Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail


The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT) will be a hard-surfaced, multi-use trail paralleling M-22 and M-109 for 27 miles through the Lakeshore. Nearly ten miles have been completed already. It provides a safe, non-motorized, multi-use transportation alternative connecting the Lakeshore’s main visitor destinations with Glen Arbor and Empire. The SBHT gives walkers, runners, wheelchair users, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, baby strollers, and rollerbladers a safe, enjoyable, and car-free way to access and explore the Lakeshore and neighboring communities.

The SBHT idea came from the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route (LSHR) Committee. The State of Michigan designated the LSHR in 2002 to promote measures which preserve and enhance the scenic, historical, and recreational characteristics of Michigan Highways 22, 109, and 204 as they traverse the rural countryside and unique villages of Leelanau County, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The LSHR Committee is made up of representatives from all 12 townships and villages along the route, Leelanau County, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the National Park Service, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, several private organizations, and local citizens. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments coordinates the Committee’s activities. Information and materials on the LSHR can be found The SBHT concept is supported by all members of the LSHR and is the group’s top priority.

Planning for the SBHT began in 2005 when the LSHR Committee suggested the concept to the National Park Service. The SBHT received repeated public reviews in the National Lakeshore’s recent General Management Plan process, and was included in the final Plan. In 2009, an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the SBHT was completed that demonstrated that the SBHT will have no significant impact on the environment.

The "Finding of No Significant Impact," or FONSI, was signed by the National Park Service Midwest Regional Director on August 27, 2009. When complete, the SBHT will extend from Manning Road on the Leelanau-Benzie County line to Good Harbor Beach at County Road 651 at the north end of the National Lakeshore. The trail will be entirely on public lands in the National Lakeshore or on county road or state highway rights-of-way. Because short distances of the SBHT extend outside of developed areas and special use zones, it has been designated for bicycle use by special regulation (36 CFR 7.80).

Because the planned route of the SBHT lies within developed areas and special use zones, the superintendent has designated it for bicycle use without promulgation of a special regulation. This required a written determination that this use is consistent with the protection of the park area's natural, scenic and aesthetic values, safety considerations and management objectives, and will not disturb wildlife or park resources (36 CFR 4.30(a)). Prior to officially opening the SBHT to bicycle traffic, the superintendent documented a determination. In order to minimize environmental impacts, however, there is potential for short distances of future segments of the SBHT to extend outside of developed areas and special use zones as the exact route is surveyed. Where routes depart from developed areas and special use zones, they must be designated for bicycle use by special regulation (36 CFR 4.30(b)). Because of this potential, the Lakeshore has proposed a special regulation, which was published in the Federal Register for public review through December 14, 2012.

Construction of the SBHT will occur in segments over a period of approximately ten years at a projected cost of $10 million. It is anticipated that 50% of the cost will be funded through federal and state grant sources and 50% raised philanthropically over the first five years of the project. Over $2.5 million in grant funding has already been secured.

To secure the philanthropic fundraising target of $5 million, Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails Inc. (TART) has entered a fundraising agreement with the National Park Service to provide the operational support, database management, funds collection and retention, and donor recognition. TART has developed a fundraising campaign entitled "Pathways to Sleeping Bear."

Last updated: December 21, 2017

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