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A Guide to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Glen Arbor Michigan

Updated on January 2, 2017
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Chris enjoys photographing the places he visits. He shares these photos as travel articles and also mixes them with creative writing.

This article is full of photographs of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and describes many things a visitor can do while in the area. A map gives details about some of the best places to venture while visiting. Lodging and local restaurant information is also provided.

View of Lake Michigan, South Manitou Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline from the Empire Bluff Trail Overlook.
View of Lake Michigan, South Manitou Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline from the Empire Bluff Trail Overlook. | Source

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was authorized by an act of the United States Congress on October 21, 1970. Located on the northwest shoreline of the lower peninsula of Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes covers 71,000 acres and includes a 35 mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline as well as North and South Manitou Islands. The following Michigan map identifies the names and locations of a few of my favorite places in the park.

Locating the Dunes on a Michigan Map

Michigan looks like a hand, including thumb and little finger.  Sleeping Bear Dunes is on the western shoreline of the Little Finger.
Michigan looks like a hand, including thumb and little finger. Sleeping Bear Dunes is on the western shoreline of the Little Finger. | Source

Nearby Traverse City, Michigan

While the park itself may seem remote, the city of Traverse City is only a half hour drive from most places in the park. Traverse City is a vibrant city featuring many festivals and activities throughout the year.

Points of Interest

show route and directions
A markerSleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors' Center 9922 w front st empire mi -
9922 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630, USA
get directions

The Visitors' Center has exhibits, maps and information about the National Lakeshore.

B markerGlen Arbor, Michigan -
Glen Arbor, MI, USA
get directions

The village of Glen Arbor is surrounded by the National Lakeshore and is a center of activity for visitors. (Photo album included later in article).

C markerSouth and North Manitou Islands, Michigan -
South Manitou Island, Glen Arbor, MI, USA
get directions

Ferry service for the Manitou Islands originates at Fishtown in Leland, Michigan. Go to http://www.manitoutransit.com/ for details.

D markerLeland, Michigan -
Leland, MI, USA
get directions

While Leland is not within the National Lakeshore property, ferry service to the Lakeshore's Manitou Islands originates at Leland's historic Fishtown.

E markerpyramid point glen arbor, michigan -
Pyramid Point, Cleveland, MI 49664, USA
get directions

Pyramid Point is a natural overlook of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. It rises 250 feet above the Lake and is a popular place for photography.

F markerGood Harbor Bay -
Good Harbor Bay, Michigan, USA
get directions

Miles of beautiful beaches and the fresh water of Lake Michigan.

G markerSleeping Bear Bay -
Sleeping Bear Bay, Michigan, USA
get directions

Miles of beautiful beaches and the fresh water of Lake Michigan.

H markerGlen Haven, Michigan -
Glen Haven, Empire, MI 49630, USA
get directions

Glen Haven is an historic village built around logging, shipping and the nearby Coast Guard Station.

I markerDune Climb, Michigan -
Dune Climb and begining of Heritage Bike Trail, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, USA
get directions

Climb to the top of the dunes and experience the magnificent views in all directions. The Heritage Bike Trail starts here as well.

J markerPierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Empire, Michigan -
Pierce Stocking Scenic Dr, Empire, MI 49630, USA
get directions

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a 7.4 mile, one way, paved drive through forest & dune covered glacial moraines with scenic overlooks and picnic a

Views of Sleeping Bear

Click thumbnail to view full-size
D.H. Day Farm and Lake MichiganThe Empire Bluffs from Empire Beach looking south.  The reason these two look like, well, deer caught in the headlights, is that as I was taking this shot, two deer bow hunters dressed in camouflage walked by on the way to  their hunting spot.  Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dune shorelineDoe and two fawns at Empire Bluff TrailheadA view of the lighthouse on South Manitou, seven miles west  in Lake MichiganThe Historic D. H. Day Farm as seen from the top of the Dune Climb.  The buildings were built in the 1880s and are still privately owned.Forests and fresh waterAs wind blows across the dunes, the dune grass spins making these designs in the sand.  View from the top of the Sleeping Bear DunesDune grass prevents wind erosion of the dunesDunes, Lake Michigan and South Manitou IslandThese trees are probably twice as tall as they appear in the photo because the sand has covered them as they continue to grow. Shadows stretch under the late afternoon sunDunes and Lake MichiganDunes and Lake MichiganDunes and Lake Michigan.  Two deer are standing in the bottom left of the photoLake Michigan from the Lake Michigan Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  Lake Michigan OverlookLake Michigan Overlook.  It is 400 feet from the top of the overlook.  These people struggle to the top after an easy, and fun, trip down.  If you ever try this, allow 45 minutes for the climb to the top.The westward facing slope of the Overlook.The color of the dunes changes as the sun sets.A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.
D.H. Day Farm and Lake Michigan
D.H. Day Farm and Lake Michigan | Source
The Empire Bluffs from Empire Beach looking south.
The Empire Bluffs from Empire Beach looking south. | Source
The reason these two look like, well, deer caught in the headlights, is that as I was taking this shot, two deer bow hunters dressed in camouflage walked by on the way to  their hunting spot.
The reason these two look like, well, deer caught in the headlights, is that as I was taking this shot, two deer bow hunters dressed in camouflage walked by on the way to their hunting spot. | Source
Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dune shoreline
Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dune shoreline | Source
Doe and two fawns at Empire Bluff Trailhead
Doe and two fawns at Empire Bluff Trailhead | Source
A view of the lighthouse on South Manitou, seven miles west  in Lake Michigan
A view of the lighthouse on South Manitou, seven miles west in Lake Michigan | Source
The Historic D. H. Day Farm as seen from the top of the Dune Climb.  The buildings were built in the 1880s and are still privately owned.
The Historic D. H. Day Farm as seen from the top of the Dune Climb. The buildings were built in the 1880s and are still privately owned. | Source
Forests and fresh water
Forests and fresh water | Source
As wind blows across the dunes, the dune grass spins making these designs in the sand.
As wind blows across the dunes, the dune grass spins making these designs in the sand. | Source
View from the top of the Sleeping Bear Dunes
View from the top of the Sleeping Bear Dunes | Source
Dune grass prevents wind erosion of the dunes
Dune grass prevents wind erosion of the dunes | Source
Dunes, Lake Michigan and South Manitou Island
Dunes, Lake Michigan and South Manitou Island | Source
These trees are probably twice as tall as they appear in the photo because the sand has covered them as they continue to grow.
These trees are probably twice as tall as they appear in the photo because the sand has covered them as they continue to grow. | Source
Shadows stretch under the late afternoon sun
Shadows stretch under the late afternoon sun | Source
Dunes and Lake Michigan
Dunes and Lake Michigan | Source
Dunes and Lake Michigan
Dunes and Lake Michigan | Source
Dunes and Lake Michigan.  Two deer are standing in the bottom left of the photo
Dunes and Lake Michigan. Two deer are standing in the bottom left of the photo | Source
Lake Michigan from the Lake Michigan Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Lake Michigan from the Lake Michigan Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. | Source
Lake Michigan Overlook
Lake Michigan Overlook | Source
Lake Michigan Overlook.  It is 400 feet from the top of the overlook.  These people struggle to the top after an easy, and fun, trip down.  If you ever try this, allow 45 minutes for the climb to the top.
Lake Michigan Overlook. It is 400 feet from the top of the overlook. These people struggle to the top after an easy, and fun, trip down. If you ever try this, allow 45 minutes for the climb to the top. | Source
The westward facing slope of the Overlook.
The westward facing slope of the Overlook. | Source
The color of the dunes changes as the sun sets.
The color of the dunes changes as the sun sets. | Source
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook. | Source
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook. | Source
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook.
A golden sunset seen from Lake Michigan Overlook. | Source

Glen Lake and Inspiration Point

This is a view of Glen Lake from Inspiration Point Overlook. In the distance is North Manitou Island. On the narrow strip of land in the middle is the village of Glen Arbor surrounded by National Lakeshore property. Inspiration Point is a great place to take your significant other for a little romantic atmosphere.

Glen Lake, and North Manitou Island
Glen Lake, and North Manitou Island | Source

Video by Kenneth Snyder and unifiedphoto.com

The "Dune Climb" Between Little Glen Lake and Lake Michigan

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Dune Climb from the bottom.  Looks easy huh?  See you at the top.  The Dune Climb is on Highway 109 between Glen Haven and Empire.The Dune Climb, from the top, where kids of all ages can play in the sun and sand.
The Dune Climb from the bottom.  Looks easy huh?  See you at the top.  The Dune Climb is on Highway 109 between Glen Haven and Empire.
The Dune Climb from the bottom. Looks easy huh? See you at the top. The Dune Climb is on Highway 109 between Glen Haven and Empire. | Source
The Dune Climb, from the top, where kids of all ages can play in the sun and sand.
The Dune Climb, from the top, where kids of all ages can play in the sun and sand. | Source

The Dune Climb and a Sand Dune Science Lesson

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park/Lakeshore Dune Climb, located at the west end of Little Glen Lake on highway 109, is a popular place for families. My son's first "climb" here was when he was just a few days old. I carried him up in a front pack. The kids can run to the top and back down again while Mom and Dad either struggle to the top or wait at a picnic table at the bottom, sipping a soft drink. A Park store at this location can supply the beverages.

A one and a half mile hike across the dunes (after the climb of course) will offer the reward of a refreshing dip in Lake Michigan before the hike back. When I was doing a lot of running, I once ran across the dunes and back. I got a lot of strange looks and probably a few comments after I passed. Be sure to wear sun screen and take plenty of water if you take on this challenge.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes is actually a perched dune, which means it sits on top of hills, called moraines, which were left behind by glaciers. The dunes are moving. As the wind blows off Lake Michigan, more and more sand is deposited on the dunes. In addition, the wind is slowly moving the dunes toward and into nearby Little Glen Lake which at its current deepest is 12 feet. It used to be over 100 feet deep.

The Farms of the National Lakeshore

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View of the "Mother Bear and Her Twins"

The Native American legend says that the dunes were once a sleeping mother bear and her two cubs.
The Native American legend says that the dunes were once a sleeping mother bear and her two cubs. | Source

The Manitou Islands and The Native American Story of Their Origin

The scenery from on top of the dunes is breath taking, especially at sunset. Locals and visitors will go out and just sit in the sand as the sun sinks below the horizon. Binoculars will aid in viewing the distant North and South Manitou Islands. My sons spent five days camping and hiking on both Islands and had a great time, although it did rain quite a bit. It was fine with them though. They just sat on the covered porch of one of the restored buildings and played cards. The ferry will also transport canoes and kayaks that can be used in Lake Michigan, on Florence Lake on South Manitou and on Lake Manitou on the North Island.

The story of the dunes and the islands has been passed down by the Chippewa Indians in this story which appears on the National Parks website:

“Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tired and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear”.

The Manitou Islands can be visited by taking the Manitou Island Transit ferry from Leland, Michigan. See their web site for details. Day hikes and overnight camping are just two of the company's offerings. Some activities on the island are back packing, camping, visiting the lighthouse (South Manitou) and other historic buildings which are being restored.

The Port Oneida Rural Historic District and the Port Oneida Fair

Port Oneida is the largest and most complete historic agricultural landscape in public ownership in the U.S. Every August, the Port Oneida Fair is held on six historic sites in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The sites are located about 4 miles north of Glen Arbor on M22. This is another great family event that is getting better each year. They have demonstrations of farm life during the pioneering of the area., including timber framing for barn restoration, horse drawn hay balers, hand crafts and a lot more.

Video of Port Oneida by Tim Courlas and voice over by Brian Michael Block

The Village of Glen Arbor

The village of Glen Arbor, Michigan sits squarely in the middle of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park/Lakeshore. Here are some photos of Glen Arbor and nearby Burdickville showing restaurants, B&Bs, and shopping, as well as a link to the village website. My favorite restaurants are Boonedocks, for their fish fry special and Funistrada for Italian Cuisine, which is a bit pricey, but well worth it.

Two Superb Local Festivals

This is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you come during one of our local festivals. I am including links for Traverse City's National Cherry Festival and The Traverse City Film Festival. The Greater Traverse City area is known as The Cherry Capitol of the World. The Film Festival was founded and is still directed by film maker, Michael Moore who lives in the area. Both events are exceptional.

Photos of the Villages of Glen Arbor and Nearby Burdickville

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Homestead Resort on the east side of Glen Arbor http://www.thehomesteadresort.com/Crystal River Outfitters http://crystalriveroutfitters.com/Western Avenue Bar and Grill http://www.tcgrills.com/western-avenue-grillLake Affect clothing, gifts, toys www.lakeaffect.net       Leelanau Coffee Roasting Co. http://www.leelanaucoffee.com/http://bbqandbrewfest.com/Arts Tavern http://artsglenarbor.com/http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/michigan-glen-arbor-glenarborbedbreakfastandcottages.htmlBoondocks Restaurant and Bar http://glenarborsun.com/boondocks/Funistrada Italian Restaurant in Burdickville.  http://www.trattoria-funistrada.com/contact_us_funistrada.htmlLa Becasse French Country Restaurant-Burdickville http://www.restaurantlabecasse.com/
The Homestead Resort on the east side of Glen Arbor http://www.thehomesteadresort.com/
The Homestead Resort on the east side of Glen Arbor http://www.thehomesteadresort.com/ | Source
Crystal River Outfitters http://crystalriveroutfitters.com/
Crystal River Outfitters http://crystalriveroutfitters.com/ | Source
Western Avenue Bar and Grill http://www.tcgrills.com/western-avenue-grill
Western Avenue Bar and Grill http://www.tcgrills.com/western-avenue-grill | Source
Lake Affect clothing, gifts, toys www.lakeaffect.net
Lake Affect clothing, gifts, toys www.lakeaffect.net | Source
Leelanau Coffee Roasting Co. http://www.leelanaucoffee.com/
Leelanau Coffee Roasting Co. http://www.leelanaucoffee.com/ | Source
http://bbqandbrewfest.com/
http://bbqandbrewfest.com/ | Source
Arts Tavern http://artsglenarbor.com/
Arts Tavern http://artsglenarbor.com/ | Source
Source
http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/michigan-glen-arbor-glenarborbedbreakfastandcottages.html
http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/michigan-glen-arbor-glenarborbedbreakfastandcottages.html | Source
Boondocks Restaurant and Bar http://glenarborsun.com/boondocks/
Boondocks Restaurant and Bar http://glenarborsun.com/boondocks/ | Source
Funistrada Italian Restaurant in Burdickville.  http://www.trattoria-funistrada.com/contact_us_funistrada.html
Funistrada Italian Restaurant in Burdickville. http://www.trattoria-funistrada.com/contact_us_funistrada.html | Source
La Becasse French Country Restaurant-Burdickville http://www.restaurantlabecasse.com/
La Becasse French Country Restaurant-Burdickville http://www.restaurantlabecasse.com/ | Source

Campgrounds

D.H. Day Campground-231-334-4634

Indigo Bluffs Campground-231-326-5050

Lake Leelanau RV Park-231-256-7236

Leelanau Pines Campground-231-228-5742

Leelanau State Park-231-386-5422

Wild Cherry Resort-231-271-5550

Platte River Campground-231-325-5881

Sleepy Bear Campground-(231) 326-5285

Sleeping Bear Visitor's Center
Sleeping Bear Visitor's Center | Source

Contact Information

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center:

Address: Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau
12 Wood Ridge Road
Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Telephone: 1.888.334.8499

email: info@sleepingbeardunes.com

Website: http://www.sleepingbeardunes.com/index.php

I Hope You've Enjoyed This Tour

That's It. And it's all yours as a part of the National Park system of our great country. Thank you for taking the time to go on this little tour of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I am excited to share it with you and I hope you have enjoyed reading and browsing through the photos.

If you ever visit, leave me a comment. I'd love to give you some tips on my favorite places in the Park. The rest is information that should be helpful for anyone visiting the area. We look forward to your visit.

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      I left your comment hanging for a while. I appreciate your comments about the pics and the work. As far as the festival is concerned, there are people on both sides of anything, such as the Cherry Festival, for example. Some people in the area like the film festival, some don't. I'm searching for your point.

    • Daddy Paul profile image

      Daddy Paul 23 months ago from Michigan

      Nice pics and nice work. I have no use for the film festival. A lot of people in the area agree with me.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Tyler,, if you have any questions or need anything during your visit, let me know. My sons are in Maple City, which is in the center of Leelanau County. Glad you found the article.

    • profile image

      Tyler 2 years ago

      Woohoo! I'm in the car on my way there now

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      ezloanlookup, thanks for stopping by and reading my article. Michigan is a wonderful state. I'm glad you have had the opportunity to enjoy it.

    • ezloanlookup profile image

      ezloanlookup 4 years ago

      We love michigan! I know people hate on detroit, controversially and rightfully do, but the rest of the state is amazing

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      kathi, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. I've just finished reading and commenting on two of your very fine hubs as well. I've been a rock hound and fossil hunter since I was a child in Indiana. I also visited your website and am going to take a stab at some of the "Mystery fossils." It is nice to meet you.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Your lovely hub insights me to pay a visit, who knows, maybe this summer. I live only a few hours to the south and it's been years since I was there. The story of Sleeping Bear Dunes has really romanticism the area. I especially just remember that massive dune. Beautiful photos and quality hub. Kathi :O)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      James, thank you for reading and for the comments. Little Glen is directly in the path of the dunes and will someday disappear, as will all of the homes on the lake. A person can still catch nice perch there though.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you very much for this fascinating Hub. I enjoyed the journey very much. I am amazed that "nearby Little Glen Lake which at its current deepest is 12 feet. It used to be over 100 feet deep."

      Well done! Excellent article. Beautiful places.

    • Photoshark317 profile image

      Leroy Brown 5 years ago from Lafayette Orgon

      The pictures were good. My stuff is under Photoshark317. I've just started my blog. I'm still kind of hacking my way through it

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Photoshark, thanks for reading my hub and commenting. I moved here in 83 and so much has changed at Sleeping Bear since then. Right now they are putting in a bike path that will make much more of the Park accessible to more people. With a screen name like Photoshark I am sure you would love to photograph Sleeping Bear again. I've come a long way with my new camera, but still quite amateurish.

    • Photoshark317 profile image

      Leroy Brown 5 years ago from Lafayette Orgon

      Sleeping Bear is beautiful. I haven't been there since the early 80's. My other favorite is Warren State Park

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Hello swflorida. Nice to meet a TC native here. Thanks for reading the hub and you must get back up here to visit. It is a great summer. The weather is good for the beach, but not for growing things. Enjoy Florida. I may get down there this winter.

    • swflorida profile image

      swflorida 5 years ago from Sarasota, FL

      Hi Chris, What a great hub. My husband and I are both from Traverse City and now live in Florida (and no, it suits us and we don't miss seasons at all..lol). It is a beautiful town, with such a variety of ways to enjoy the beautiful area. We haven't been able to get back there to visit in awhile (sorry family!), and sorry we missed the recent Cherry Festival : ( Sleeping Bear Dunes is a must, and there are other wonderful year round activities to enjoy. Great Hub!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      I would like to hear your comments about my hub so that I can improve next time I try something along these lines. This was definitely outside my comfort zone in terms of what I normally write about in my hubs. Any comments, positive or negative are welcome.

      Chris

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Thanks nmdonders, Photography is a work in progress for me, but I had good views to work with. All this is within 5 miles of my house, so I am very fortunate.

    • nmdonders profile image

      nmdonders 5 years ago

      Beautiful. Stunning photos. I would love to live in a little barn like that :) What a backyard!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing. IF you were wrong, who'd care. that is how beautiful this is.