If you’re a natureholic looking for new sites in the US, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore needs to be on your list.
In 2011, popular US TV show Good Morning America named it the “Most Beautiful Place in America”.
4 years later, even with an uptick in tourism, it is still as wild and gorgeous as ever.
See for yourself…
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Covering over 35 miles of Northwest Michigan coastline, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a protected area from development, but perfect for exploration and easy to reach.
The best way to see it? Via Empire Bluff Trail.
Simply park your car at the easily found trailhead (don’t forget your water!) and set out on one of the easiest and most rewarding hikes of your life. The trail is about 15 minutes from the car to the lakeshore, and takes you past some verdant Michigan forest scenery along the way.
Check out the trail in the morning (before 9am), and you’ll most likely have it all to yourself.
The trail winds slowly towards the lakeshore, providing little glimpses along the way. Even on a hot day, the trees keep the trail relatively cool (especially in the morning!), and the peace and quiet is beyond refreshing.
Once you reach the dunes, the path becomes covered with boards, to protect the delicate dune grasses and ecoysystem, and to prevent hikers from slipping down the edge.
Along the far end of the path is a little lookout point, perfect for a picnic or to rehydrate while enjoying the views.
No filter needed.
The water is so clean and clear that you can see straight through to the sandy bottom in the shallow areas.
The stony, sandy path of the Empire Bluff trail through the Sleeping Bear Dunes is easy, even for children, but it’s best to wear sneakers (I was wearing flipflops and my feet were sore and super dirty).
Sand gnats and mosquitos are sometimes pesky, so it’s also wise to wear bugspray.
The area immediately surrounding the Sleeping Bear Dunes isn’t ripe with high-value accommodations (and the camping sites book up lightning-fast), but I recommend staying in nearby Traverse City as a base – it’s an easy 30 minutes drive from the Dunes. Traverse City also has winery tours, boat cruises, and really great restaurants (it’s the latest foodie destination in the Midwest, even raved about by Mario Batali).