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Outdoor Vacations: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI

Make memories at Michigan's soaring sand dunes.

Learning Benefits

Why go?
Located 25 miles from Traverse City in northwestern lower Michigan, this national lakeshore boasts shady forests, crystal-clear inland lakes, a lighthouse, pretty coastal villages and farms, and giant sand bluffs that tower 400 feet above Lake Michigan. For more on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, click here.

If you make you way to the northeast lakeshore side of Michigan, you can also visit Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a preserve managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dive historic shipwrecks in Lake Huron! Or explore a full-sized replica wooden Great Lakes schooner where visitors can walk the decks, feel a Great Lakes storm, and touch the massive timbers of a shipwreck resting on the lake bottom…without getting wet! Want to know more? Then visit

While you're there
If your kids love to scramble and play, challenge 'em to the Dune Climb, a 1.5-mile ascent of one of the soaring sand dunes that made this park famous. Come evening, the natural darkness and starry night skies make Sleeping Bear Dunes an astronomer's paradise. This summer, join park rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society for a series of guided explorations of the night sky and storytelling. Young maritime buffs might also want to check out the historic boats at the Boathouse Museum, housed in a 1920s cherry cannery.

Where to stay
The very popular full-service Platte River Campground keeps nearly 35 percent of its shady campsites open on a first-come, first-served basis each day; from $15 a night. Canoe rentals are also available at nearby Platte River Point.
* All hotel prices are approximate.

Insider tip
"I love walking the Pyramid Point Trail to Lake Michigan. It's so high above the lake, you feel like you're flying," says fifth-grader Jocelyn Baughman, 10, of Lake Ann, Michigan.

Download activity sheet

If you like this destination, and are interested in a variety of other travel spots, feel free to visit the following websites:

You will find travel information for a number of agencies including Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, National Park Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.

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