Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes | Michigan


  • A challenging hike over 450′ tall sand dunes
  • Sweeping views of Lake Michigan
  • A variety of grasses, shrubs and wildflowers
  • Spectacular 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, poison ivy, 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. Hop in the car and enjoy the scenery along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Stop at the Lake Michigan Overlook to witness a Key West-style sunset. Simply park in the lot and follow the crowd. Grab a spot along the platform or a seat in the sand along the edge of a 400′ tall dune. Lively conversation quiets to a hush as the sun dips into the endless expanse of pale blue water. The local tradition is to applaud the sun shortly after it sets, thanking it for the day.



  • Closed-toe shoes (old sneakers)
  • Twice the amount of water you think you need
  • Food
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Camera

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