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! e-mail us for more information.


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. Fee waivers do not change campground or bus ticket fees that a group may incur.

Stop by the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center

Dozens of interpretative exhibits in the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center showcase the natural and cultural history of the park. The 15-minute feature film "Dreams of the Sleeping Bear" plays at the visitor center theater throughout the day. Ranger-led programs and ranger-guided hikes are offered from the center.

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. Once you have explored these links, please e-mail us the following information. We cannot schedule your trip until we have all of the information below.

  1. Name of teacher(s) leading the field trip:
  2. Email address and phone number:
  3. Name of school:
  4. Grade level and number of students:
  5. Estimated number of chaperones:
  6. Preferred date:
  7. Two back-up dates:
  8. Desired arrival and departure times:
  9. Ranger-led or teacher-led:
  10. Field trip location(s) (if ranger-led, your options are Cottonwood Trail hike, Maritime Museum, Glen Haven, Glen Haven Days, Visitor Center.

Group Size

To provide the highest-quality visit, we can accommodate no more than 60 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 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 fifteen minute 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 e-mail us prior to your field trip.

Field Trip Sample Schedule

Arrival at visitor center in Empire/restrooms
Welcome by park ranger
15-minute film
Introduction to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the National Park Service

Visitor center exhibits scavenger hunt

Depart visitor center for trailhead

Arrive at trailhead
Ranger-led hike (2 groups: 15 students per group)

Hike ends
Travel to Dune Climb for lunch, optional onsite activities, and free time

Walk on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and activity

Trip wrap-up with a ranger


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.

Last updated: December 29, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


(231) 326-4700

Contact Us