The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is the biggest recreational project supported by the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Prior to the Summer of 2012, there were no trails in the National Lakeshore where bicycles could be ridden. This new trail provides a wonderful new recreational opportunity for families and individuals to experience the Park outside of their cars. We hope people will park their cars and either walk or safely ride bikes to many of the popular destinations in the Park. Check out this video of the trail.
Download a trail brochure and map. Trailhead parking is available at Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Dune Climb, and Glen Haven. Street parking is available in Glen Arbor on Forest Haven Road and in Empire at Lacore Road and Voice Road.
THE TRAIL IS OPEN all the way from Glen Arbor to Empire. Get out your bike and helmet and get riding!
The trail is groomed for cross country skiing between Glen Arbor and the Dune Climb when we have sufficient snow. Ski conditions will be posted here from December through March. If you want to be on the e-mail list for grooming updates click here to send an e-mail request to Kerry Kelly.
When fully complete, the trail will be a 27-mile hard-surface, multi-use trail that starts at the Beach Access at County Road 651 near the northern boundary of the National Lakeshore and runs roughly parallel to the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route of M-22 and M-109 to the Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. The trail will eventually go through Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, the Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center and Empire.
The first 4.25-mile section of the trail from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb opened on June 20, 2012. So, the next time you are planning your trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, bring your bike, walking shoes, roller blades, or wheelchair and join us in enjoying this marvelous new addition to our National Lakeshore.
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a project of the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route committee of Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Learn more about how you can help with the trail by going to http://sleepingbeartrail.org/.
The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes has been involved in this project since it’s beginning. We strongly support this trail through donations, grants, and volunteer time. We have agreed to maintain and operate the trail through our volunteer network of Trail Ambassadors. Want to become an Ambassador? Contact Kerry Kelly, Trail Ambassador Manager.
The Campaign Cabinet for the fundraising activities has been very successful in getting grants and donations for design, engineering, and construction of the trail. At this point, over $7 million has been raised through federal grants. These funds require a matching donations for completion, and to date, about $1.5 million has been donated by private foundations and individual donation.
Construction of the first 4.25-mile trail segment between the Dune Climb and Glen Arbor was completed in June, 2012. Visitors and community members have been using the trail daily since then. Surveys of trail users have shown that the tail is being used primarily by groups of family members and friends. The most frequent comments we receive are that they love the tail – and when will it be made longer! That’s all a matter of funding. Over $200,000 was raised by the SBHT Campaign Cabinet and TART Trails between August and the end of 2012 to pay for design and engineering for the trail south of Pierce Stocking Drive to Empire! We expect that construction on this section of the trail will be completed in the Spring of 2014. We still need your help to raise $775,000 matching funds for the grant to build the trail north of Glen Arbor to County Road 669, so don’t let up now! As of November, 2013 we have raised $380,000 toward that goal. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail will have about 18 miles of trail completed in 3 years if we meet these goals.
Trail signs have been installed on the first 4-mile segment of the trail. The signs and the development of the SBHT Trail Ambassador program were funded by a grant from the National Parks Foundation Active Trails program. This program is funded by a grant from the Coca Cola Foundation. Signs for the next segment from the Dune Climb to the trailhead at the corner of Voice and Bar Lake Road are being designed now and will be installed when that section is opened in Spring, 2014.
Who is using the trail? Trail Use Survey
We conduct trail use counts and surveys of trail users the third weekend of August. About 66% of bike riders wore helmets. We strongly encourage the proper use of helmets, and hope to see that percentage grow in coming years. The results show that 80-90% of the users are groups of family and friends. Since June 20, 2012 when the trail officially opened about 150,000 people have used the trail. 85-90% of trail users rode bikes. Use surveys were done at Glen Haven and at the Dune Climb. We noticed more people walking on the trail there at the Dune Climb. The same is true near the DH Day Campground. We conduct Trail Use Surveys each year to monitor changes in use, and as we get additional segments completed. Read the results of trail user surveys.
Automated Trail Counters
Our estimates of trail use have been based on a few trail use counts and surveys conducted in late August. To extrapolate these numbers to annual trail use estimates require many assumptions. Our team has wanted to install automated trail counters since the trail was built, and this fall, we will install trail counters at three different locations on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. They will give us much more accurate information about trail use by the hour! That way we can better manage our maintenance and operations activities to minimize conflicts with users. The data will also help us understand which parts of the trail are getting more use during all seasons.
The automated trail counters from Trafx (www.trafx.net) were recommended by TART, who has had very good experience with them on the TART trail in Traverse City. Their experience demonstrated high reliability (even with the extreme cold of last winter), ease of use, and excellent data management tools. We hope to get the counters installed this fall before the ski season begins.
We need your help to complete the trail.
By donating to the trail, you will be creating a legacy for future generations to enjoy. We hope you will get involved and financially support the trail. Donors of $1,000 or more will be included on on the Donor Recognition Plaza at the Dune Climb, which is being planned now. For more information about the trail and to make a donation, click http://sleepingbeartrail.org.
We need your help to operate the trail.
The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes have agreed to operate and maintain the trail as it is built. We have developed operations and maintenance procedures in co-operation with TART trails and volunteers are needed now. We have Trail Ambassadors who will regularly use the trail and assist visitors with questions and safety related issues, and a Trail Crew, who does maintenance like downed tree removal, sweeping and ski grooming. Read the SBHT Volunteer Manual to learn specifics about these roles. If you are interested in volunteering for the SBHT Trail Team, click here to send us an e-mail.
It costs money to maintain the trail to keep it safe and fun for everyone. You can help us by making a donation to our Trail Operations Fund. Just click here.
Here are a few pictures from the trail! Click on the thumbnail pictures to enlarge them. More pictures are available at our Flickr site.