Whenever I visit Michigan, I am always impressed with how much of the lakeshore the state has been able to conserve for recreation and land management purposes. Our recent trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes was certainly no exception. This park is along a 35-mile stretch of the Lake Michigan lakeshore that is filled with fantastic views, beautiful paddles and some pretty fun hiking trails. With so much to do, this place can keep anyone busy.
On Saturday morning, we got out nice and early to explore as much of the park as possible. We started with the Heritage Trail, which is a paved biking trail that will eventually span the entire park. The trail ends at a nice historic village right along the lake, where you can see what some of this land was used for before the park’s designation in 1971. We then made it over to the Dune Climb trail, which may have been my favorite activity of the weekend. This was a 3-mile out and back trail that cut right through some of the biggest and most beautiful dunes in the park. It followed through some dune plateaus that were abundant with wildflowers, birds and scenery.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is most well known for the large bluffs right along the lake that create the beautiful cliffs seen on any travel guide for this area. Many of the trails in the park take you right up to the edge of these bluffs, where you can stand and overlook Lake Michigan. However, probably the most fantastic part of Sleeping Bear were the two rivers we kayaked. The Crystal and Platte rivers are completely clear and are fed through ground water, making them swift, cold and pristine. Both rivers wind through the landscape, making car shuttles short and easy. We took the Platte River all the way to the lake, where we found ourselves surrounded by dunes.
We ended our trip by heading south for a hike in the Arcadia Dunes Nature Preserve and for some mushroom hunting in the Nordhouse Wilderness (we didn’t find any). We had a great time adventuring around northern Michigan. Although Indiana Dunes and Warren Dunes are both pretty places, this park was certainly worth the drive and was completely different from any of the parks I’ve been to in the midwest.