Pets in the Park

You and your pets are welcome to enjoy the park together in select areas. This includes most hiking trails and specific stretches of beach.

There are rules and regulations for pets in the park that must be followed. These rules are in place to ensure the safety of visitors, pets, and wildlife. Violation of these rules and regulations may result in a ticket and fine.

Trained service animals of visitors with a disability are permitted throughout the Lakeshore. Service animals are required to follow the same guidelines for leashing, bagging pet waste, and respecting wildlife.

Beaches with Pet Restrictions

There are specific beaches where pets are not allowed. This is to protect the endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover that nest on the lakeshore.

Leashed pets are allowed on these beaches

The following beaches allow leashed pets unless indicated by signage at the trailhead or parking lot.

  • Esch Road north to the Lakeshore boundary line in Empire (closed to pets south of Esch Rd)
  • Southern end of North Bar Lake to the Lakeshore boundary line in Empire
  • Glen Haven Beach west to the Maritime Museum beach (pets are not allowed on the Maritime Museum grounds)
  • Glen Haven Beach east to the Lakeshore boundary in Glen Arbor.
  • From the Lakeshore boundary north of Glen Arbor around Pyramid Point all the way to Bohemian Road (CR 669)
  • From Good Harbor Trail (CR 651) to the northern Lakeshore boundary

Other No Pet Areas

  • The Dune Climb
  • Maritime Museum grounds
  • North Bar Lake
  • Platte Point Beach
  • White Pine backcountry campsites
  • All group campsites
  • North and South Manitou Island (all pets, including hunting dogs). Trained aid dogs accompanying the blind or hearing impaired are permitted.
  • Any other areas where "NO PETS" signs are posted after a determination by the Superintendent that a specific conflict exists requiring such a closure.

Why Close the Beaches to Pets?

Pets are an extreme hazard to the Lakeshore’s population of Great Lake Piping Plover. Pets disrupt normal piping plover breeding behavior. Their presence can directly and indirectly lead to a loss of eggs, chicks, or adults. Plovers consider pets to be predators.

They react to pets as they would to wild animals threatening their space. Plovers may abandon their nests or leave the area entirely in search of better breeding grounds.

The Great Lakes Piping Plover is federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. The population hit a low of just seventeen breeding pairs in 1986. In 2021, the population had rebounded to seventy-four breeding pairs.

Approximately half of the Great Lake Piping Plover population chooses to nest and raise their young in Sleeping Bear Dunes along the lakeshore.

Maps and signs, both online and posted throughout the park, show areas where leashed dogs are welcome. They also show areas completely closed to pets. There are multiple stretches of beach that are permanently closed to pets to protect Great Lakes Piping Plover.

There are some beaches that may be open to leashed pets during much of the year but closed in the spring and summer. Changes should be expected throughout the year as to whether a beach allows pets.

There is evidence showing the damage done by pets on beaches where piping plover breed. The following document gives more information on the importance of following pet guidelines.

Cats and Dogs and Birds at the Beach: A Deadly Combination (

Rules of Pet Behavior – the simple principles of BARK:

Bag pet waste: clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles 
Always on leash: pets must be on a leash (six feet in length max) and under control at all times 
Respect wildlife: prohibit your pets from interacting with wildlife or disturbing other visitors 
Know where you can go: know which areas are open and closed to pets, and obey posted signs

Additionally, pets may not be left unattended or tied to an object. Please do not allow your pet to make unreasonable noise. 

Suggestions for Pet Safety

  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in a hot car
  • Bring along extra water and a bowl when away from your car
  • Sand and asphalt can reach temperature hot enough to burn paw pads in the summer, even if the air temperate isn’t that hot. Be aware when hiking or walking in the park of the temperature beneath your feet
  • Your pet may not be able to negotiate the same terrain as you, so plan according to their needs
  • Bring along a dog specific first aid kit
  • Do not allow dogs to interact with wildlife in any manner

Become a BARK Ranger

Interested in helping keep the Great Lakes Piping Plover safe? Bring your dog along and become a BARK Ranger! Help educate other pet owners about the importance of following the principals of BARK at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Contact Matt Mohrman at e-mail us for more information about volunteering in the park and learn more about the program.

Winter Access Restrictions

Pets are prohibited on the following cross-country ski trails between December 1st and March 31st:

  • Old Indian Trail
  • Platte Plains Trail System (including Bass Lake, Otter Creek, and Lasso Loop Trails)
  • Windy Moraine Trail
  • Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Ski Trail (seasonal trail system)
  • Shauger Hill Trail
  • Alligator Hill Trail
  • Bay View Trail
  • Good Harbor Bay Trail
  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
  • Kettles Trail


Last updated: May 5, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

Contact Us