Hiking a Giant Dune is a Lot of Fun, but Rain is Not – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

We have one “people traveling in a van” problem that does not have a solution: rain. It has been raining SO MUCH since we started our road trip along Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. See, our van is actually a car, which is a great house when it’s sunny but miserable if it rains for more than a day. Stuff gets easily wet, it doesn’t ever get dry, we are stuck inside our super small van, we get upset…

After a week of “unusual-for-June”/climate-change-related downpour, we’re like “Ok, whatever, that’s life on the road, and it’s Michigan. Thanks Michigan”. But it’s definitely the ugly/hard part about doing what we do. First-world problems, I know…

sleeping bear dunes storm

That being said, despite the heavy rain this season, Michigan has been one of our favorite states to visit so far. The natural sites are among the most beautiful we’ve seen in the U.S, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is an group of high dunes and beautiful beaches along the shores of crystal clear Lake Michigan.

The highlight of a trip to this natural park is the Dune Climb. The highest dune is about 200 ft (60 meters), and the whole experience is a 3-hour hike going to Lake Michigan and back. We attempted to climb the dune on an overcast morning, only to be stopped by thunder after only 20 minutes.

Fortunately, in-between two storms, Michigan did offer us blue sky. Being patient, monitoring our weather apps constantly and listening to the sound of the sky, we managed to hike the dune during a rare afternoon of glorious sunshine.

The trail starts indeed with a tall dune climb. When you reach the top, you can see a small lake on the other side of Lake Michigan. Then, you walk about two miles up and down smaller dunes that are sometimes covered with surprisingly rich vegetation.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Flora

Near the end of the trail, Lake Michigan appears in the horizon. We saw two Michigander girls swimming in the cold water. These people are tough.

The hike is a little challenging, I would say moderate difficulty if you’re used to hike. It is recommended to wear shoes, as the sand can get hot. We used water shoes, it was fine.

A few miles from the Dune climb, a scenic drive lets you see another more challenging climb, that we didn’t approach since it was pouring rain that day, but the view there is stunning.

Surprisingly, this incredible park seems to be visited mostly by Michiganders (I know because of all the Detroit Tigers & Michigan University t-shirts around). Are we the only Europeans to have visited this place? Was Father Jacques Marquette the last known French visitor here?

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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