Sleeping Bear Dunes Hiking Trails

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a hiker’s heaven: with miles of trails cutting through woods and over dunes—and ultimately leading to breathtaking views of Lake Michigan—the Northern Michigan hiking trails at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are an invaluable resource for those seeking to immerse themselves in Northern Michigan’s outdoors.  So take a hike on the Sleeping Bear Dunes hiking trails, already!

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Good Harbor Bay Trail — Lake Michigan Rd. near Good Harbor Beach

Opposite of the expansive Good Harbor Beach is Good Harbor Bay Trail: a 2.8-mile loop through shrubby dunes and into low-land forests.  Picnic areas are nearby; this trail is a shady escape during a sun-soaked beach day.  Trailhead is located off Lake Michigan Rd, accessed from County Road 669. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Pyramid Point Trail — Basch Rd. north of Port Oneida Historic Disctrict

An increasingly steep trail leads to an elevated Lake Michigan overlook, where you’ll get a chance to catch your breath and—given the view—pinch yourself.  The vista provides expansive views of the Manitou Islands and the North Manitou Shoal Light Station.  The trail to the overlook is .6 miles long, while other trails in the Pyramid Point network course a 2-mile circuit through relatively level meadows and forests. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Bay View Trail — Thorson Rd. northeast of Glen Arbor

8 miles of easy and intermediate trails are divided into numerous loops, meaning you can spend the entire afternoon or an hour on the Bay View Trail.  Walk .5 miles from the Thorson Rd trailhead to a vista that puts the “view” in Bay View, or park at the end of W Miller Rd for the quickest route to the overlook; other sights include numerous preserved farmsteads and an historic cemetery concealed within the woods.  Trails are quite hilly, but planning ahead will limit overexertion. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Alligator Hill — Stocking Rd. southwest of Glen Arbor, near DH Day Campground

No gators here, folks—just a hilly ridge the outline of which looks like the head of an alligator.  From the trailhead, an inclined 1.5-mile hike leads to a scenic overlook of the Manitou Islands and Lake Michigan, while other loops of differing lengths (advanced runs an extra 2.5 to the trailhead, intermediate another 2 to and from the Lake Michigan lookout) follow the hills’ contours.  An overlook of Glen Lake is accessible by a .8 mile trail from the Lake Michigan lookout.  Lots of loops, lots of choices, and equestrians will appreciate the trail’s being open to horses.  If nothing else, check out the ruined coal kilns near the trailhead. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail — Connects Dune Climb and Glen Arbor

This paved, multi-use trail currently runs 4.25 miles and connects the Dune Climb with Glen Arbor, but will connect Glen Arbor and Empire by 2014 (totaling 10 miles).  Passing through Glen Haven and DH Day Campground, the trail is a useful conduit for bikers or walkers; the trail winds through meadows, dunes and forests, getting travelers off the beaten path while remaining on a level, well-maintained trail.  Thanks goes out to the Friends of Sleeping Bear and their many trail ambassadors who manage the trail. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Sleeping Bear Point Trail — W. Sleeping Bear Dr., 5 minutes west of Glen Arbor

This 2.8-mile loop features sprawling views of the Manitou Islands, dune formations and Lake Michigan; the trail is mostly sand, so while it requires extra exertion, Sleeping Bear Point Trail is a more conservative hike than the trail linking the Dune Climb with Lake Michigan—and the ecology and vistas are essentially the same.  A spur runs directly to Lake Michigan; trailhead to water in 10 minutes.  The trailhead is near the US Coast Guard Maritime Museum. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Dune Climb Hiking Trail — Hunter Rd. off M22, connected to Dune Climb

You’ve reached the peak of the Dune Climb and want more, do you?  Continue to Lake Michigan via the Dunes Trail, a 3.5-mile round trip that takes devoted hikers across a sandy dunescape to the cool waters of the Big Lake.  A word of warning: the hilly, sandy terrain can be very difficult to traverse, and a round trip may take several hours if the temperatures are unfriendly.  Pack water and wear appropriate footwear—at the very least a pair of forgettable socks.  Be prepared for the most satisfying, restorative swim of your life: like jumping into an oasis. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Cottonwood Hiking TrailPierce Stocking Scenic Drive, M109

Accessible only through the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive—it’s stop number 4—Cottonwood is a relatively taxing 1.4-mile loop through dunes.  See the distant DH Day barn, Glen Lake, rolling dunescapes and the area’s diverse and specialized flora; this trail nearly intersects with the Dunes trail joining the Dune Climb with Lake Michigan. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Windy Moraine Trail — Welch Rd. 15 minutes south of Glen Arbor

This 1.5-mile loop takes the leg out of you—it’s a steady procession up to the scenic overlook of Glen Lake, and a rapid descent afterward.  The trail runs through meadows and thick forests and the moraine left by the glaciers that dredged Glen Lake.  An ideal trail for exercise, seclusion, and a good (but not spectacular) view.  The trailhead is near the intersection of M109 and Welch Rd. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Shauger Hill TrailPierce Stocking Scenic Drive, M109

For those looking to stretch their legs after the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Shauger Hill Trail—which starts at the Drive’s adjacent parking lot—is a 2.5-mile, narrow-pathed loop through hilly, quiet woods.  A 1.5 mile hike along the unpaved Shauger Hill Rd will have you swimming at North Bar Lake and Lake Michigan. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Empire Bluff Trail — Wilco Rd. south of Empire

This .75-mile trail ascends 400 feet above Lake Michigan for a spectacular view of the water—there and back takes under an hour, but it’s a steady uphill climb to the top of the bluff.  Park it on the trail’s boardwalk for a dramatic sunset, then toast the evening at Joe’s Friendly Tavern in Empire; the trailhead is located 1 mile south of Empire. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Platte Plains TrailM22, 10 minutes south of Empire

Access the Sleeping Bear Dunes’ most extensive trail system from one of four entrance points: from the Platte River Campground, Esch Rd Beach, a trailhead at Trail End Rd in the summer, or a trailhead off of M22 in the winter.  Several loops span nearly 15 miles of trail; terrain is flat, and wooded with pine and aspen forests, and the trails reach three scenic overlooks of Lake Michigan.  This trail must be used to access White Pine Backcountry Campground, which is located .5 miles from Lake Michigan.  An excellent trail for snowshoeing, given its forgiving topography. ↑ To Page Contents.

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Old Indian TrailM22, 20 minutes south of Empire

Located at the southern tip of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, the Old Indian Trail is divided into two loops: an easy one that traverses a flat, forest, and a more difficult one that carves through dunes.  Both loops converge at an accommodating spur that leads to Lake Michigan.  Both loops are about 2.3 miles long; the trailhead is located near the intersection of Sutter Rd and M22. ↑ To Page Contents.

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