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Be prepared. Plan like a Park Ranger. Do you know what you need to hike in the dunes? Are you aware of rip currents in Lake Michigan?
Everybody likes to climb the dunes-or watch the kids enjoy the sand. The Dune Climb offers plenty of pure, wind-blown sand for your climbing pleasure. There is a picnic area at the bottom and you can climb up the dunes for a view of Glen Lake. While the climb can be strenuous, the run back down to the picnic area is a blast! The Dune Climb is located just about 5 miles north of Empire on M-109, you can see it on the west side of the road. The Dune Center, located at the base of the Dune Climb, offers modern restrooms and a bookstore.
For those who have extra time and a lot of energy, take a hike through the dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. This may take as long as 3-4 hours, so take lots of water and remember you'll be walking up and down the dunes in loose sand all the way. Hiking through the dunes can be disorienting, so be sure to keep children within sight and if hiking with a group, and agree on a destination before leaving.
If you decide not to climb the dunes, then spend a little time exploring the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail which leaves from the base of the dune at the north end of the Dune Climb.
Climbing to the top of the Dune Climb is strenuous but rewarding, so be sure to evaluate your physical abilities before you start. The good thing about the Dune Climb is that if you get tired before you get to the top, you can just come back down to the picnic area. Gravity is on your side on the return. Once you get to the top and decide to make the hike to Lake Michigan, consider that you will be climbing and descending several steep dunes before you get to the lake, and you have to repeat the process to get back. The whole trip is about 3.5 miles and may take 3-4 hours depending on your condition and the weather.
If you are going to hike in the Dunes, there are a few things you should do to make your trip more enjoyable.