Ever heard of a little newscast called Good Morning America? Totally kidding. If you’re anything like me, you watch it religiously every morning before work. Back in 2011, they asked American’s to vote on the most beautiful place in America. We all know, this country has some seriously stunning landscapes. Beating out the mountains of Wyoming, the rocky shores of Cape Cod, and the beaches of Florida was The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Now, The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has always held a special place in my heart. Growing up not far from there, I have the best memories of field trips to the dune climb, hiking, Petoskey Stone hunting, and wandering through all the little towns. I’ve always loved it here, which is why Trev and I chose to get married here this past June.
If you’ve never experienced any of Michigan, this is where I suggest you plan your first vacation here. It won America’s Most Beautiful Place for a reason! From hiking to biking, SUPing to shopping, there’s a little bit of everything here for everyone.
About The National Lakeshore: The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is unlike any other. It has over 50,000 acres of sparkling shoreline, lush forests and rolling hills. You’ll find those beautiful beaches in abundance for you sun worshipers (That would be me!), lakes and rivers for all your fishermen (and women!) and of course MASSIVE dunes and bluffs with some of the most stunning views you can imagine. (PS… NO YOU CAN’T SEE WISCONSIN.)
The Legend of The Sleeping Bear: Now some of you might not be into this kind of stuff, so go ahead and skip over this if you’d like! But for me, and most every other child that grew up in Northern Michigan, The Legend of The Sleeping Bear was told to us over and over again. It’s a beautiful tale of a mother bear and her two cubs who must swim across the big lake because of a horrible fire. While the mother makes it across the lake, the cubs are overtaken by the waves. She makes it to shore, and waits on land for her babies. She fell into a very deep sleep waiting for her cubs, but they never made it. The Great Spirit watched, and was touched by the mother’s love for her cubs. So he made the North and South Manitou islands, and mother bear became the great big dune. It is one of my absolute favorite stories of all time, and I always cry when I read it. (Big baby over here, I know!) If you’d like to watch a short version of the tale check out this video! However, my favorite version of this legend is this book!
Getting There: There is only one way to get to the national lake shore in my book, and that is M22. Quite possibly Michigan’s most famous road, (Except 8 Mile… thanks for that Eminem) it is one of the most stunning drives in the world. It begins in Manistee (Oh Hey! That’s my hometown!) and travels north, around the Leelanau Peninsula, and ends in Traverse City. In Northern Michigan, M22 has become much more than a road, but a way of life. Sounds a little silly? It’s not something I can really explain, but come visit, you’ll just get it. And you’ll also find yourself buying an M22 sticker for your car. Just sayin’.
About the Area: While this is a National Park, you will find two towns to spend your time in, Empire and Glen Arbor. Both have interesting things to offer, but I’m going to be straight with you, I LOVE Glen Arbor so much more! If you’re considering visiting, I highly recommend staying here. There are tons of vacation rentals in the area, and I have a soft spot for The Homestead Resort (our wedding venue). Now, outside the National Park boarders, you will find many more small towns. Personally, when I think of The Sleeping Bear Dunes, I like to include all of the Leelanau Peninsula, because once you are there, it really isn’t a far drive from one town to another. While technically, the National Park only includes the towns of Empire and Glen Arbor, I highly suggest breaking outside the park boarders while you’re visiting here. There is so much to explore, that I will be talking about in my post next Monday 🙂
When to Visit: You won’t find a bad time of year to visit this beautiful place! Spring/Summer will offer you beautiful views of blue green water, beach days, SUPing, fishing, hiking. You name it, you can do it here. Fall is STUNNING. You haven’t seen fall colors until you’ve taken a color tour Up North. Winter will be cold, but equally beautiful in it’s own way. You truly can’t go wrong. However, I would suggest deciding what you like to do on vacation the most, and plan your trip accordingly.
What to Do: Well, you can’t visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes without a run on the dune climb. It is a right of passage in Northern Michigan, and you truly can’t miss out on this opportunity. I will tell you RIGHT NOW, it is NOT as easy as it looks. That dune is high and steep. So don’t over do it, take your time. When you get to the top, you will have insanely beautiful views, and the run back down is an absolute blast! A small tip? Bend your knees and lean back as you run, also run in a zig-zaggy pattern. You’ll have less of a chance of face planting. I can tell you from experience, face planting in the sand isn’t as fun as it sounds. If you’re in the mood for a hike, my favorite is Pyramid Point. It’s 2.7 mile hike, and will offer what I consider to be the very best view in the park. Don’t try to run down the dune at the end view point. People do it all the time, can’t make it back up, and end up having to call rescue services. Just avoid this, and enjoy the view from the top. How about a scenic drive? Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive just may be one of the prettiest I’ve ever been on. With tons of pull off spots, you won’t be short on photo opportunities. Plus the lookout at the end is spectacular.
Now, stop what you are doing, and start planning your vacation to The Sleeping Bear Dunes! You will make memories here that will last you a lifetime.
Before I go… let me tell you a little secret from the locals. There is no better place in this world to spend the summer than Northern Michigan. Come in the summer, and I can almost bet you won’t spend your summer vacation anywhere else. It’s one of those picture perfect places that will make your Instagram feed spot on.
Have a great rest of your Monday! I’ll be parked in front of my tv watching The Bachelorette. Team Luke anyone?!
PS- I’d like to apologize for these pictures in advance! I don’t have nearly enough to show all the beautiful things you can do in the area. Literally all my pictures from there this summer are from my wedding prep/festivities… and thats not what this post is about! So below you will find a very small sampling of what you can do at The Sleeping Bear Dunes. But I promise you, it is spectacular there!