Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan:Insane Michigan Road Trip
Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Guide by Travel-Mi.com
Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan (Insane Travel Guide) | By Sherry Trautman | Traveling Michigan | Updated: March 16, 2023
off this INSANE Michigan Road Trip near Arcadia so you can get your first killer views of Lake Michigan and Sleeping
Bear Dunes - that's why we're here, right? Let's go!
Continuing on famous M-22, we'll explore famous lighthouses, dig our toes in warm sandy beaches, hike amazing vistas and photograph sweeping dunes while winding our way to our grand finale, Pierce Stocking Drive.
Voted Best Scenic Drive in America, M-22 Will Be Our Route As We Explore Frankfort, Pt. Betsie Lighthouse, Empire, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pierce Stocking Drive and Lots of Adventures Along the Way.
Home to exhilarating adventures, new discoveries, vibrant cities and natural wonders, Michigan is a hidden gem. It's inspiring vistas, soaring dunes and photographic marvels are unrivaled.
Thanks for Picking Our Michigan Visitor Guide!
Chris and Sherry of Traveling Michigan
To guarantee the most epic Michigan road trip, Chris and I logged A LOT of hours "researching" this Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan trip just for you - from kayaking down sparkling rivers to licking melty ice cream cones to watching sunsets on the beach, we did it.
And sometimes, just to be certain, we did it twice - like sipping one more glass of Michigan wine or tackled one more epic sandcastle...just for you. You're welcome. ;)
Michigan Road Trip Planning Notes (Know Before You Go)
Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan
Time: We recommend
at least two full days to explore the sites but if you like to fully engage
with biking, beach going, kayaking, shopping, sight-seeing, eating, dune
climbing and exploring, you can easily spend 4 days on this Michigan Road Trip through Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Total Mileage: About 50 miles depending on the stops
Park Pass: If you
are parking at any beaches, climbing, parking or exploring within Sleeping Bear Dunes
National Park you will need a National Park pass. This pass allows access to all areas within
the park including its parking lots and roadside parking.
A vehicle park
pass for Sleeping Bear Dunes is $25 for a weekly pass-daily passes are not
offered. You will need this pass on your
vehicle’s windshield for Pierce Stocking Trail and any adventures with Sleeping
Where to Buy Them: If you are
following our guide, you can purchase a pass at Riverside Canoes or at the
entrance to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Visitor
Centers may sell them also.
will need reservations for camping and Platte River Kayaking at Riverside
Canoes. See our hotel recommendations for Frankfort, Empire and Glen Arbor. Plan ahead for a stress-free trip!
What to Bring On This Road Trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan
- National Park Pass if you have one
- Cash for parking, snacks, rentals, etc. (good to have at least $100 in small bills just in case)
- Water Shoes
- Sunglasses and Sun Hat
- Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer (Pit Toilets)
- Trash Bag
- Snacks and Drinks
- Walking and Hiking Shoes
- Bikes/Repair Kits/Bike Lock
- More Packing Tips
Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Interactive Map
Remember to use the interactive map to help navigate!
We created this Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Interactive Map to help you find your specific stops and aid in planning your trip.
Helpful Map Tips:
- Click on the plus and minus in the left corner to zoom in or out of the map.
- Click on the icons for more info, addresses and photos of the stops.
- Click on the map to drag and move it to view surrounding areas.
- In the Header, click on the rectangle in the upper left of the map to see a menu of all of our stops. Click on anything that looks interesting to see where it is on the map. To hide the menu, click the rectangle in the header.
- In the Header, click on the "square" icon in the upper right side to expand the map for better viewing.
Are you ready? Let's GO! Be sure to use the map above to reference all our stops!
Point Offers Pristine Overlooks of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes
Inspiration Point Location: M-22, Arcadia (see map)
Inspiration Point is THE hot spot for photographers and sight-seers seeking thrilling vantage points that promises to rouse the artist, poet or adventurer inside you.
Let’s get your pulse pounding by blasting up a few stairs for a killer view of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan. Trust us, it’s worth it (I think I can hear the angels singing!).
If you are unable to climb stairs, don’t worry, the view is magnificent near the parking area.
Restrooms: port-a-john (pit toilet). You might need to bring toilet tissue and hand sanitizer with you, just sayin'.
Route To Frankfort: Continue north on Scenic Highway M22 toward Frankfort, Michigan.
Distance To Frankfort: Approximately 10 miles
Visit Frankfort Michigan
Frankfort. By Travel-Mi.com
Street in Frankfort is home to flower lined streets, quaint shops and bobbing
moored boats. Take some time to
experience the shops and grab a bite to eat.
Wander the paved walkways near the marina and relax for a moment on a
bench under a shade tree while enjoying the warm breezes and stunning views.
Frankfort Michigan is home to dunes, lighthouse, beach, Betsie trail system, mineral springs and so much more!
Where to Stay in Frankfort, Michigan
Betsie Lighthouse, One of the Most Famous Lighthouses in Michigan
Remember to use the Interactive Map!
3701 Pointe Betsie
Road, Frankfort, MI
the summer, this lighthouse is very crowded and vehicles will be parked along
the road for a half mile. We highly
recommend getting here first thing in the morning (I mean, EARLY) if you want
to avoid crowds, take photos or park to the lighthouse.
However, if you have a motor home, you will
want to park alongside the road away from the lighthouse as turning around with
traffic would be very difficult.
Plan to spend about an hour here as the views are just gorgeous. Wander the beach, check out the breakwater and maybe take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty around you.
Breathe in, relax your face, appreciate where you are right now and just be in the moment.
Here's More About Point Betsie Lighthouse and Touring the Tower.
Route to Platte River Kayaking and Tubing: Continue north on M-22 (N. Scenic Highway). Check out the scenic lakes and the Sleeping Bear Dunes Welcome sign along the way!
Distance to Platte River Kayaking and Tubing: 8.7 miles
Scenic Lake and Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan Sign!
M-22, North of Crystal Lake. By Travel-Mi.com
Remember to use the Sleeping Bear Dune Michigan Interactive Map!
On M-22, north of Crystal Lake is this lovely scenic lake and the iconic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sign! Pull over and snap a couple pics or selfies!! See the interactive Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan map at the beginning of this post for exact locations.
5042 N. Scenic Highway,
Even if you
aren’t interesting in kayaking, you MUST stop at Riverside Canoes to check out
the view from the bridge (and grab some ice cream from the store). I absolutely love love love it here.
striped umbrellas, bright kayaks and sparkling river are jaw dropping beautiful, especially on a sunny summer day.
the gift shop/grocery store to grab a sandwich, snacks or drinks for the road. You
can also meander along the river on the opposite side of the kayak launch
Park Pass: If you
are parking for the afternoon you will need a National Park pass which can be
purchased at Riverside Canoes. This pass allows access to all areas within the
park including its parking lots and roadside parking. You don’t need a pass to
park for a few minutes. The park passes
for Sleeping Bear Dunes are $25 for a weekly pass-daily passes are not
offered. You will need this pass for Pierce
Stocking Drive and any adventures with Sleeping Bear Dunes.
We recommend grabbing snacks, water or lunch here before proceeding to Pierce Stocking Drive as there are no restaurants there.
Parking: Across the street for short term parking. There is a lower parking lot behind the store and you will be given further instructions if you plan to go out on the river.
Bathrooms and Food: Located inside the store.
Route to Empire Bluff Trail: Continue north on M22 (N. Scenic Highway) until you reach Wilco Road. Turn left on Wilco Road and continue to the trailhead parking.
Distance to Empire, MI: 19 miles
Empire Bluff Trail,
Honor, MI (see map)
distance is 1.5 miles and is hilly terrain.
The trail leads to a high bluff offering a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.
Route: Continue north on Wilco Road into the
town of Empire. Wilco Rd turns into S. Lake Street. Turn left onto Niagara
Street and then turn right onto Lake Michigan Drive to the Lighthouse.
Bonus Stop: Visit the Philip A. Hart Visitors
Center for more information, maps, ideas, questions and restrooms located at
9922 W. Front Street, Empire, MI.
Grab Our Complete Guide To Empire Bluff Trail!
Great Lakes Piping Plovers Tours!
Great Lakes Piping Plovers Tours! May-July. Sleeping Bear Tour Company. First and only guided opportunity in Michigan to view Great Lakes Piping Plovers, a federally protected endangered species. 2 hour tour in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Tour the Charles and Hattie Olsen Farmhouse and Barn
Port Oneida Farms Heritage Center in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to the Charles and Hattie Olsen Farmhouse and barn. Learn about the historic life of the pioneers in the region as you explore the scenic grounds, home and perennial gardens. Learn about the Native American and pioneer settlers that settled in Port Oneida and the Manitou Islands in the 1800’s – early 1900’s. See the original pantry, hardwood floors and woodwork. Located on the M-22 Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route and the Bayview Trail 2 miles north of Glen Arbor.
Manning Memorial Lighthouse
Remember to use the Interactive Map!
Lake Michigan Drive,
The tower is
closed but the lighthouse is stunning to view.
Pierce Stocking Drive: Proceed east on Niagara Drive. Turn left onto M-22 (S. Leelanau
Highway). Turn left onto 109 to Pierce
Pierce Stocking Drive: About 3.5 miles
Stocking Scenic Drive
Scenic Drive, Empire, MI
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must-do activity when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This incredibly scenic 7.4 mile drive loops through the Beech-Maple forest and sand dunes with spectacular overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Lake Michigan. Dune hikes are amazing along the Cottonwood Trail.
- Make sure you have food, drinks, etc
before embarking on your drive as there are no restaurants in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There is food in nearby communities. Make sure you have everything you need before
entering the drive.
- Most roads in the park are county
and state roads and are open to RVs or travel trailers. The Pierce Stocking
Scenic Drive has some steep hills and tight curves. For that reason, there is a
parking area at the entrance of the Scenic Drive for you to drop off your
travel trailer before taking the drive. You can pick it up on the way out.
Plus parking can be limited.
- Visitors Center: Philip Hart Visitor
Center: 9922 Front Street, Empire MI.
- National Park Pass: The park passes for Sleeping Bear Dunes are $25 for a weekly pass-daily
passes are not offered. You will need
this pass for Pierce Stocking Drive and any adventures with Sleeping Bear
Dunes. This pass allows access to all areas within the park including its
parking lots and roadside parking. You don’t need a pass to park for a few minutes.
Time Allotment: 2-3 hours depending on how long you spend at each stop and
if you hike.
The observation deck at the Lake Michigan Overlook is about 450 feet above the lake level and is one of my favorite overlooks. The view is breathtaking!
As you can see, the angle to the lake is very steep. You can descend down the bluff to the lake, but it is VERY difficult going back up. We only recommend this if you are very physically fit because if you can't make it back up, the cost for the park to bring you up is exorbitant.
Climbing also causes erosion of the bluff face.
This is a view of Glen Lake from the Glen Lake Overlook stop on the Scenic Drive. If you look closely, you can see M-22 separate Big and Little Glen Lake.
Restrooms: Pit toilets. Bring toilet tissue and hand sanitizer.
If you haven’t had enough of the dunes, check out the Dune Climb located on state route M-109. The address is: 6900 South Dune Highway, Empire, MI.
Where to Stay in Empire
Where to Stay in Glen Arbor
Pin This Post About Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan!
We hope you are inspired to take a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan! We know you will have an absolute blast, so pack your bags!
Insane Sleeping Bear Dunes Road Trip
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