Leave No Trace

Enjoy the natural beauty of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Take pictures, memories, and maybe a book or souvinier back home to remind you of this beautiful part of Michigan, but take care to leave the Park in at least as good condition as when you came. Here are a few tips that you can use to help make sure that your next visit will find the Park as you found it this time.


Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit backcountry and trails in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4-6.
  • When camping or backpacking, repackage food to minimize waste.
  • When hiking, stay on maintained trails and use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • When camping on the mainland and on South Manitou Island, camp in designated camp sites.
  • When backpacking on North Manitou Island, protect riparian areas by camping at least 300 feet from lakes and streams. Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails. Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • If you see litter, please pick it up and dispose of it properly. There are many waste recepticles on the mainland and South Manitou Island.
  • When camping and backpacking, pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • On North Manitou Island, deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • When backpacking, to wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 300 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.

    • When going to the islands special mats have been installed at the docks to the islands for you to wipe your feet to keep seeds from being transported to the islands.
    • When camping on the mainland, campfire wood should be handled carefully to stop the spread of Emerald Ash Borer. Either buy wood from local suppliers or if you bring your own wood, keep it in your vehicle until you are ready to burn it. Transport it directly into the fire, burn it completely, and do not brush dust out of your vehicle. For more information click the link to the Michigan Department of Agriculture web site.

  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches in camping areas.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Campfires are only permitted in fire rings at established camp sites on the mainland and South Manitou Island and in the Village campground on North Manitou Island. Camp fires are not permitted in other areas of North Manitou Island.
  • Beach fires are restricted to bare beach sand between the water's edge and the first dune and are not permitted on North or South Manitou Island. Be sure fires are completely doused before you leave.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times. Check our Pet Policy for details.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • When backpacking on North Manitou Island, camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises

Much of this information was obtained from Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics at www.lnt.org

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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