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National Parks: Sleeping Bear Dunes

I had planned to post this last week, but we had a sick babe AND a sick pup that required multiple doctors visits, an ER visit, and a lot of TLC and cuddling (for both parties).  Once they were both recovered, the house was such a disaster and the fridge was empty, so momlife won this round.

Michigan Vacation Part 2

We arrived in Michigan via the SS Badger at about 7, so we grabbed a quick dinner, drove until we were tired and then snagged a room at the first hotel we came upon.  Let me tell you, sleeping in a king sized bed with no dog and no child to wake you up in the morning is heavenly.  It was our first night away in over a year and we soaked it all in!

The next day we headed right to the Visitors’ Center for Sleeping Bear Dunes.  There are several things that you can do and see at the dunes, so we made sure to get a map, talk to the Rangers for suggestions, check out the exhibits, and of course get our stamps in the passport books!

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

The first stop on our list was the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  It’s a 7.4 mile loop that takes you through the woods, and past the lakeshore.  There are several stops at scenic overlooks and one place you can park and hike about 1.5 miles in the dunes.  I had thought this was just going to be a routine of “drive, get out, take pictures, repeat”, but I was pleasantly surprised by this drive.  The views were absolutely stunning at each overlook.  We arrived around 9am, so there was still fog hanging in the air which made for unbelievable photo-ops.

At one point, were able to get out and hike.  I made the mistake of forgetting my water bottle since it wasn’t too hot yet and I definitely regretted it.  We enjoyed the hike, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been trying to get back to the car for the last 1/2 mile.

At one overlook there was quite a steep decline to Lake Michigan.  Despite the many signs saying NOT to try going down and climbing back up, there were several people who had done just that and were struggling to get back up.  A local woman told me that it can take up to two hours to get back to the top and that often people have to be rescued.

Those little specks are people trying to climb back up!

Hiking the Dunes

We stopped for a quick lunch in the local town which had a ton of cute little places to eat.  We settled on Mary’s Bistro where under the advice of a local we ordered tortilla soup and bbq chicken pizza to share.  Both were delicious and I think we both agreed we would rather not have shared the soup!

After re-fueling we headed to the Dune Climb.  This was just like a giant beach only going up up and away!  We chose not to climb all 3.5 miles, but we did do a good portion of it.  It’s a little challenging, but not too bad.  The plus side is that going down is super easy.

The view of the dune climb from the top.

Glen Haven Village

If you’re at the dunes, be sure to check out Glen Haven Village.  It’s no longer a working village, but rather a historic walk around the “town”.  You can stop in the general store, watch the blacksmith, and visit the boathouse.  It was maybe a quick 20 minute stop for us, but we enjoyed reading more about the history.  The family that established the Inn at Glen Haven also started the Dune Buggy Rides which brought a ton of tourism to the area.  I’m a bit of a history buff, so I love seeing things like this.  Unfortunately, we were both pretty tired by this point so no pictures were taken.


The Takeaway

If you are wanting to check a National Park off your list, this is definitely a must see.  The views alone are worth the trip to Michigan.  I’ve grown up near Lake Michigan my whole life, and as much as it pains this Wisconsin girl to say it – the Michigan side of the lake is the more beautiful of the two.  Also, due to the wind from the lake, runoff, etc, the dunes may not be around forever so see them while you can!

If you’re going:

  1. Go in the summer.  Michigan is on Eastern Standard time, but just barely – so it’s light out until almost 10pm in the summer!
  2. Stay hydrated!  The dunes offer no protection from the sun, unlike other national parks in the woods.  It’s easy to become dehydrated.  There are a lot of water fountains on the National Park lands so you can save money by bringing a few water bottles and re-filling.
  3. Wear hiking boots.  I saw a lot of people in tennis shoes, but they were definitely kicking sand into their shoes.  My hiking boots + tall socks kept me sand free!
  4. Think about spending the night and snagging a campground nearby.  There were several things we didn’t get to, and I wish we could have had one more day to explore all that Sleeping Bear had to offer.

What National Parks are on your “must see” list?

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