Lake Michigan Beach

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - Dunes Trail

My return to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was a long time coming and I wanted to make it a special one by hiking a trail that hadn't made it onto this website yet...the Dunes Trail. The Dunes Trail starts from the immensely popular 'Dune Climb' and winds its way 2-miles out to the lake, through the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. This means that in the summertime it tends to be a fairly busy trail which is likely why I hadn't hit it yet. This pre-season day, however, with a stiff 35-degree wind blowing off the lake promised nothing but solitude.

Starting as I said from the Dune Climb I quickly re-discovered the 'joys' of hiking Michigan dunes. After getting well-conditioned to climbing North Carolina mountains I figured the minor elevation changes here would hardly be noticeable...yeah, right. Hiking four miles of undulating sand is harder than you might think. The rewards were incredible though. The dune environment is a fascinating doesn't come easy here and it’s amazing to see the unexpected variety that does manage to survive. Then there was the arrival at Lake Michigan. With the Manitou Islands rising from its waters to the north and it managing to maintain its unnaturally tropical green-blue despite the clouds and cold it was like returning to see an old friend. So, without further ado, come on along with me for my return to the trails of Michigan...

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  44.882418, -86.042195

Route Type: Out-and-back      Difficulty: CHALLENGING (Petzoldt Rating: 5.90 )      Mileage Hiked: 4.5 miles      Trailhead Temp: 35'F      Min. Elevation: 580'      Max. Elevation: ~900'      Total Elevation Gain: 700'

Trails Used (blaze color): Dunes Trail (blue)