The National Park Service strives to make Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as universally accessible as possible. Many areas in the Lakeshore are Wilderness and designated by Congress to remain a primitive area in many respects. Extra obstacles will be encountered because of the remote, wilderness nature of these areas.
If your questions concerning accessibility are unanswered after reading information in this section of our website, please contact us.
Also, learn about the The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Access Pass—or more simply, the Access Pass—which provides a wide range of discounts on activities and services when you visit federal lands. The pass is available at the Philip Hart Visitor Center in Empire and other locations where park passes are sold.
Physical and Mobility Needs
Philip A. Hart Visitor Center
The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire is a great place to start your visit and to find out more about the park's features and facilities. It has accessible parking, exhibits, an auditorium, and a bookstore. The restrooms and water fountain are also accessible. From the Visitor Center you can learn about accessible recreation throughout the park.
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive offers a 7.4 mile loop with beautiful views of Lake Michigan, the Glen Lakes, and the dunes, much of which can be appreciated through the vehicle windows. The twelve stops along the way allow for a leisurely pace.
Accessible parking and toilets are at four locations: the entrance trailer parking area, #2 Picnic Mountain, #9 Lake Michigan Overlook, and #11 North Bar Lake Overlook and picnic area.
Running water and flush toilets are accessible at #2 Picnic Mountain. A hard-surfaced picnic area with table and raised grill is also available.
The #3 Dunes Overlook has a ramped deck with two levels lined with benches. The stunning panorama of dunes and lake views may also be seen from the circle drive.
The #9 Lake Michigan Overlook and #10 Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook are not handicap accessible and require following a steep asphalt trail and boardwalk.
The #11 North Bar Lake Overlook picnic area is fairly flat with tables and raised grills located near accessible parking. Accessible vault toilets are provided, but there is no running water at this location.
The Dune Climb facilities include accessible restrooms with running water, picnic tables located under the trees, and drinking fountains. The Dune Center bookstore is also accessible.
Trails and Beaches
Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes has accessibility information about each beach and each official trail in the park on their web site, including trail maps showing degree of difficulty and photos of accessibility barriers.
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail spanning 20 miles from Bohemian Road to Voice Road in Empire. The trail connects to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Park your car and use your bike to get around! Trailheads are at Bar Lake Road, Pierce Stocking, Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Alligator Hill, Crystal River, Bay View, and Port Oneida. Because of steep grades, some portions of the trail are inaccessible.
The parking lot at Trails End Road boasts two short accessible trails: one to the Bass Lake Dock, and another travelling along the shoreline of Bass Lake.
Trailheads at these locations are equipped with accessible vault toilets and no running water: #1 Old Indian Trail, #2 Platte Plains Trail, #3 Empire Bluff Trail, #4 Windy Moraine Trail, #5 Shauger Hill Trail, #7 Dunes Trail, #9 Sleeping Bear Point Trail, #10 Alligator Hill Trail, #11 Bay View Trail, #12 Pyramid Point Trail, and #13 Good Harbor Bay Trail.
Sand Wheelchairs are available at the Maritime Museum boathouse and at the Cannery to enable handicapped individuals to enjoy the dunes and beaches. You must present a driver's license or similar identification. The chairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis; we don't take reservations.
Lake Michigan Beaches are often difficult to use because of deep loose sand. There is a hard-surfaced beach deck with benches at the Cannery Beach in Glen Haven.
D.H. Day Campground has one accessible campsite, on packed soil, with an accessible vault toilet adjacent. The site has an electric hook-up. Water spigots supply water. An RV dump station is located at the entrance to the campground. The Log Cabin shelter, amphitheater, campground office, and additional campground vault toilets are accessible via ramps. A boardwalk with a bench leads to the campground beach.
Platte River Campground has eight campsites which are wheelchair accessible: four are electric sites; two are non-electric; one is a walk-in non-electric site; and one is an electric group site. These sites have a hardened pad, a fire ring and a raised grill, and are located near accessible restrooms, showers and water. An RV dump station is located at the entrance to the camp ground. The Ranger Station offices and parking are accessible via a hard-surfaced flat concrete walkway. Platte River Campground Amphitheater is accessible by a separate ramped entrance. Benches have also been removed in aisles to allow for wheelchair access.
The Blacksmith Shop in Glen Haven Historic Village is a fully functioning shop and is accessible by a ramp built up to the front double doors. There is ample space inside the shop to see exhibits and watch the blacksmith and carpentry demonstrations from a safe distance. Benches are provided.
D.H. Day General Store in Glen Haven is accessible. Parking is provided in the front with a ramped concrete path to the entrance. The interior space includes both displays and reproduction sales items from the late 1920s and early 1930s for purchase. The first floor of the Ranger Station is also fully accessible and is in the same structure as the D.H. Day Store.
Restrooms in Glen Haven are ramped and accessible with running water and a diaper changing station. Beach dressing areas are included.
The Cannery Boat Museum is accessible. The adjoining picnic area has picnic tables and raised grills. While the parking area is sandy, it is next to the beach and provides a beautiful view of Sleeping Bear Bay and the Manitou Islands. There is a hard surfaced beach deck with benches. A sand wheelchair is available for use at the site.
Coast Guard Station Life-Saving Museum has accessible parking with hardened surfaces leading to the Boathouse exhibit. This is accessible by wheelchair, and a boardwalk leads from there to the beach. The entrance to the Station House requires stair climbing and is not wheelchair accessible. Benches facing the lake are located on the porch for those who can climb the stairs. A sand wheelchair is available for use at the site.
Platte River Area
Platte River Picnic Area is equipped with accessible parking, restrooms, picnic shelters, and a fish cleaning station, raised grills, and a hardened surface river walk. Some assistance may be necessary on the ramps to the river walk and to access boats on the river's edge.
Platte River Point beach and picnic area is equipped with accessible parking, restrooms with running water, accessible dressing rooms and raised charcoal grills.
Loon Lake has an accessible canoe/kayak launch system where boaters can board, launch and disembark from a watercraft safely and easily. The ADA-compliant floating dock system includes an accessible transfer system along with an accessible canoe/kayak launch system. Loon Lake also features a fully accessible picnic shelter with picnic tables and raised grill, and a comfort station with wheelchair accessible toilet.
Deafness or Hearing Loss
Assistive Listening Program
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has initiated a program aimed at improving the park's ability to provide information and interpretive services to members of its staff and the visiting public who have experienced some degree of hearing loss. To accomplish this, the park has installed a permanent Assistive Listening Device at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Information Desk. The park's 25 minute film, Water, Sand, and Sky, is fully close captioned.
For interpretive programs in the visitor center, or ranger-led walks out on the trail, portable wireless FM Assistive Listening Devices are also available.
Visitors are urged to request the amplification devices by calling the visitor center in advance of an interpretive program (231-326-4700 ext 5010).
The Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Center is proud to offer use of a UbiDuo direct communication text-to-text device to more easily communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing visitors. The UbiDuo allows for two people to communicate face to face through real-time digital text. This device lets visitors and staff communicate directly - no need to write back and forth, read lips, or use an interpreter.
The NPS app offers a world of content for mobile users on the go! Many of your questions can be easily answered by information found in the fully 508 compliant app. Information about a park site can also be downloaded for offline use, so you can reference this resource from anywhere!
Section 508 Compliance
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore strives for full compliance across all media we produce. The park website, social media, and the NPS app are all fully 508 compliant.
Blindness or Low Vision
The park brochure is available in both braille and audio described/text only versions.
The braille park brochure is available as a downloadable file for home printing on braille-compatible equipment. You may also request a braille copy to be sent to you by mail. Braille brochures are not typically available on-hand in the visitor center.
The Park Brochure Formats page contains information on accessing the brochure in alternative formats. This page also includes a full text-only version of the brochure, compatible with most screen readers.
Photo and Video
All park media makes an effort to be accessible to those with impaired vision. All images published to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National lakeshore official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages include alt text or image descriptions. The park website, social media, and the NPS app are all fully 508 compliant.
All videos on our Multimedia Presentation page are available with audio description. Likewise, the park's YouTube page contains a playlist that features all our audio described videos in one place.
The 25 minute park film, Water, Sand, and Sky, is available with audio description both online and in the visitor center. If viewing at the visitor center, simply ask at the front desk for an assistive listening device.
Platte River Campground features an exciting new exhibit designed to be fully accessible to those with vision impairments. This exhibit includes 3D tactile maps and exhibit objects. All signage is audio described, and can be accessed with a handheld audio pen.
Programs and Tours
All ranger programs strive to engage multiple senses and learning styles, and often include audio components and/or tactile objects.
Plain Writing Act
Sleeping Bear Dunes works to ensure that as much park media as possible complies with the Plain Writing Act. Written content is kept at or below an eighth grade reading level, and prioritizes plain language, so that it is accessible by all.
Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center Area
Films and Exhibits
The 25-minute narrated film, Water, Sand, and Sky, shares the stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity, and captivating history of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many exhibits in the center are tactile, including geology exibits, historic artifacts, and more.
Noises and Quiet Spaces
A PA system announces showings of the film and in the event of an emergency the fire alarm is quite loud. Benches outside the building can offer a respite from the often-busy facility.
Service animals are allowed in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
If needed, read a definition of service animal. An emotional support animal is not a qualified service animal. For information on animals that do not qualify as service animals, please see our information on pets in the park.
Anywhere that you wish to go in Sleeping Bear Dunes, your service animal may go, too. There are some unique aspects of visiting our wilderness areas to keep in mind, however.
Potable water is available at the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center, Platte River Campground, and D.H. Day Campground. While there are innumerable natural water sources (ponds, creeks, rivers, etc) throughout the park, be aware that water-born diseases like giardia could be present. Due to toxic algal blooms, North Bar Lake is not a safe water source for service animals.
Park trails are generally surfaced with compacted gravel or a mix of native soils and rocks - more detailed descriptions can be found on our mobility and physical accessibility page.
Every rest area and visitor center throughout the park has trash cans for disposing of animal waste; however, there are no plastic bags provided, so please remember to bring your own.
Service animals must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times. Other animal restrains, such as a guide dog harness with handle, are also acceptable.
The Disabled Traveler's Companion Website
A good place to look for the latest information on accessibility is the Disabled Traveler's Companion website. While not officially affiliated with the National Park Service, they have been working with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and other National Parks to provide valuable information to the disabled traveler. Their website contains information on photographs, campgrounds, and park attractions that may help in planning your visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Last updated: October 17, 2023