Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sparkles in winter! Although the summer crowds have vanished, the scenic drama continues. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and meet your inner explorer! Snow season is an especially lovely time to visit the Park's woodland trails, Lake Michigan beaches, and scenic overlooks. I published a story on Northland Adventurer with images and ideas to inspire a fun winter getaway at this beautiful national park.
"Destination Snowshoe: Winter Fun at Sleeping Bear Dunes"
By Aubrieta V. Hope, originally published on Northland Adventurer's website
Though best known as a summer beach destination, Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sparkles in winter! The crowds of vacationers have vanished, but the scenic drama continues. Ice sculptures form on the beaches, every tree in the forest sparkles, and the dunes become snow-swirled works of art. Traversing deep snow can be a struggle, but with snowshoes, those drifts are no longer obstacle courses. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and meet your inner explorer! Blaze your own trail! Over the next hill or through the woods, snowshoes take you where you want to go.
Snow season is an especially lovely time to visit the woodland trails, Lake Michigan beaches and overlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes. With the absence of songbirds and vacationers, these scenic areas are quiet, but you won't feel alone. Throughout the winter season, shy creatures venture out and stitch mysterious tracks in the snow, revealing the presence of wildlife that summer visitors rarely notice. Some of the prettiest panoramic views can be seen from the Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff trails. If you're up for a longer hike, consider snowshoeing the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It's closed to vehicular traffic in winter, so you won't have to dodge any cars on your trek. Another spectacular snowshoe destination is Sleeping Bear Point, accessed by the Dunes Trail just west of Glen Haven Historic Village. The Lake Michigan shoreline also offers amazing scenery, and snowshoes provide good traction for traversing icy beaches. Wander at will, but use caution. Never venture onto the lake, even if it looks frozen. A good place to begin your Sleeping Bear Dunes snowshoe adventure is the lakeside village of Glen Arbor, centrally located at the heart of the national lakeshore. Glen Arbor is tiny but vibrant, even in winter. You can rent snowshoes and poles from Crystal River Outfitters (www.crystalriveroutfitters.com). Stock up on snacks at Anderson's Market (full-service grocery and deli) or at the Cherry Republic (cafe and market). If you're hungry for something more substantial, grab a booth at Boonedocks restaurant or at Art's Tavern. Once outfitted and fortified, you can snowshoe from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb, Glen Haven Historic Village, or the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive via the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This recently-constructed paved trail begins just a few blocks from downtown Glen Arbor and runs 9 miles to Empire.
Ready to explore? Every Saturday afternoon throughout the winter months, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers ranger-led snowshoe hikes which begin at the Visitor Center in Empire. If you don't have your own pair of snowshoes, you can borrow them free of charge for the afternoon. Advance registration is required; call (231) 326-4700 x 5010 to sign up. For detailed trail information and maps, visit www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/ski.htm.