Hiking Trails

 
Hiking trail winding through fall-colored trees.
Hiking trail through autumn-hued trees.

Each trail has its own unique beauty and challenges. Some have beautiful views from high vistas overlooking lakes, hills, or dunes. While others take you through fields of wildflowers with views of fields and lakes or forest in the background. Others take you through the sand dunes to explore the hardy vegetation and wildflowers that flourish in this harsh environment. The table below will give a brief description of each trail with a link to the trail map.











Once you have selected a trail, visit the maps page and type the trail name into the search box.

 

Trail

Round Trip

Description

Platte Plains Trail

3.5-14.7 mi


Watch for junctions.

There are multiple trailheads (Otter Creek: Esch Rd., Trails End Rd., off M-22 (winter only), & Platte River Campground).

Bass Lake Loop: 3.5 mi
Easy hike and ski - Winds around Bass and Deer Lakes.
Some sections follow a two-track road.

Otter Creek Loop: 4.6 mi
Easy hike and ski - Follows Otter Creek and Otter Lake. Flat, with pine-oak-aspen forests and open meadows.

Lasso Loop: 6.3 mi
Moderate hike, easy to advanced ski - Winds through pine-oak-aspen forests. Scenic overlooks of Lake Michigan. Several road crossings.

Empire Bluff Trail

1.5 mi


Moderate hike - Winds through a beech-maple forest to an overlook. Wildflowers and woodland plants are abundant. For your safety and to prevent erosion, please do not descend the bluff.

Trailhead: Wilco Rd. off M-22

Old Indian Trail

2.5 mi


Easy hike, easy to advanced ski - Two fairly flat loops begin in a mixed evergreen and hardwood
forest and wind through low dunes to the Lake Michigan shore.

Trailhead: off M-22, north of Sutter Rd.

Windy Moraine Trail

1. 5 mi


Moderate hike, advanced ski - A quiet trail with a view of Glen Lake from atop a hill. Trail leads through beech-maple forest and old farm fields.

Trailhead: Welch Rd. east of M-109

Shauger Hill Trail

2.4 mi


Moderate hike, advanced ski - Includes beech-maple forest, and steep hills and crosses the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive twice. Watch for traffic at the crosswalks. In winter, the Scenic Drive is closed to vehicles for use as a cross-country ski and snowshoe trail. Watch for snowmobiles where the trail crosses Shauger Hill Rd.

Trailhead: parking lot near Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive entrance, M-109

Cottonwood Trail

1.5 mi


Moderate - Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Leads onto the perched dunes through native grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers. Views from above the Dune Climb of D. H. Day farm and Glen Lake. Take water, sunscreen, hat, and shoes.

Trailhead: Stop #4 along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, M-109

Dunes Hiking Trail

3.5 mi


Strenuous - Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Travels over nine hills through the high dunes plateau to Lake Michigan. Blue-tipped posts mark the trail. It can be a hot, exhausting, three to four hour trip, punctuated only by a cool dip in Lake Michigan. Plan ahead. Take water, sunscreen, hat, shoes, and a snack.

Trailhead: the Dune Climb, M-109

Sleeping Bear Point Trail

2.8 mi


Strenuous - Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Leads onto the dunes, through a ghost forest, andoverlooks Lake Michigan. Blue-tipped posts mark the trail. For a shorter option, a spur leads to Sleeping Bear Point from where you can follow the beach back to the Maritime Museum and trailhead. Plan ahead. Take water, sunscreen, hat, shoes, and a snack.

Trailhead: end of SleepingBear Dunes Rd. off of M-209, west of Maritime Museum

Alligator Hill Trail

3 - 8 mi


All three loops lead through a beech-maple forest to a bench which overlooks Lake Michiganand the Manitou Islands. A 1.6 mile spur takes you along the ridge to the Glen Lake overlook.Only trail upon which horse use is allowed.

Trailhead: east of D. H. Day Campground, off Stocking Rd. near its intersection with Day Farm Rd.

Easy hike and ski loop: 3 mi, 4.6 mi with spur.

Moderate hike, intermediate ski loop: 4.7 mi, 6.3 mi with spur

Moderate hike, advanced ski loop: 4.6 mi, 6.2 mi with spur

Bay View Trail

2.4-7.5 mi


Provides views of Lake Michigan and the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. Several loops of different lengths and difficulties.

Trailhead: off Thoreson Rd. near M-22

Farm Loop: 2.4 mi
Easy hike and ski - Wanders through farms and fields and by an historic schoolhouse to Lookout Point.

Ridge Loop: 4 mi
Moderate hike, advanced ski - The low trail leads through fields and forest.The high trail follows the ridge for views of Lake Michigan.

Pyramid Point Trail

1.2 - 2.7 mi


Moderate - To the bluff and back is 1.2 miles. Climbing a steep hill, it provides an overlook ofLake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. For your safety and to prevent erosion, please do notdescend the bluff. The entire loop trail is 2.7 miles and follows a portion of Basch Rd.

Trailhead: off Basch Rd.; follow Port Oneida Rd. north from M-22.

Good Harbor Bay Trail

2.8 mi


Easy hike and ski - A flat loop trail through woods and wetlands.

Trailhead: off Lake Michigan Rd.; take CR 669 north from M-22; follow Lake Michigan Rd. east.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

4.25 mi


Easy hike, ski, and bike - Paved, multi-use trail connecting Dune Climb, Group Campground, Glen Haven, D. H. Day Campground, and Glen Arbor. Great for strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. Mostly forested.

Trailhead: Dune Climb, Glen Haven

Kettles Trail

3 mi


The first section of the trail is universally accessible and relatively easy. The rest of the trail is moderate hiking and advanced skiing. The trail has some significant slopes through kettle moraine terrain with steep hills, valleys, and ponds or bogs.

Trailhead: 2998-3252 W Baatz Rd, Empire, MI 49630

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Ski Trail 8 mi


The trail includes the Shauger Hill Hiking Trail and the unplowed Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It offers views of Lake Michigan and the dunes. For your safety, stay back from the edge of the steep bluff.
Trailhead: parking lot near Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive entrance, M-109

Pets are not allowed on this section of the trail between December 1 and March 31.

 

Regulations for Mainland Trails

  • A Park Pass is required for all trail use within the national lakeshore.
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, are permitted only on roads.
  • Snowmobiling is prohibited except on rights-of-way along state and county roads.
  • Collecting plants and other natural, historical, and archeological items is not permitted. Exception: Certain edible fruits and mushrooms may be collected in limited quantities for personal use.
  • Pets on trails must be kept on a 6-foot leash. Pets are prohibited on ski trails December 1 - March 31 and at the Dune Climb throughout the year. Click for more details on Pet Rules.
  • Glass is banned on all park beaches.
  • Fires are permitted only in campground and picnic area fireplaces and fire rings and on areas of bare beach sand between the water and the first dune.

Trail Safety Information

  • Choose a trail appropriate to your ability.
  • Travel with a companion and notify someone of your route and expected return time.
  • Deer rifle season is November 15-30. Other hunting seasons occur throughout the year. Bright-colored clothing is recommended during these times.
  • Stay off steep bluffs to avoid falls and dislodging rocks that can injure people below.
  • Snow avalanche or sand slide danger is present year-round on steep dunes and bluffs.
  • Be careful of your footing. Trails include uneven ground, exposed roots, etc. Wear sturdy hiking shoes.
  • Carry drinking water.
  • Stay on marked trails.
  • Poison ivy is common. Learn to recognize it. Remember: Leaflets three, let it be.
  • Be prepared for mosquitoes.
  • Skiers: be aware of changing snow conditions. Alternate freeze/thaw can turn gentle slopes into icy, advanced hills.
  • Darkness comes early in winter. Allow plenty of time to return to your vehicle before dark.
  • Dress for the weather. In winter carry extra clothing and emergency supplies.

In case of emergency, seek help at the nearest ranger station, campground office, visitor center, or call 911.

Trail maps are available in this section, at the visitor center, or at the trailhead. Park Pass is required for all trail use within the Lakeshore: Fee Information. There are also hiking trails on North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island.


Accessibility

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes has accessibility information about each official trail in the park on their web site. This information includes maps showing degree of difficulty and photos of accessibility barriers.

For visitors with limited mobility, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is offering FREE use of the electric Track Chair on the Bay View Trail. Visit the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes website to make reservations.


Trail Trekker Challenge


Do you think you can hike all of the trails in one year? Then check out the Trail Trekkers Challenge.

Last updated: December 8, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630

Phone:

231 326-4700

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