rented through private rentals on the Platte River near the Platte River Campground and on the Crystal River in Glen Arbor. Many of the inland lakes within the Lakeshore are restricted to boats without motors.

 

Can I rent bicycles?

There are private bike rentals in Glen Arbor.

 

Can I buy souvenirs?

Souvenirs, books, and clothing is available at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, the Dune Center at the Dune Climb, and the Glen Haven General Store operated by Eastern National. Many local businesses in Empire and Glen Arbor also offer souvenirs for sale.

 

Is there a nature center?

The exhibition center at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center provides an overview of the geology, animals, plants, and peoples of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

 

Where can we picnic in the park?

There are many picnic areas in the park. The main ones are at Platte River, Pierce Stocking Drive, The Dune Climb, and Glen Lake Picnic Area.

 

Are there bookstores in the park?

There are three bookstores in the park: the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, the Dune Center at the Dune Climb, and the Glen Haven General Store.

 

Can I use my cell phone in the park?

Cell phone coverage is not consistent throughout the park. Some areas have good coverage, other areas - especially remote areas have no coverage. There is limited cell coverage on the Manitou Islands. Do not rely on your cell phone for emergency communication while in the Lakeshore.

 

Are there showers in the park?

There are showers at the Platte River Campground. You will need to buy tokens for the showers at the campground office.

 

Where are the public restrooms located?

Full service restrooms are available at the visitor center, the Dune Climb, and in Glen Haven near the General Store. Other public restrooms are located at various points of interest and hiking trailheads throughout the park.

 

Are there hotels or restaurants in the park?

There are no hotels or restaurants operated within the park. There are, however, several in the surrounding area. Check the links to local merchants in the Things to Know Before You Come section for details.

 

Are there full hook-ups available for my RV?

There are no full hook-up sites, but the the Platte River Campground has 96 sites with electrical hook-ups.

 

Are there any restrictions on where I can drive my RV or travel trailer?

Most roads in the park are county and state roads and are open to RVs or travel trailers. The Pierce Stocking Sceinic Drive has some steep hills and tight curves. For that reason, there is a parking area at the entrance of the Scenic Drive for you to drop off your travel trailer before taking the drive. You can pick it up on the way out.

 

Local History

What is the best way for me to learn some local history of the area?

Several books are available at the book store in the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, the Dune Center at the Dune Climb, and at the Glen Haven General Store that describe different aspects of the local history. Kids will enjoy earning a Junior Ranger badge and the workbook is filled with information about local history and nature.

Visit the museums and exhibits in the park during your visit. The following list will give you several options:

Visit the Empire Museum on M-22 in Empire. They have a wide variety of exhibits of the history of this logging and farming community.

Visit Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear at the Charles Olsen farm on M-22 north of Glen Arbor. There you can learn about the farming history of Port Oneida and Manitou Islands.

 

Are there any special events or traveling exhibits?

The Port Oneida Fair is held the second Friday and Saturday in August. The Fair is comprised of farming and craft exhibits of the late 1800's and early 1900's here in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. Other exhibitions will be listed in the Schedule of Events section of the web site.

 

Is there a listing of the farms in the area and who owned them?

Ask at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center for a map of the farms and more information about the history of each. You can also find information about the Port Oneida Rural Historic District and some of the other farms in the park on the web site.

 

Are there any Pre-historic Native American ruins in the park?

There is some evidence of Pre-historic Native American presence in the park. Some pottery or stone tools can sometimes be found uncovered by shifting sands on the dunes or near inland lakes or streams.

 

What is the oldest building in the park?

The cabin on the corner of CR 669 and M-22 in the Port Oneida area of the park, Northeast of Glen Arbor, is the oldest building in the park. It was restored in 2004 and provides a good example of the log construction that was common of the first settlers.

 

Nature Questions

Is there a nature center in the park?

The exhibit at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is the best place to get an overview of the natural history of the park and see examples of wildlife you can expect to see in the Park.

 

Are the dunes moving? How fast?

Yes! Take a walk along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail at the Dune Climb to see for yourself just how fast the dunes are moving. Generally, they move about 2 feet per year to the East due to the prevailing westerly winds blowing the sand. The Sleeping Bear Point Life-Saving Station had to be moved in 1930 to prevent it from being covered in sand.

 

Why are there rocks in the sand in places on the lakeshore?

The dunes are built up from blowing sand that is either blown up from the beach (beach dunes) or from the sandy moraine on the plateaus (perched dunes). Most of the sand, gravel, and rocks in this area were deposited by the glaciers in big hills that you see along the lakeshore. The wind blows the sand from these into dunes. When you are seeing rocks in the sand, you are actually looking at glacial moraine - not dunes.

 

Are there bears in the park?

Black bears are sometimes seen in the park but they are very rare considering the park is named for them.

 

Where are the cougars?

Over the past few years, there have been several cougar sightings reported in the area in and around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In 2004-2005, a study was conducted with motion-sensitive cameras and track identification techniques, but no evidence of cougar was obtained. If you see a cougar, please report it to park rangers, and if at all possible, obtain some evidence. A photograph is best, but if you spot some tracks, mark them and get a park ranger so they can confirm the animal that made it.

 

Should I be afraid that I will see a cougar if I go on a hike?

The reported sightings have been very rare, and no encounters have been reported. It is unlikely that you will see a cougar, but it is wise to know what to do if you should encounter one. Learn what to do if you see a cougar in the wild.

 

What are those wildflowers?

Many wildflowers grow in the park. An extensive database of wildflowers of Sleeping Bear Dunes is available on the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes web site maintained by one of our volunteers. A comprehensive wildflower book is available for viewing at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center. Of course, the bookstore also has several wildflower books for sale at the visitor center.

 

Things To do

What is the best time of year to come to Sleeping Bear Dunes?

Every season draws us to this magnificent natural area of Northern Lower Michigan. The season that draws you really depends on what you like to do. In the summer, you will find this area of Michigan bustling with activity, shops, and arts & craft shows. You can relax on the beach, camp, float down the river, or visit some of the museums. Fall provides beautiful views of the colored leaves and blue water of Lake Michigan set against the crystal clear blue sky. The crisp air is perfect for taking a hike to the many scenic visitas in the park. Winter offers beautiful white, quiet snowshoeing and skiing through the woods or a brisk walk along the icy shores of Lake Michigan. On a cold winter, you will see piles of ice blocks on the shore and get an appreciation of the power of nature to change the shore. Spring brings a splash of color as nature awakens from the cold, white blanket of snow. Enjoy a walk through the woods or meadows and enjoy a wide variety of wildflowers.

 

What are the most popular things to see in the park?

The Dune Climb, of course, is the most popular attraction. It creates and revives memories of struggling to the top and running down the dunes. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive offers several beautiful vistas and a lovely drive through the beech-maple forest and dunes. The museums in Glen Haven have become one of the biggest attractions for those who want to learn as well as play. Head to the beach! With 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, you will find great beaches in the Lakeshore. The campgrounds are filled most of the summer with campers from all over the United States who come to enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan.

Can I rent a Dune Buggy and ride the dunes?

No, the best way to see the dunes in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore is on foot. If you want a dune buggy ride, you'll have to drive south of Ludington to the Silver Lake State Park.

 

Can I take my dog backpacking with me?

No, the backcountry camps are No Pet Areas.

 

Where can I ride my bike in the park? May I ride my mountain bike on the trails?

Hiking trails are off limits to all bikes in the Lakeshore. You may ride on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and on all maintained roads. The Port Oneida area has a number of back roads that run along the farmsteads and near the Lake Michigan shore. You can ride the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which is a 7-mile hilly paved road through the park. There is a wide shoulder for bikes, but because it is a strenuous ride, you will want to drive the road first to be sure you want to ride it. Most main roads have wide paved shoulders for bikes and there is a nice paved bike path from Frankfort to Crystal Lake south of the park. Check our Biking web page for more information.

 

Can I rent a bicycle in the park?

There is no bike rental in the park, but there are some private rental places in Glen Arbor.

 

Can I rent canoes or kayaks?

There are private boat rentals on the Platte River near the Platte River Campground and on the Crystal River in Glen Arbor.

 

Can I camp on the beach?

No, camping is not permitted on the Lake Michigan beach. Camping on the mainland is permitted only in designated campgrounds.

 

Can I have a fire on the beach?

Yes, beach fires are permitted on the mainland beaches of Lake Michigan between the water's edge and the first dune. Please do not build fires on or near vegetation. You can help buy extinguishing your fire with water and cleaning up all debris before leaving. Do not bury fires - hidden embers can burn unsuspecting feet. Beach fires are not allowed on the Manitou Islands except in the fire ring on the beach in front of the Bay Campground on South Manitou Island.

 

Are there Ranger-led nature hikes?

There are several Ranger-led activities especially during the Summer months. Check the Schedule of Events web page for the schedule.

 

Can I ride my mountain bike on the trails?

No, biking is not permitted on hiking trails.

 

What is the schedule of topics for the campfire programs?

Check the Schedule of Events web page for the schedule, or ask at the visitor center or campground office.

 

Can I ride my Personal Watercraft (Jet Ski) in the Lakeshore?

No, PWCs are not allowed on inland lakes or in Lake Michigan along the Lakeshore within 1/4 mile of the shoreline.

 

Rules & Regulations

Can I bring my dog?

You can bring your pets to the Lakeshore, but there are some regulations regarding where they are permitted to be. Check our Pets web page for details.

 

Can I camp on the beach?

No, camping is not permitted on the Lake Michigan beach. Camping on the mainland is permitted only in designated campgrounds.

 

Can I have a fire on the beach?

Yes, beach fires are permitted on the mainland beaches of Lake Michigan between the water's edge and the first dune. Please do not build fires on or near vegetation. You can help buy extinguishing your fire with water and cleaning up all debris before leaving. Beach fires are not allowed on the Manitou Islands except for the fire ring on the beach in front of the Bay Campground on South Manitou Island.

 

Can I ride my horse on hiking trails?

Horses can be ridden only on the Alligator Hill trail.

 

Can we plan a wedding in the park?

Weddings can be held in the park. Visit our Weddings Policy page for more information.

Did You Know?

The Dune Climb

Where can you go to climb sand dunes over 200 feet high? The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also gives you a great view of Glen Lake. The hike to Lake Michigan is over 1.5 miles through the dunes from here. Take some water and wear good shoes! More...