Explore the most popular forest trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

I HATED this trail!

Many reviews of this hike were really positive and said that it had a variety of terrain. 85% of the trail is sand dunes, with the remaining 15% is forest. The forest part IS quite nice, but also quite short. Had I known so much of it would be really monotonous looking sand dune, I would not have gone. Before I had even reached the midway point, I was cursing the sand and just thinking about how much I hated this trail.

Clearly some people really like this trail, but I was not a fan.

Great variety of terrain- great views!

hiking
1 month ago

Not sure how this trail isn't ranked higher. Perfect hiking trip with a scenic payoff.

Agree with review below, a favorite for the lower peninsula. Recommend heading out clockwise...reaching the water last. That way you can look for Petoskey stones as long as you want. Otherwise, you have the remaining hike looming. Terrain changes are amazing. A favorite for sure

Really pretty views. We were there in late March and didn’t know what to expect. Ended up catching a sunny say and ended up pleasantly surprised by a fantastic view of a wintey/spring-mixed Lake Michigan!

Beautiful

Iiiiiiiki n go k
K need m

hiking
2 months ago

This hike is all about Elevation but when you get to the top it will be well worth it. Great Views of Big Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.

hiking
2 months ago

One of the best views you'll see of Lake Michigan. The Dune puts you 260 feet almost straight above the lapping waters of Lake Michigan. The lookout point is about 0.6 miles from the trailhead. The .6 mile hike will be tough to some since it's a pretty good incline. However, the trail does offer wooden steps which makes it easier and there's no need to rush. relax and enjoy the quit and peaceful nature and when you get to the top, you'll be thankful that you made the hike. Check out the video I shot, video was shot on my GoPro Hero 4 sessions. https://youtu.be/gtxLWxdoV3k

alot of fun in winter great hike kids love the loop

hiking
3 months ago

Spectacular views, trails well maintained.

One of my favorite hikes in Lower Michigan. Excellent views and diverse trail.

hiking
4 months ago

This was quick and pretty cool.

Fun hike with the kids. More than manageable outside of them wanting to continually go up and down the narrow steep dune hike to a beautiful overlook!

Exhilarating hike in mostly sand. Lots of amazing views.

hiking
7 months ago

Great dune hike. Best done on a cooler day.

I felt it was a very tough hike but well worth it. There are a ton of amazing views of the lake and the beach was very nice with amazing views of the islands.

backpacking
8 months ago

Spectacular piece of wilderness in northern Michigan! My girlfriend and I had a couple of extra days on vacation and decided to go on a backpacking trip. We booked a seat on the ferry from Leland to the island and paid our backcountry camping fees the day we left. The island is huge and the trails are well-maintained for the most part. If you want to break off of the main trails, there are numerous"unmaintained" trails that you can follow, but definitely bring a map and compass as these are easy to get lost on. It's relatively easy terrain without a ton of elevation gain, and the soft/sandy soil is easy on the knees and ankles even after long distances. The wildlife is beautiful and you're almost certain to see deer and a huge variety of birds.

We went from Sunday to Tuesday in late August, so we were nearly alone on the island and only encountered a couple of other hikers.

Camping on the island is excellent, but you can only have campfires in the designated campground. If you camp in the backcountry like I did, you cannot have a campfire and will be restricted to using your stove for cooking and lanterns/lamps for light. That said, the backcountry campsites I used were excellent. If you camp near the shore of Lake Michigan you can hear waves crash on the beach as you bed down for the night. If you stay more inland, be prepared for nearly absolute silence in the woods, broken only by the calls of owls and other nocturnal creatures.

A word of warning: The island is infested with poison ivy. It is literally everywhere you go. If you plan on camping in the backcountry be sure to pack alcohol swabs or some other anti-poison ivy product to clean yourself off every few hours. It's a miracle my girlfriend and I didn't get rashes. Additionally, bring first aid tools and extra provisions. The ferry takes about an hour to get to the island, and the nearest hospital is in Traverse City, so be prepared for emergency. The beauty and remoteness of this wilderness area make it one of my favorites in all of the Midwest.

hiking
9 months ago

Hiked this trail on a late Sunday morning. We first stopped at the beach, which was gorgeous. The water was crystal clear and there were only a few people on the beach. The trail is well marked with blue posts and as always, hiking in sand adds a different level of difficulty to the hike. The views are incredible throughout and towards the end you are able to "cool down" by hiking on stable ground through some forest. We only passed one person walking in the opposite direction and seemed to have the trail to ourselves. It did seem as if the beach became more crowded when we finished as the parking lot was full of cars and bikes.

nature trips
9 months ago

absolutely love the view

backpacking
9 months ago

Our family of 4 spent 3 nights backpacking on NMI, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. To reach the island, you must take the ferry that leaves from Leland. The staff there will issue your backcountry permit. Once you are in the island, a ranger gives you a brief talk and then you are free to go wherever you would like. We spent the first night at Lake Manitou. Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent. The fishermen waded in and used a top-water technique. You can keep one per license per day. The second night we camped at Crescent City on the west shore. A little tricky to find the right path to the beach, but just keep trying if you hit a dead end. Beautiful sunset. Last night we camped on the east side of island near the South Cherry Orchard. The backpacking is relatively easy- trails are wide and gently sloping. The centerline trail across the middle of the island is fast- so you could camp on the west side and still easily make it back to the boat the next day. I would recommend buying the $5 map rather than using the free park map. The bugs were manageable with Deet. Beware there are monster patches of poison ivy especially along the beaches. There is only one water spigot near the dock- otherwise you will need to filter. Not everyone has done a good job of digging their cat holes- which is kind of disgusting in some popular places. But, we rarely saw other hikers. The solitude was amazing. The beaches are gorgeous. And I was sad to leave. I would recommend this to everyone but especially to families with beginner backpackers.

hiking
9 months ago

I would've rated this above Empire Bluff Trail, but it is more of a challenging hike! The hike to the lookout is where you gain a good chunk of your elevation. Gorgeous, gorgeous views & more secluded areas when its a highly trafficked day.

hiking
9 months ago

Well maintained trail, with even mulch along the way. First island look out is beautiful and looks like a tropical paradise. Continue to overlook big glen because that water color is out of control beautiful. It has a bit of an incline but nothing too strenuous. Go to get a good idea of your surroundings. Trail is very dog friendly.

hiking
10 months ago

Great views of Big Glen and Lake Michigan. Definitely dog friendly

Great trail with beautiful views of the lake and manitou islands. Unique terrain with sand dune, meadow and forest. Would rate as easy

10 months ago

Beautiful view. Perfect for snowshoeing or hiking. Uphill but not too bad

Beautiful views! A bit hilly and lots of sandy walking areas.

hiking
10 months ago

Various terrains represented Great hike and swim Hit the CG museum on the way out

hiking
11 months ago

A great, beautiful trail. Pretty easy and the I could have stayed by the water all day!

backpacking
11 months ago

Day 1 - loaded up on the ferry at the quant by busy fishtown in Leland, MI. The variance of backpackers was quite the sight to. I observed more coolers, lawn chairs, packages of bottle water, tiki torches and grills that I'm used to when backpacking for a weekend. I was beginning to think I got on the wrong boat. Surely these individuals weren't going to an island with limited resources with 30 packs of Busch light and BBQ smokers, but I digress. A volunteer met us at the dock and discussed the rules of the island before we ran off into the wilderness. We made quick time getting to fredericksons point on the southwest corner of the island (5+ miles). This was by far the best place on the island offering beautiful views of south manitou island, sleeping near dunes and the sunsets. The walk down to the beach was tricky but manageable.

Day 2- making our way up the west and north side of the island resulted in a decent evaluation gain ~350 feet or so and passing through some bushy trails. We passed through two rustic sights (Davenport and Stormers) the latter having several old cars thrown about the forest. The rain begin resulting in a hasty pace to Paul Maeloski place (building on the map) which was nowhere to be found and soon we realized it was in the forest and destroyed. We attempted to connect with the secondary trial that loops back to the village and dock area but we soon lost the "unmaintained" trail. Leading us to bushwhack to the beach and follow the shore until we reach the village and double back to the campground. Day 2 we experienced most of the island encompassing ~14 miles.

Day 3- wait for the boat and discuss with the patrons their perils and joys of the island, one poor adventurer had duct taped socks, quite the sight.

Overall NMI is a beautiful island that embodies true wilderness. I'd encouraged anyone thinking of hiking to stick to the primary trails and avoid the secondary (unmaintained trails) unless you bring a machete. A beautiful place even with the misadventures!

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