Lake Michigan Overlook

a wooden platform overlooks a sand dune descending to a large lake.
The overlooks offers views of Lake Michigan, dune plateau, and the Manitou Islands.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet - Vault/Composting


The Lake Michigan Overlook is accessed from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive


This overlook, 450 feet above Lake Michigan, provides a magnificent view of the shoreline. If the visibility is good, to the south you can see Empire Bluffs 4 mi. away and Platte Bay 9 mi. away, both within the 106 square miles area of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Still further south is Point Betsie, the farthest point of land, 15 miles away as the crow flies. To the west, it is 54 miles across the lake to Wisconsin. Lake Michigan is the largest lake completely within the United States and is the fourth largest fresh-water lake in the world. It has had a profound influence on the region, including the formation of the sand dunes.

The vast majority of visitors take in the view from atop the bluff and don't risk erosion, injury, and rescue fees by going down-not to mention the hour or two it can take to climb up!

Take your time, your camera, and a deep breath. Spend some time at the waysides. Learn about the legend and perhaps an Anishinaabek word or two, the migration of the mother bear, and treacherous seas.


A paved path through a section of maple-beech forest leads to the approach to Lake Michigan Overlook. This sandy trail winds upward and then downward through sand to a ramp offering a final descent to the overlook's observation deck. The deck is positioned atop a steep bluff that descends to the lake's shoreline 450 feet below. 


The bluff has been eroding at the rate of about a foot per year. Waves wear away the base the bluff and sand and rocks from above slide down to the beach. This process has gone on for many years, so we can infer that this hill once extended much further out into the lake. The shallow waters offshore also seem to indicate that a peninsula once extended from here about 2 miles out into the lake. This means that the site of this overlook used to be inland protected from the strong winds off the lake.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: July 21, 2024