Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes and Its Surrounding Gems: A Traveler’s Guide

Nestled along the northeastern shores of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a breathtakingly beautiful destination that attracts visitors from all over the world.

With its towering sand dunes, crystal-clear waters, and lush forests, it’s a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, and anyone looking to escape into the beauty of the great outdoors.

Here’s how you can spend a day exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes and the charming neighboring cities that offer their own unique attractions.

Things to Do in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Dune Climbing:

The Dune Climb is a must-do, offering fun for the whole family. Climbing the dunes provides not only a great workout but also a rewarding view of the lake and surrounding area.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive:

This 7.4-mile drive offers stunning views of the dunes, Lake Michigan, and Glen Lake. Stop at the designated overlooks for photo opportunities and to soak in the vistas.

Hiking and Trails:

With over 100 miles of hiking trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a hiker’s paradise. The Empire Bluff Trail and the Pyramid Point Trail are particularly noteworthy for their breathtaking views.

Kayaking and Canoeing:

The crystal-clear waters of the lakes and rivers in the area offer perfect conditions for kayaking and canoeing. Explore the Platte River or paddle along the shoreline of Lake Michigan for a serene experience.

Visit the Maritime Museum:

Learn about the rich maritime history of the area, including stories of shipwrecks and the lives of the lighthouse keepers.

Neighboring Cities to Visit

Glen Arbor:

Just a stone’s throw from Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor is a charming small town with art galleries, boutique shops, and cozy cafes. It’s an ideal place to relax after a day of adventure in the dunes.

Traverse City:

Located about 30 miles northeast of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City is known for its vibrant culinary scene, wineries, and the annual Cherry Festival. It’s a great place to explore Michigan’s agricultural bounty and enjoy local cuisine.


This nearby village offers a quieter alternative, with beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and access to South Bar Lake. It’s a perfect spot for a peaceful evening by the water.


Known for its historic Fishtown, Leland offers unique shopping experiences, fresh seafood, and boat tours. It’s a quaint and picturesque fishing village worth exploring.

Tips for Travelers

Plan Ahead:

During peak season, Sleeping Bear Dunes and its surrounding areas can get crowded. Arrive early to enjoy the dunes with fewer people and book any tours or accommodations in advance.

Dress Appropriately:

The weather can change quickly along Lake Michigan. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for hiking, and bring layers in case it gets cool.

Respect Nature:

Stay on marked trails to protect the delicate ecosystem of the dunes. Remember to carry out what you carry in, keeping the area pristine for future visitors.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and its neighboring cities offer a rich blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and local charm.

Whether you’re scaling the dunes, exploring the trails, or enjoying the culinary and cultural offerings of the nearby towns, there’s something for every traveler in this stunning corner of Michigan.

Spend a day—or several—immersed in the wonders of this region, and take home memories that will last a lifetime.