RICH, ME. — There’s almost no end to the possible adventures you can experience at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, whether it’s your first visit or your umpteenth visit to this Michigan gem.
However, if you need a little help putting together your next trip, park officials have compiled a list of tips to help you plan ahead, especially during the busy summer season (and 2022 is shaping up to be another particularly busy year) .
The list includes ideas on where to go to avoid crowds, how to stay safe in the park’s special landscape, what to know about bringing your dog to the park (and why it’s important), and others intelligent suggestions to ensure a smooth holiday.
Read on for the park’s top picks, check out the official list on the National Park Service website, and find our ultimate guide to Sleeping Bear here.
Come early or late to the most popular spots: Peak visiting times can result in crowded parking lots in the park’s most popular locations. So if you’re going to the Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, Empire Bluff Trail, or Pyramid Point Trail, the park staff recommend getting off before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to get your To have adventures when it’s quieter. (Bonus: If you’re visiting during summer’s dog days, the temperatures will be more bearable then, too.)
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Visit the Port Oneida Farms Heritage Center. Port Oneida, a cluster of historic homesteads set in beautiful, idyllic landscapes, is a lesser-known spot in the park that’s well worth a visit. Park staff recommend entering Charles and Hattie Olsen’s farmhouse to learn about the Native American settlers and pioneers who settled in the area around the turn of the century.
Use the National Park Service app: Yes, there really is an app for that. Before your visit, download the National Park Service mobile app and choose offline access for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This gives you access to self-guided tours and maps even if you don’t have cell phone signal (which can happen in many places in the park).
Stay safe during your adventures. Many visitors underestimate the potential dangers of the dune environment: heat exhaustion from lack of shade and scorching hot sand, currents in Lake Michigan, and the like. To give people a better idea of what to expect, the park created this short three-minute video on preparing to visit the lakefront and dune climb and encourages visitors to watch it before they arrive.
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Keep your pets safe and happy too. Pets can be some of our best adventure friends, but they also tend to cause trouble in certain places — including certain Sleeping Bear beaches, where federally endangered Great Lakes plovers nest every summer. To protect plovers and ensure your pet has a great vacation, too, be sure to read the park’s pet and safety policies before you travel.
Be aware of ticks. As ticks continue to spread throughout Michigan, it’s important to practice tick safety and awareness to protect yourself from the diseases they can carry, such as: B.Lyme. A few tips to stay safe: Stay on trails, stay away from tall grasses, shrubs and tree leaves, check your clothing, gear, body and pets for ticks at the end of the day, and try to shower as soon as you return to your accommodation. Visit the park’s tick page for more information
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Remember that “half the park is after dark.” With its sweeping shorelines and unobstructed sky views, Sleeping Bear Dunes offers some great spots for stargazing. See planets, constellations, the Milky Way, meteor showers and maybe even a glimpse of the Northern Lights. For more details on Sleeping Bear’s night sky programming, click here.
Get off the beaten path. Sleeping Bear Dunes is home to more than 100 miles of hiking trails—and while many visitors have their favorites, it’s also fun to explore the ones you’ve never tried before. Some of the lesser-known trails in the park include the Bay View Trail, the Old Indian Trail, and Shauger Hill.
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Check out other National Park Service websites. There are five National Park Service parks in Michigan, as well as 42 National Historic Landmarks, a dozen National Natural Landmarks and nearly 2,000 entries on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are going to Sleeping Bear, why not extend the trip and visit another NPS site? One possibility: The North Country National Scenic Trail winds through eight northern states, including Michigan, and there’s a section on the northwestern Lower Peninsula not far from Sleeping Bear. (See the Midwest National Parks page for a full NPS listing of everything this area has to offer.)
Take part in a ranger-led event. After a two-year Covid-19 hiatus, the ranger-led program at Sleeping Bear is back and anyone can participate (with a park pass, of course). Look for pop-up programs throughout the summer, check the online calendar before your visit, visit the park’s visitor center in Empire, or chat with a park ranger at the mobile visitor center or green tent.
Learn more and find updates at https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm
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