Sleeping Bear Dunes Itinerary: Make the Most of Your Visit
We’re sorry that you can only spend one day at the magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!
But, if you can only spend one day at this epic Michigan destination, we’re going to help you make the most of it.
Pack a cooler with dinner and bonfire treats for your day out and then follow this Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary.
We promise it will take you to the must-do, can’t-miss sand dune attractions.
The Best Things to See at Sleeping Bear Dunes in 24 Hours
Start before dawn and end after dark to make this Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary a reality.
And be sure to secure a park pass if you’d like to avoid a ticket.
Table of Contents
Time needed: 1 hour (8 am)
Open: 24 hours, 365 days a year
Start the day with a visit to the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s open 24 hours a day, so get here early if you want to pack in the full itinerary.
If you’re wondering why people like the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there are a few:
First, scaling the giant dune is a challenge in itself. When you think the top can’t be much further, another crest comes into view.
When you do reach the pinnacle, the view is spectacular.
And, it’s basically a gigantic sandbox. Don’t skip this Sleeping Bear Dunes Itinerary stop.
Bonus: Visit after dark for stargazing – this is a dark sky park and is open all night long!
Time Needed: 30 minutes
The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is where you will find brochures, maps, books, park passes, and rangers ready to answer your questions.
Restrooms, hands-on exhibits, and souvenirs are also available here.
The visitor center is open all year except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Time needed: 2 hours (10 am)
Scenic Drive Hours: sunrise to sunset
the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. See stunning views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding sand dunes. Stop at the Lake Michigan Overlook (stop #9) for a panoramic view of the area.
Time Needed: 2 hours (noon)
Lunch time in Glen Arbor is a treat. Dine at Boone Docks or one of the other cheerful food outlets.
For a treat, several ice cream places, including the delightful Cherry Republic, serve up scoops in this charming little town.
While you’re here, peruse the shops, sample all of the cherry things, and buy a souvenir before you head out.
Time needed: 1 hour (2:30 pm)
You’ll be treated to panoramic views from a windswept boardwalk towering over Lake Michigan if you choose to do this hike.
The out-and-back 1.5-mile hike that starts with a climb and then takes you over a rolling, wooded pathway.
Once you reach the Lake Michigan overlook, there’s a boardwalk with great photo ops all around.
Glen Haven Historic District
Time needed: 1 hour (3:30 pm)
Step back in time and explore the Glen Haven Historic District – comprised of the General Store, the Boat Museum and the Blacksmith Shop.
The General Store appears today as it did back in 1920’s. The Boat Museum is actually the old Glen Haven Canning Company repurposed to show off old-time boats that were important to the area.
General Store – open Memorial Day through early October
Time needed: 1 hour
The beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore are varied in features and amenities but they are all epic.
In the interest of time, swimming at Glen Haven Beach makes the most sense if you have just one day at the dunes.
This beach is a short walk from the parking lot and restroom facilities are near the General Store.
Sunset, Stars & a Beach Bonfire
Time needed: 2 hours
Wrapping up your itinerary with this activity trio is the cherry on top of a day well spent.
Dry off, spread a blanket and build a bonfire on the beach as you watch the sunset and end the day stargazing.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the only places in Michigan that allows you to have a bonfire on the beach.
Just pick up some firewood on your way to the beach, grab some kindling and matches, and you’re on your way. (Follow regulations posted at all beach locations – they can vary with the season.)
The stars out here are something else. They look like they’re so close, you could reach out and pick one with your fingers. Absent city light pollution, you feel like you’re in another world.
Savor this pristine ending to the perfect day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Map of Sleeping Bear Dunes Itinerary Stops
How would you spend 24 hours at Sleeping Bear Dunes?
It’s hard to peel yourself away from this tranquil corner of Michigan.
If you visit, we know you’ll sleep well and be planning a return trip as soon as you can.
Let us know if you’ve made a day trip to the Michigan “Sleepy Bear Dunes” and what you loved about your visit!