If you’re looking for a peaceful place to visit with your family with jaw-dropping natural views and tons of enjoyable activities such as camping, rafting, and just hiking across the beautiful dunes, then the Sleeping Bear Dunes is a place that you should definitely try.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was said to be the most beautiful place in America on ABC’s Good Morning America. It includes sandy beaches, bluffs over 450’ above Lake Michigan, green forests, clear lakes, and shifting dunes. This, coupled with the legend behind it and the annual entertaining events, make this place a popular tourist attraction for people all over the US and worldwide.
In this article, I present the various locations and the cool stuff you can do if you visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Read to the end if you want the answers to the frequently asked questions about this location.
You will find the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes in northwestern lower Michigan along the northeast shore of Lake Michigan. The area includes the South and North Manitou Islands.
The Story Behind The Sleeping Bear Dunes
The reason it’s called the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is because of a legend about a mother bear and her two cubs. The mother bear could climb onto a high bluff to watch and wait as her cubs climbed onto it. However, the cubs didn’t make it and drowned close to the shore.
In their remembrance, the Great Spirit created the two islands representing the cubs and dunes to represent the mother bear. So, you may want to take a minute to remember the mother bear and her cubs when you visit the national park.
Sites To Visit
Within the Sleeping Bear Dunes, there are several locations that you shouldn’t miss:
- Dune climb: This is an elevated area filled with sand that you can climb to reach the top and picnic while enjoying the sun. You can let your children play in the sand while you take a nice sunbathe that will make you feel like all your worries are melting away.
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive: If you’re traveling in your RV and want to witness beautiful sceneries with dunes, Lake Michigan, and Glen Lake, this is a scenic drive you must see. You can stop at any of the 12 scenic spots along the way to take amazing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore photos.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail: This paved trail is perfect for bicycle riding. This trail is about 22 miles from the Empire to Bohemia Road.
- Palmer Woods Trail: This is the perfect spot for mountain bikers. It’s the perfect place to take those lovely pictures to share.
- Pyramid Point: About 5 miles from the trailhead is the pyramid point. You will get the best Manitou Islands and Passage view at this spot. So, this is a point you should never miss for those photos that will keep people glued to your social media profiles.
- Crystal and Platte Rivers: These rivers are great sites for tubing or canoeing. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery by following the river streak through the lovely forest. It is a perfect place for families looking for a truly memorable time.
- Inspiration Point: This is the perfect spot to take your loved ones. The romantic atmosphere and a captivating view of Lake Glen, Alligator Hill, and North Manitou Island will surely provide the inspiration you need for the future.
Activities Never To Miss
If you don’t believe me when I say there are a million and one things to do at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, then you should keep reading.
Whether along the lakeshore, in the woods, at the Platte River Campground, or at the Manitou Islands, there are some outstanding camping sites where you can enjoy the enthralling views and have a memorable time. There are also some ideal spots for those who plan on RVing, such as the Indigo Bluffs RV Park & Resort.
One thing you might not have considered about the Sleeping Bear Dunes is the shopping. There are great shops along every street, and each has some amazing items that are truly one of a kind. From clothes, jewelry, and accessories to authentic furnishings, delicious local produce, and drinks, you can have everything you want in Leelanau County.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers some great quality food. This place has everything, whether it’s fine dining, hot dogs, ice cream, or something from the cafe. There are over 60 restaurants in addition to stands, cafes, and wineries, so there is no way you will go hungry while staying here.
Visit the Museums
If you enjoy history like me, then you should be packing your bags already and heading for the Sleeping Bear Dunes. There are several museums where you can appreciate the fine art or learn about the history of the first people of the area and the first European settlements.
Arts And Culture
I think the arts and cultural aspect is one of the more underrated features of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. This place has much to offer with the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Traverse City Film Festival, and National Writers Series. You will have great learning opportunities while experiencing the beautiful culture.
Explore The Manitou Islands
These Manitou Islands are just a short boat ride away. For all nature lovers, this is something you cannot afford to miss. These islands have some of the most breathtaking views, rich wildlife, birds, and great sites for hiking.
While the North Manitou island has a historic village, the South Manitou island is the site of the historic lighthouse and keepers’ quarters. The Manitou Passage has 16 shipwrecks and seven docks, all ready to be explored.
Hotels To Stay At
If you’re planning a long stay and want a mixture of camping and luxury hotel stays, there are many places near the Sleeping Bear Dunes you should consider. Luckily, numerous hotels near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offer a comfortable environment at reasonable rates.
Here are some of the best Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hotels you should try. All these hotels are:
- High in popularity and are booked most often
- Highly rated (above 8 out of 10) on credible sites
- Within 5 km from the Sleeping Bear Dunes
- Located in places with great views
- Offer great facilities such as a TV, refrigerator, WiFi access, and self-catering where needed
This place offers some great options for couples and families while being economical. If you plan to visit this place with your loved one, you may get a nice, cozy room with a fireplace, a refrigerator, and a king-sized bed. For families, there are rooms with a king-sized bed and a sitting area or two queen-sized beds.
Other facilities provided include a pool, biking, golfing, skiing, a spa, WiFi, dining, air conditioning, and more. Depending on the room and the season, prices may range from $83 to $268 per night.
Empire Lakeshore Inn
You will find the Empire Lakeshore Inn near the coast in Empire, Michigan. Being just 3 km from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this is an ideal spot to stay at. You get a comfortable atmosphere, wonderful scenery, great hospitality, and features such as WiFi access, a garden, a terrace, a flat-screen TV, a mini-refrigerator, and air conditioning.
Staying at the Empire Lakeshore Inn would cost around $100 to $150 per night.
The Homestead is a four-season resort just a mile from Lake Michigan. Within the resort, you can do many activities such as swimming in the pools, playing tennis or golf, skiing, snowboarding, or visiting the spa, the salon, or the fitness center.
Within the resort, you can choose where to stay, from small hotels, a lodge, a large inn, or vacation homes. This is one of the best places to stay near the Sleeping Sand Dunes. You can choose the package that suits you best and have an amazing time with your family.
Stony Brook Lodge
This is a Northwood-style lodge. With each room, you will get a king bed, a sofa bed, and facilities such as a kitchenette, pool, and laundry. You can also find an exercise room, a meeting facility, and a sauna at the lower level.
This spot is quite popular among tourists, with the beach nearby and the rooms offering great panoramic views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan, and the Crystal River Valley. I am willing to put my head on the block and say you won’t be disappointed if you choose it. Staying at the Stony Brook Lodge would range from $114 to $611 per night.
Should You Visit The Sleeping Bear Dunes Via An RV?
If you plan on going to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park via an RV, this place offers much. The area is accessible by road and has beautiful views to enjoy while visiting this Lakeshore.
Furthermore, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is an excellent spot for you since there are many RV stops where you can take a break and get immersed in the lovely atmosphere. So, if you plan on going via RV, the experience won’t disappoint you.
To sum things up, there are a lot of great places to visit within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, including the dune climb, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail, the Palmer Woods Trail, the Pyramid, and Inspirational points, and the Crystal and Platte rivers.
In addition to that, you can do many fun activities, such as shopping, camping, dining, or exploring the Manitou islands. You can have a memorable time with your family and loved ones at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. This is a place that should be on your bucket list for your next vacation.
1. What are the top attractions at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?
The top attractions at the Sleeping Bear Dunes are the Dune Climb which is an elevated sand-filled area; the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, where you can get tons of great pictures while enjoying the jaw-dropping views; the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail and the Palmer Woods Trail for those who love hiking and biking, the Pyramid and Inspirational points for some of the most spectacular scenic views, and the Crystal and Platte rivers where you can go rafting, tubing, or canoeing.
2. How can I find hotels near Sleeping Bear Dunes?
There are some great hotels near Sleeping Bear Dunes, some of which I mentioned above. You can find hotels by simply doing a Google search of hotels near the Sleeping Bear Dunes. You may visit booking.com, hotels.com, or Kayak.com to make a reservation.
You can also contact the hotel directly via a phone call for bookings, rates, and other inquiries. The contact information of each relevant hotel may be found on Google or the websites of each hotel.
3. What are some of the popular activities you can do at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes?
You can visit the top attractions in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. In addition, you can go shopping or have a meal at different dining establishments. You can visit the various museums or appreciate the arts and culture of the area. You can go canoeing at the Crystal and Platter Rivers or biking at the Palmer Woods Trail. Other activities include skiing, snowboarding, golfing, tennis, spa, and sauna.
4. Are any guided tours available at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park?
The Sleeping Bear Dunes Tours offer guided tours, including bus tours and Heritage tours, so that you do not miss out on anything that the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park has to offer.