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Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning
Photograph taken in  the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness
National Park Service


The United States Congress designated the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness (map) in 2014 and it now has a total of 32,556 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Michigan and is managed by the National Park Service.


Sleeping Bear Dunes is as old as continental ice sheets and as young as the 1970 Establishment Act that set aside the Lakeshore for preservation of the natural resources and for public use. With miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and numerous inland lakes and streams, this Wilderness is wonderfully water oriented, however, the most prominent features, and those for which the Wilderness is named, are the perched dunes above Lake Michigan. These immense sand dunes are “perched” atop the already towering headlands that are glacial moraines. The dune overlooks at the Sleeping Bear, Empire and Pyramid Point bluffs are about 400 feet above Lake Michigan. Those who have a lot of energy can take a hike on the Dunes Trail to Lake Michigan. This is the most strenuous trail in the area. While only 3.5 miles round trip, it is all sand and you will find climbing the dunes all along the trail to be a challenge.

Although the Lakeshore is long and narrow, it still has the depth for excellent representations of several northern hardwood and conifer forest types, abandoned farm site meadows, wetlands, lakes, streams, and bogs and splendid examples of glacially caused landforms. Whether you are on the sandy bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan, in a canoe on one of the many inland lakes, hiking the myriad of trails through the forest, or visiting the Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan you will have a wonderful opportunity for bird watching, wildlife viewing, and for just enjoying nature at its best.

Planning to Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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