This spring, we ventured North to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This past weekend started National Park Week, where, across the US, anyone can get into our beautiful National Parks for free! We really wanted to take advantage of an excuse to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes which are only 3
okay, who are we kidding-4 with a camper hours from home.
We stayed at Traverse City State Park as we found it was the closest campground to the dunes that was open this early in the season. Saturday morning we made a big breakfast of pancakes and fruit to get us going on our journey…After we finally pulled ourselves out of bed that is.
From there, we headed to Empire to start our day at the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center is full of helpful information to guide you on your journey through the park. It boasts lots of fun little souvenirs, toys, gifts, clothing, as well as maps, Michigan books, and more. You can view a short 15 minute film on the park history, and ask questions of rangers, or get your park pass here.
The park has many different options for hiking, biking, and driving. This guide provides great ideas for what to do if you have limited time in the park, or all day.
We started our day off with a fun bike ride on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This trail is a paved multi-use trail. It weaves through the National Lakeshore, and connects the towns of Empire and Glen Arbor. We started our ride at the Pierce Stocking Trailhead. From here, we went up the trail to the Dune Climb.
The ride to the dune climb is 2.6 miles. This is a very do-able ride for the little ones in terms of distance. Be aware though, that there are some good size hills. We had to make sure our kids had their hands on the breaks, and they did just fine going down them.
Coming back, however, we did have to walk our bikes up the same hills in a couple of spots. **Please be kind and don’t judge for no helmets! It’s early in the season and one was lost, one was broken. We’re replacing them!
Once we arrived at the hill climb, we soaked in some Vitamin D for a few moments, and just enjoyed those rays.
This didn’t last long though because- well Nolan. He’s 5 and a giant ball of energy. 30 seconds later, we were on our way up the hill.
The view from the top is pretty amazing…
We had great fun exploring here.
I highly reccomend bringing along water and snacks for this trip. By time you reach the top of the hill climb you’ll be tired and in need of a drink! We had a nice little snack before we headed back down the hill (much faster than going up!) And heading back on the trail to our car. Saturday was a great adventuring day.
Sunday we headed out to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive auto tour within the park. This is a 7.4 mile self guided tour. This is great if you aren’t up for much hiking or biking. You can drive your car throughout the park and there are great stops along the way. I’ve chosen to highlight a couple here.
Stop #1- Covered Bridge. There aren’t many of these left in Michigan and this one is beautiful.
Stop #3 on the tour includes an overlook with a panoramic view. You can see the DH Day Farm and historic barn in the distance.
And last but not least #9. Crazy beautiful stop #9. You cant tell just how steep this overlook is from photos.
There’s a sign at the top that says to use extreme caution if you go down the hill- it may take 2 hours to get back up. Rescues are sometimes performed here in bad weather or when people just get stuck. It’s crazy steep. And crazy beautiful.