Things To Do
If you have only a few hours to spend at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you will want to start at the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, MI to get oriented, get your maps and see the slide show. Ask a ranger for advice for things to do that match your interests. You will find amazing views of the dunes and Lake Michigan, great hiking, interesting local history, and of course some incredible sand dunes to climb.
Be a part of National Park Service tradition and attend a ranger-led program! Explore Sleeping Bear with a ranger on a hike or bike ride, at a campground or Junior Ranger program, and much more! Our seasonally available programs are FREE, cover a wide range of topics, and are fun for all ages.
For information about current programs, click here. Download information about our current ranger programs.
Kerry Kelly 2005
Take a drive on the 7-mile drive Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive loop through the Beech-Maple forest and sand dunes and enjoy spectacular views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan or take a dune hike along the Cottonwood Trail. You can also stop for a picnic at one of the picnic areas on the drive.
TERRY PHIPPS 2005
Everybody likes to climb the dunes-or watch the kids enjoy the sand. The Dune Climb offers plenty of pure, wind-blown sand for your climbing pleasure. There is a picnic area at the bottom and you can climb up the dunes for a view of Glen Lake. While the climb can be strenuous, the run back down to the picnic area is a blast! For those who have extra time and a lot of energy, take a hike through the dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. This may take as long as 3-4 hours, so take lots of water and remember you'll be walking up and down the dunes in loose sand all the way. Hiking through the dunes can be disorienting, so be sure to keep children within sight and if hiking with a group, and agree on a destination before leaving.
Kerry Kelly 2012
Take time to learn about the flora and fauna in the area by walking or biking on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This trail is wheelchair accessible. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail planned to span 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at County Road 651 to the Leelanau/Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. Currently the trail runs almost 16 miles between Empire and Port Oneida, connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Park your car and use your bike to get around! Trailheads are at Bar Lake Road, Pierce Stocking, Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Alligator Hill, Crystal River, Bay View, and Port Oneida.
Kerry Kelly 2005
Visit the Maritime Museum to learn about the history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and Great Lakes shipping. The museum is a U.S. Life-Saving Station that had been moved from Sleeping Bear Point to its present location near Glen Haven. A room on the second floor is outfitted as a Steamer Wheelhouse with a panoramic view of the Manitou Passage Shipping Channel. Walk through the boathouse next to the museum and see the life-saving equipment used during the early 1900's.
Terry Phipps 2005
Walk through Glen Haven, a lumbering village restored to the way it was around 1900. You can visit a Blacksmith Shop which is in operation from June to early October to see how iron is heated and forged into useful tools and parts. Then walk through the Cannery Boathouse to see the displays of some of the boats used on the Great Lakes. The Glen Haven General Store appears as it did in the 1920’s and offers typical merchandise and items related to the history of the area. The beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan are right there, so take time for a swim or walk along the beach.
Kerry Kelly 2005
If you will be spending a few days in the area consider a day trip to South Manitou Island where you can enjoy a picnic lunch by the ranger station, walk through the village and imagine what it would have been like to live here 100 years ago. Take a tour of the lighthouse. The view from the top provides an excellent panorama of the island and the mainland. Hike the trails to see some of the historic farmsteads and the old schoolhouse, or the wreck of the Francisco Morazan which is visible from the south end of the island.
See a list of Authorized Business Providers that offer trips, tours and expedition services within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (pdf file, 40 kb).