Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Michigan › Sleeping Bear Dunes
Added by Robin Pfeifer
Sleeping Bear dunes is a challenging hike over 450' tall sand dunes to sweeping views of Lake Michigan. This spot is spectacular for sunsets.
There are two approaches to conquering the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You can run to the top (the preferred method for those under the age of 10). Or, you can slowly trek up the side of this seemingly vertical wall of sand, breathing and sweating heavily, cursing each loose patch that knocks you back three feet for every one advanced.
Once you reach the top, stop for a moment to catch your breath and take in the beauty of the surrounding area. Then continue along Dunes Trail that extends all the way to the shore of Lake Michigan.
Allow 2-4 hours to complete the hike. It's short - 3.5 miles round-trip - but strenuous. You will be hiking up and down dunes over loose sand the entire time. Closed-toe shoes help protect your feet from blisters and the prickly plants lining the trail. Bring a lot of water, especially if you visit in the summer.
The effort is worth the reward once you reach the shoreline of Lake Michigan. You'll start seeing a sliver of blue as your descend the last major dune climb. The trail ends at a wooden staircase leading you down to the beach. The view from the top will take your breath away.
Walk a short distance down the rocky shoreline to claim your own private section of beach. Cool off by taking a dip into the lake's crystal clear water. Eat the picnic lunch you packed - you will have worked up quite the appetite by now.
Spend some time lounging in the sun, but allow plenty of time to get back before sunset. To find the best viewing spot, simply look for the crowd lining the top of the tallest dune. The local tradition is to applaud the sun as it dips into the water, properly thanking it for the day.
- Closed-toe shoes (old sneakers)
- Twice the amount of water you think you need
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Camping, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Its Worth the Burn!
The Dune Climb is definitely worth the experience, but your legs will hate you before you reach the top. Its a tough workout, but the views of Lake Michigan at the end of the trail are worth it. Plus, the views over Little Glen Lake and Alligator Hill to the east are definitely scenic in their own right!
More Adventures Nearby
Hike to Yondota Falls
Michigan / Yondota Falls Trailhead
Outside of Marenisco, MI, take Cty Rd 523 north of town. The trailhead is just north of the bridge over Presque Isle River, hidden away in the trees. We missed it our first pass over the bridge.
Hike to the Base of Agate Falls
Michigan / Agate Falls Parking Area
Outside of Agate, MI, this spot is a couple of miles west of the town on MI-28. With parking on the side of the road, follow the main path under the bridge to reach the wooden walkway to the overlook.