Thanks to a crew of dedicated volunteers, you can ski, snowshoe or bike the scenic Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail all winter long.

While the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail can be enjoyed year-round, winter is an especially magical time to glide through towering snow-covered trees while soaking in views of the dunes and surrounding national lakeshore. The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes make that magic possible.

The maintenance and grooming of the trail are managed each year by the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes to accommodate classic cross-country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking between Glen Arbor and Empire. The crew of 20 volunteers grooms the trail between Forest Haven Road in Glen Arbor to the corner of Voice and Bar Lake roads just north of Empire, for a total distance of 10 miles. (The trail north of Glen Arbor, from Crystal View Trailhead to Port Oneida Road, is not groomed, but is open for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.)

If all goes perfectly, it takes about six hours for the team of volunteers to groom the entire trail from Glen Arbor to Empire. The highest prioritized section is between Glen Haven and Glen Arbor, with a loop through the DH Day Campground—this area typically sees the most winter use. The next section groomed is from Glen Haven to the Dune Climb. The trail is fully groomed from the Dune Climb to Empire when there are enough volunteers and the weather and temperature are ideal.

For more information and a map of the trail, visit the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail website. Condition updates throughout the winter can be found on the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes website.

Fat Bike Etiquette

  • Don’t ride on the SBHT if conditions are too soft. If you’re leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you shouldn’t ride your bike on the trail.
  • Tires must be 3.7 inches or bigger.
  • Tire pressure must be under 8 psi.
  • Do not ride on classic cross-country ski tracks.
  • Bikes yield to skiers.
  • Stay to the right side of the trail (not in the classic tracks) at all times.
  • Give skate skiers a wide berth.
  • Be an ambassador for the sport—educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules and support grooming!

Find this article and many others in the December 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe to get Traverse delivered to your door all year round.