Three Must-Dos When Visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located on the west shore of Michigan, near the town of Empire. The area is great for new adventure travelers, as it includes camping sites, smaller hikes, and other activities in the area. This can be completed in 2 days, or drawn out to 4 days. 

Where to Stay:
D.H. Campground is a great option, but it’s not a reservable campground. If you want to stay here, get there around 5 am, before they open and wait in line. Note, there are no showers at the D.H. Campground. The D.H. Campground is located in Empire, Michigan and is on the shores of Lake Michigan and close to hiking trails.

Platte River Campground is another option that can be reserved on recreation.gov. This is where I stayed last Labor Day and it was a really great option.

The campsites are nicely spread out and there is a secret trail to Lake Michigan. We ended up going there both nights to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan and there was no one else there! Bring some firewood, make a nice little fire and put your feet in the water. It’s magical. Take the Railroad Grade Trail from any of the campground loops towards Lake Michigan. It’s around a 1.5-mile walk through the woods until you get to the lake.

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What to do:
Hike the Sand Dune Climb
This is NOT an easy walk…bring water and understand that there around 15 or so dunes before you even get to Lake Michigan. The trail starts at the parking lot with a huge sand dune that is very misleading…it seems to be once you get to the top, you are there! Not the case. This is a 5-mile roundtrip hike that will take 3-4 hours to complete.

  • Things to Bring: Daypack, snacks, and water. Also, wear either tennis shoes or your hiking boots.
  • What you Will See: Tons of sand dunes created by nature! There is also a really nice view of Lake Michigan at the end.
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Hike the Empire Bluff Hiking trail. 
This has the iconic view of Sleeping Bear and South Bar Lake. This is a short 1.5-mile roundtrip hike with a great view. People of all ages will be able to complete this trip and the views are stunning.

Rent a Canoe, Kayak or Tube
Float or kayak down the Platte River. Get there early, as the river fills up quickly. There are a number of places to rent from, but we ended up going with Honor Trading Post and chose an hour kayak ride. If we had more time, the 3-hour kayak trip looked amazing.   

Have you been to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park? Let us know about some additional adventure things to do while visiting!

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Because Adventure Feeds the Soul,

Amy K and the Hashtag 59 Team

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