Plan a Field Trip


Whether you plan your own trip entirely or would like to meet up with a ranger, a variety of opportunities are available to educational groups to learn about the natural resources and environment as well as cultural history of the area. Your limited time here will require you to plan the specific learning experiences your students will be exposed to while you are here.

Please be aware that ranger program schedules, facility hours of operation, and ranger availabilty change with the seasons.

Coming on your own? Reserve a teacher-led field trip kit and lead your students through hands-on, science-based activities at Esch or Good Harbor beaches. Explore the habitat of the endangered piping plover, learn about invasive mussels, conduct water quality tests, and leave the beach a little cleaner than you found it while also practicing your math skills. A ranger will work with you prior to your trip and provide you with curriculum-based pre-visit and post-visit activities as well as give you tips on how to plan and prepare for a successful day at the beach!


View 2023 Program Offerings

Programs are designed to be interactive and meet learning standards.

Scheduling a field trip

You must schedule your field trip at least two weeks in advance. Our calendar fills up fast, so please plan ahead. We cannot schedule your trip until we have your Education Program Request Form. Email the completed form to slbe_education (remove the space before @ when pasting into email). Please let us know the best time for a phone call to confirm the details of your visit.

Apply for an Entrance Fee Waiver

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore collects a park entrance fee, but education groups may apply for an Entrance Fee Waiver to have that fee waived. The Education Program Request Form also includes the application for a fee waiver.

Organized, educational groups of children who are less than 16 years of age may enter the park free of charge and do not need a fee waiver. (See section 10.1.1) However, the park requires a waiver application to account for the free entry of adult chaperones and to manage park resources. Adults in personal vehicles with an organized youth group visiting for the sole purpose of recreation are not exempt from the entrance fee.

Group Size

To provide the highest-quality visit, we can accommodate no more than 80 students for most ranger-led programs. If you have a larger group, we will ask you to split into smaller groups to reduce impact on trails and in consideration of other visitors. You may need to include some self-guided activities during your visit.


We are grateful for chaperones! They are an essential component of any field trip. Please use a guideline of one chaperone or faculty per 5 elementary school students; 10 high school students; 20 college students. Specific district, local or state policies and safety standards will be considered.. Please be sure to review our chaperone expectations before your visit. Their participation is imperative for a good visit for all of us. We expect that chaperones will guide their groups for the entire visit.

Late Arrivals

Because multiple education programs are scheduled in one day, we cannot accommodate groups that are more than thirty minutes late. If you are going to arrive late for your field trip, please call the visitor center and give them the name of your school, your cell phone number, and your expected arrival time. You can reach them at 231-326-4700, ext. 5010.

Special Needs

The National Park Service is committed to providing the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities, while also being consistent with our concurrent mandates for the preservation and protection of our resources. Hearing assist devices can be made available for your field trip with advance notice. Sand wheel chairs can also be made available for use during your field trip with advance notice. The park film is narrated and closed-captioned. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive are great options for staff and students with mobility considerations. We want you and your students to have the best experience possible during your visit. If you have any questions or requests, please email slbe_education (remove the space before @ when pasting into email) prior to your field trip.

Service Learning Projects

Give your students a first-hand experience in protecting and improving the resources of the National Lakeshore. Projects vary according to the time of year and class learning objectives. In the past, classes have assisted rangers in removing invasive plants, removing litter from beaches, transplanting native dunegrass, restoring historic buildings, and much more. These projects are appropriate for grades four and up. Call the Lakeshore 231-326-4729 to select a project that will work for your class.

Sample Itineraries

10 am
Arrival at Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
(8500 Stocking Dr., Empire, MI 49630)
10:10 am Arrive at Picnic Mountain and disembark with students.
Have bus continue through drive and to the Dune Climb parking lot.
(6748 Dune Hwy (M-109), Glen Arbor, MI 49636).
10:15 am Students use the bathroom and begin ranger-led activities, including a .75 mile hike
11:15 am Arrive at halfway point of the Cottonwood Trail near benches Rangers will conclude to program here and teachers will lead students down the Dune Climb to the bus.

Last updated: June 30, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

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