Home » 2000 Cross Country Road Trip

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI

Thursday, July 13, 2000 - 4:00am by Lolo
160 miles and 3.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Because of our long driving the previous day, we got to Sleeping Bear Dunes early enough to make a day of it. The weather was great, so after checking in at the Platte River Campground, we immediately headed to Platte River Point for a swim in Lake Michigan.

Lorry and boys on bike rideLorry and boys on bike rideAs we drove along the Platte River, we noticed people in tubes happily floating along the gentle waters of the river. The kids looked on in envy. It was moments like this that made my obsessive over-planning all worthwhile. Not wanting to miss a tubing opportunity like we had last year on the Virgin River in Zion, we had packed inflatable tubes just on the chance that we would come across another tubing opportunity.

We parked at the end of the road, right at the point where the Platte River bends to the right for its final stretch before flowing into the lake. Perfect! The kids quickly blew up the tubes and ran up the river and then floated down past us again. It looked like so much fun that I had to join them. Herb, always the avid recorder of great family moments, stayed behind to video us. It really was great fun and the water was so warm.

After a few more runs up the river, we floated down and around the bend between the beach and a spit of sand that protruded out into the lake. When we hit the lake, we were shocked by the difference in water temperature--it was cold! We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around in the warmer waters right before the river hits the lake.

However, there was more to do at Sleeping Bear than just lounge, and it was staring us in the face. Further north along the shore were these massive dunes rising practically straight up from the lake. They were so high that in the afternoon haze they appeared more like mountains than sand dunes.

Knowing that we just had to climb them, we got in the RV and drove up to the northern end of the park to the Dune Climb parking lot. These were serious dunes. We started our trek up the dune hoping to make it all the way to Lake Michigan, about 1.8 miles away. Every time we thought we were at the top of the dune, it would flatten out for awhile and then rise up some more. The going was slow and the climb seemed endless. Finally, we made it to the top where we could look out over the aquamarine waters of Lake Michigan. Although we were tempted to continue the hike down to the lake, we were becoming concerned about a large thundercloud that was building up over the lake. A little rumbling in the distance convinced us to head back, rather than get caught up on top of a dune during a thunderstorm. This was the rewarding part--all down hill. The kids jumped and rolled and got sand in their hair, in their pockets, and God knows where else. It was great fun. We got back to the RV just as the rain began to fall.

The next morning our plan was to bicycle the 7-mile long Pierce Stocking Drive. We love biking together, but sometimes we forget that Tommy is only 8 years old and riding a Toys R Us bike that weighs more than he does, and this road was quite a challenging ride, even for me and Herb. There were several hills where the kids had to get off and walk their bikes, but they were really good sports about it. The views of the dunes and the lake along the way were really spectacular though. There was one particularly scenic stop on the ride where you could climb down a very steep dune to the shores of the lake. The climb back up looked really difficult. As the kids were already pretty tired from the biking, we decided to pass on it this time--maybe on a future visit. I always like a reason to come back to a place.

Before leaving Sleeping Bear, we stopped at the Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum in Glen Haven, where there were some interesting exhibits about the shipwrecks and life-saving efforts that occurred in the waters around Sleeping Bear.

Before this trip, we never even thought of Michigan as a travel destination, but we certainly will in the future.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore encompasses 35 miles of Lake Michigan's eastern shoreline, as well as North and South Manitou Islands. The main attractions here are the swimming beaches and the dunes which tower 460 feet above Lake Michigan.

The most popular way to visit the dunes is the very challenging but rewarding Dune Climb. There are three different trails of varying difficulty to choose from. The most difficult one is the 3.5 mile Dunes Trail which goes to Lake Michigan and back. Then there is the 2.8 mile Sleeping Bear Point Trail and the easier 1.8 mile Duneside Accessible Trail.

The Platte River, which runs through Sleeping Bear, is an ideal place for canoeing, tubing, and kayaking. The gentle currents along the section of the river that runs through the park make it a perfect trip for families. The river ends at a beautiful sandy beach on Lake Michigan.

Another favorite activity at the Lakeshore is the 7-mile-long Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which winds through dunes and woods, with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Bicycles are permitted but it is an extremely hilly and challenging ride.

The Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum in Glen Haven is an excellent place to learn about the history of the shipwrecks and life-saving efforts that occurred in the waters around Sleeping Bear. Each afternoon, the museum conducts a re-enactment of a life-saving service rescue.

The Platte River Campground in the park has 174 sites, 44 of which are reservable in advance.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore location map in "high definition"

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