Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
A Masterpiece of Ice, Wind and Water


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,  tucked in the northwest corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, was voted Good Morning America's No. 1 Most Beautiful Places in America!

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Thousands of visitors each year enjoy the opportunity of experiencing the outdoors. Some will play at the Dune Climb and others will take in the scenery. Many will hike the trails to view wildflowers and wildlife. Of course there are those who enjoy a walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline and sunsets.

The sand and gravel bluffs on the Lake Michigan shore in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are 450 feet above the lake level providing outstanding views and sunsets. On a clear day, you can see South Manitou Island.

Dune Climb and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive


The Dune Climb is a great family attraction. The crest of the dune offers spectacular views of the surrounding area, and hiking trails to Lake Michigan are available. Bring plenty of water. The Dune Climb is open year round 24 hours a day. It is located a few miles north of Benzie County.

A scenic drive which offers outstanding and impressive views in the park, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is 7.4 miles long and has 12 points of interest.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - The drive is open lake April to mid November 9am to just after sunset. It is a self guided tour with picnic areas and scenic views of the dunes, forest and landscape. A park pass will be needed to enter. To get to Pierce Stocking Drive from Benzie follow M-22 north to M 109.

The overlook, one of the points of interest, is a memorable place to view the sunset over Lake Michigan.

Philip A. Hart Visitor Center

Sleeping Bear Point Trail - Photographer: Kerry Kelly

Located just east of M-22 on M-72, the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center was named after a U.S. Senator whose determination and work brought about the legislature to create the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, you will find displays of the Sleeping Bear natural history, fauna and flora, geology, and stories about people of the park. Brochures and maps are available along with a free slide presentation, “Dreams of the Sleeping Bear”. Staff at the Visitor’s Center is available to answer questions and help with any purchases of books and souvenirs you may want.

The Visitor Center is open all year except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

The Legend

Lake Michigan Bluffs (photographer Kerry Kelly)

Long ago, in the land that is now Wisconsin, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. They swam and swam, but soon the cubs tired and lagged far behind. Mother bear finally reached the opposite shore and climbed to the top of a bluff to watch and wait for her offspring. But the cubs drowned. Today “Sleeping Bear,” a solitary dune in Michigan overlooking Lake Michigan, marks the spot where mother bear waited. Her hapless cubs are the Manitou Islands.

Platte River and Platte River Point


Platte River Point is an area where Platte River flows into Lake Michigan.  A short stroll along the beach here will give you a panoramic view of the shoreline. Platte River Point is a great place to spend a day with the family, floating down the river into Lake Michigan. A picnic area, supported by Lake Township, provides tables, grills, and benches for your enjoyment.  Platte River Point is located in Benzie County at the end of Lake Michigan Drive.
Another way to arrive at Platte Point is by Canoe or kayak. Spend time floating down the Platte River in a completely natural setting.  Canoes or kayaks can be rented at one of Benzie’s local liveries.

Hiking Trails

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has about 100 miles of hiking trails with many marked for cross-country skiing in winter. Most trails are not groomed however the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail will be groomed in 2013. Many trails lead through forests and meadows with each trail having its own unique beauty and challenge. Other trails will take you through fields of wildflowers and other hardy vegetation. During winter months, guided snowshoe hikes with a ranger are offered on Saturdays and holidays. These hikes start at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center. The park has snowshoes available for use, or you can bring your own. Space on these hikes is limited, so please call ahead, 231-326-5134 ext. 328 and make a reservation. Maps and descriptions of all trails are found on the park’s website.

Biking Trails

View from a Bluff

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers bike tours at four different locations. The park invites you to ‘leave the car behind and explore Sleeping Bear Dunes national Lakeshore by bike’. More information and maps can be found on their website. By riding a bike, you can experience the natural beauty of the area. Bicycles are permitted only on maintained roads in the park and not on hiking trails. Pierce Stocking Drive is an enjoyable 7.4 mile ride as well. Please visit the park's website for more information.

Manitou Islands

Peterson Beach

North and South Manitou Islands offer an exciting daytrip full of exploration, history, and education about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Points to visit on South Manitou Island include the huge white cedar trees, the lighthouse, and historic sites. The Manitou Island Transit Company offers ferry service from Leland May to mid-October. On North Manitou Island, hikers and backpackers can explore 15,000 acres of wilderness. Ferry service from Leland is available May to mid-November.


Driving off park roads is prohibited. Always keep your pet on a leash. Pets are not allowed on the Manitou Islands, The Dune Climb, or swimming beaches. Pets are permitted on hiking trails April 1 through November 30. Beach Fires are restricted to bare beach sand between the water and the first dune and are not permitted on the Manitou Islands.  Do not collect ghost-forest wood or other wood on the dunes or disturb any plants or natural objects. You may pick mushrooms and fruit for personal use. Bicycles are not permitted off the roads.

Park passes can be purchases at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center.

Benzie County Visitors Bureau

P.O. Box 204 • Benzonia, MI 49616 • 800-882-5801

Copyright © 2014, Benzie Country Visitors Bureau. All Rights Reserved. Produced by Gaslight Media