We spent Sunday & Monday at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and found a spot at the D.H. Day Campground which operates on a first-come-first-serve basis. There were quite a few spots available, and all of them were really nice. Although, if we were towing a bigger trailer, or if we were a motorhome that needed to make wide turns, I don’t think we would have found a spot. The campground road was narrow and twisty with lots of low overhanging trees. Not a spot for big rigs. There is another campground in the park that has bigger sites, but since it takes reservations and has modern amenities like electric hookups and a shower house, they were completely booked for practically the entire summer.
D.H. Day is a primitive campground, meaning there are no electric hook ups and only pit toilets. Luckily we travel with our own toilet, and can handle not having electric hook ups for a few days no problem. Actually, we could go a long time without an electric hookup, but this park was generator free, so eventually we would have run out of juice. The best part of the campground- the beach! Only a few minutes from our campground was a sandy beach with clear turquoise water.
As you can see this beach was a bit more rocky than the one at Claybanks Park. Lots of little round smooth pebbles everywhere.
Not as nice on the feet as an all sandy beach, but the water was very nice and all 3 of us enjoyed some swimming time.
We also enjoyed two hikes in the national park. The first one we took without Phineas because it was in no dog area. Sleeping Bear is actually very dog-friendly for a national park. Phin was allowed on some beaches and some hiking trails. Many national parks don’t allow dogs on any trails or beaches, so this is the place to go if you have a pooch with you. It was probably for the best that he didn’t come on the first hike because it was 2 hours of hiking out in the blazing sun on a very soft, hot sand. The trail started off nice enough with a wooden boardwalk winding down through the dunes.
Soon enough though the surface switched to deep sand which gave us a serious leg work out, especially on the uphill sections!
Look how much sand I had in my shoes at the end of the hike!
The hike was located off the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which travels through roughly seven miles of forest, dunes and overlooks. We stopped at the Lake Michigan overlook, which at 450 feet above the water, offers a spectacular view of the lake below.
It’s hard to get a feel from the photos for just how steep the sand dune down to the water was. See those crazy people way down there? I can guarantee that the hike back up is going to be ridiculously difficult. In fact, the park posted signs at the top telling people not to climb down the dunes and a warning that if you get heat exhaustion on the way back up you will be charged for rescue services. There will always be the kind of people for which those signs are more of a challenge than anything though- not me! We were happy just to look over the edge.
On Monday we went for another hike (this time Phineas got to come) in a different part of the park. It was a nice hike though the forest, up to an overlook and back down through more forest. The entire trail was a little more than 2 miles long but most people only hiked the first section to the overlook and then went back to their cars. We did the whole trail and only saw one other person after the lookout.
Part way through the hike we came across a steep sandy uphill trail right in the middle of the forest. It was a strange sight. Tim and Phin hiked up to see if there was a view, but after the sandy hike the day before I decided to stay at the bottom with sand-free shoes.
Sleeping Bear Dunes was a pretty awesome spot to spend a few days. There were more hikes and more beaches to explore but since we’re anxious to get to the Upper Peninsula we must keep moving. The western coast of Michigan has been an extremely pleasant surprise and we’re already thinking that we need to come back in a few years when we have more time to explore.
I almost forgot! Phineas loved the campground because he was able to dig himself a nice hole in the soft sand outside the airstream. Here he is lounging in his hole. It was too funny not to share!