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How to Plan the Perfect Day Trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes

 Nestled along the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline, Sleeping Bear Dunes offers a stunning combination of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. If you're staying at Leelanau Pines Lakeside Camping Resort on Lake Leelanau, you're just a short 30-minute drive away from this incredible destination. Here’s a comprehensive guide to planning the perfect day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes, including the best activities and tips to make the most of your visit.

Morning: Start Your Adventure Early

Rise and Shine at Leelanau Pines

Start your day at Leelanau Pines Campground, one of the top campgrounds near Sleeping Bear Dunes. With a variety of accommodations, from traditional camping to glamping, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready for adventure.

Head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Located just 30 minutes from our campground, the scenic drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes takes you through charming small towns and beautiful countryside. Aim to arrive early to beat the crowds and enjoy the morning light on the dunes.

Mid-Morning: Explore the Dunes

Dune Climb

Kick off your day with the iconic Dune Climb. This must-do activity offers stunning views of Glen Lake and a chance to experience the unique landscape up close. The climb can be challenging, but the breathtaking views at the top are worth every step.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

After conquering the Dune Climb, take a leisurely drive along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4-mile loop provides numerous overlooks and interpretive signs, perfect for learning about the area's geology, ecology, and history. Be sure to stop at the Lake Michigan Overlook for panoramic views of the shoreline.

Lunch: Picnic with a View

Pack a picnic and head to one of the many picnic areas within the park. With plenty of spots offering shade and spectacular views, you can relax and refuel while soaking in the natural beauty.

Afternoon: Adventure Awaits

Hiking Trails

Explore the diverse hiking trails that the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has to offer. The Empire Bluff Trail is a popular choice, providing a moderate hike with incredible views of Lake Michigan. For a longer trek, consider the Platte Plains Trail, which offers a variety of landscapes and chances to spot wildlife.

Beach Time

No trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes is complete without some time on the beach. Head to Esch Road Beach or Glen Haven Beach for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The pristine waters and sandy shores make for a perfect afternoon of relaxation.

Evening: Unwind

Return to Leelanau Pines

After a day of adventure, head back to Leelanau Pines Campground. Whether you’re staying in one of our cabins near Sleeping Bear Dunes or enjoying the coziness of one of our RV sites, you’ll find the perfect place to unwind.

Campfire and Stars

End your day with a classic campfire. Roast marshmallows, share stories, and gaze up at the starry night sky. The lack of city lights in Northern Michigan makes for some of the best stargazing in the region.

Tips for a Perfect Day Trip

Pack Essentials: Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks. The sun and sand can be intense, so staying hydrated and protected is crucial.
Dress Appropriately: Wear comfortable, layered clothing and sturdy footwear. The weather can change quickly, and the sand can get hot.
Plan Ahead: Check the park’s website for any alerts or closures. Planning your route and knowing what activities you want to do can help maximize your time.
Respect Nature: Follow Leave No Trace principles. Stay on marked trails, pack out all trash, and respect wildlife.


A day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes from Leelanau Pines offers the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. From the exhilarating Dune Climb to the serene beaches, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Book your stay at Leelanau Pines today and get ready for an adventure-filled day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes! Whether you're looking for cabin rentals near Sleeping Bear Dunes or camping near Empire, MI, we have the perfect accommodations to suit your needs.