For scenic, serene and memorable cross-country skiing this winter, head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While the park’s popular hiking trails are not groomed, some are designated ski trails. And for a groomed trail experience — for both classic and skate skiing — look no further than the paved multi-use Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.


Meet Your Local Trail Groomer

Kerry Kelly and his fellow Friends of Sleeping Bear volunteers are keeping their fingers crossed for lots of snow this winter, particularly for the cross-country skiers who love nothing more than spending a cold, sun-filled day on the park’s groomed pathways.

Kelly, along with a crew of 25 volunteers, are dedicated to helping skiers embrace the elements on the Lakeshore’s groomed trails, which includes the 20-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The volunteers also groom pathways at Palmer Woods Preserve in partnership with the Leelanau Conservancy.

“We manage the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail all year long,” says Kelly. “Once a week, we’re blowing leaves off the trail, maintaining and repairing any erosion issues, and mowing along the edges. In the winter, we groom,” he says. “There are two people in the cab — we use a John Deere Gator — and we have a couple of hours to get to know each other as we’re traveling down the trail. It can kind of be a social thing.”

Photo by Liam Kaiser

Photo by Liam Kaiser

Grooming the south side of Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail — the section of trail that stretches from the village of Empire to Glen Arbor — typically takes about four hours, Kelly says.

On the north side of Glen Arbor, volunteers groom the trail past The Homestead and out to Port Oneida Road.

“We don’t go further north than that because the trail gets relatively close to M-22 in several places and snowplows throw up sand and salt that gets on the trail,” Kelly says.

After grooming up to Port Oneida Road, the groomers will go up to Palmer Woods Preserve, a Leelanau Conservancy property that’s home to several miles of trails. “Because it’s a higher elevation and a little bit further away from Lake Michigan, it tends to get more snow up there. We’re actually going to prioritize that area this year,” Kelly says.

Local Northern Michigan Trails to Explore

The four-mile section of Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail between Glen Arbor and the Dune Climb is the most popular, Kelly says. It is relatively flat with beautiful scenery. On this wider swath of trail, you’ll find two sets of groomed classic tracks, one on either side of the path, and corduroy snow in between.

You can also explore a loop trail through DH Day Campground as well as a loop just south of the Dune Climb. You will have to remove your skis to cross M-109 and, again, in Glen Haven.

Photo by Liam Kaiser

From the Dune Climb to the village of Empire, there’s one set of classic tracks rather than two. The same is true from Port Oneida to Glen Arbor.

Kelly likes skiing the section between Empire and the Dune Climb. “You get a nice glide on those if you have good, nice snow,” he says, adding the hills add a pleasant amount of challenge and fun.

The trail north of Glen Arbor, from Crystal View trailhead to Port Oneida Road, is open and groomed for skiing. The newest section of trail from Port Oneida Road to Bohemian Road (CR-669) is open for skiing but is not groomed.

Photo by Liam Kaiser

Photo by Liam Kaiser

Where to Park When Exploring Local Trails

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailhead parking is available on Forest Haven Road in Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, the Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking Drive and the corner of Voice Road and Bar Lake Road on the north end of Empire. The section of trail north of Glen Arbor has trailhead parking at Crystal View Trailhead, the Bay View Trailhead on Thoreson Road, and on Port Oneida Road.

Trail Updates, Ski & Snowshoe Rentals and Non-Groomed Trails

For ski, snowshoe and fat tire bike rentals, visit Crystal River Outfitters at

To get the latest trail-grooming updates, visit and sign up for the newsletter (scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on the green “newsletter” block) or send a note to Check the Friends of Sleeping Bear Facebook page for additional information and updates.

Photo by Liam Kaiser

Designated ski trails that are not groomed:
Old Indian Trail
Platte Plains
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
Windy Moraine
Alligator Hill
Bay View

Trail maps are available at the visitor center in Empire, or the park website at Please note that pets are not allowed on ski trails while snow is on the ground.

Photo(s) by Liam Kaiser