Purchase our book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear

The Life of the Sleeping Bear celebrates the world-famous Sleeping Bear Dunes area — its land and people — from prehistoric to modern times. Blending art, history, and science, the book contains vivid pictures, fascinating facts, and helpful graphics and maps to provide a rich and colorful tour of this precious geological and environmental area.
Find out more information about the book here

Kettles Trail Update

Work on the new Kettles Trail has been completed for this year. We have a few more things to add in 2020 – an interpretive overlook at the bog, and an interpretive sign and bench at the end of the Accessible portion of the trail. 

The trailhead is located on Baatz Road near Fritz Road, and you are invited to stop by and hike this new addition to the portfolio of hiking trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore! A map of trailhead location, trail map, and other info about the trail is available on the Kettles Trail page.

Planning and construction of this new 3-mile long hiking trail was a joint effort between Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore management and staff, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, YouthWork youth corps, SEEDS youth corps, and many volunteers! This year we had a volunteer work day in early June to finish the parking lot and work on the accessible portion of the trail.

Volunteers plant grass seed around the new parking lot.

A YouthWork crew worked alongside the NPS crew for the entire month of August. They improved the accessible portion of trail and built the bench-cut trail on the north end of the trail loop, which travels along a steep hillside with a bog way down below. They had to remove 9 huge stumps (by hand) to create this portion of the trail! 

YouthWork had a crew of 3 team leaders and 7 different members that participated in the Kettles Trail project. All of them learned a lot about trail design and really worked hard. Those 7 members logged hours towards educational awards, which in total amounted to $10,000 in scholarships. The YouthWork program is affiliated with AmeriCorps and we are happy to be able to support this important program.

Some of the YouthWork crew

New Benches installed on Heritage Trail

Have you noticed some new benches along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT)?  We just installed 8 new benches, bringing the total to 14.

After the first section of the SBHT was built in 2012, we started asking trail users what we could do to improve their trail experience. The most frequent request was for more benches along the trail – especially between Glen Arbor and the Dune Climb.

Volunteers install the first bench in 2015 in Glen Haven.

Leonard Marszalek worked with TART Trails and Park staff to develop a design for benches that would be sturdy and require little maintenance and to get the locations approved by the Park. Leonard and Ken Rosiek, one of our Heritage Trail Ambassador volunteers, designed and built a prototype in 2015.  A small crew of volunteers installed that first bench in Glen Haven.

Because Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes have been working on improving accessibility on Park trails and beaches, we realized that we needed to install accessible pads around the benches, so someone in a wheelchair could pull in and park sitting next to a companion on the bench. So that is why the benches seem to be off-center on the pads. We needed to provide a space for a wheelchair to pull along beside the bench.

During 2017, we made some minor changes to the bench design and Ken built us more benches, which we contracted with AJ’s Excavation to install in 2017. That brought our total up to 6 benches.

YouthWork Crew installs benches

This year, we received a grant from Northwest Michigan Health to install an additional 8 benches. That completes our plan. All approved bench locations now have a bench! Ken Rosiek built the benches and YouthWork, a program of Traverse City Child and Family Services installed the benches and accessible pads this spring.

You will notice that each bench has the name of a native wildflower engraved on the top board. This naming convention allows us to identify specific benches (e.g. the Trillium Bench).

Ken Rosiek built all 14 trail benches.

People who want to donate to support the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail can make a donation to the trail and sponsor one of these benches. Donations of over $1,000 are recognized on a plaque in the Park Visitor Center in Empire.  Learn more.

Track Chair Reservations OPEN

Do you long to get back into nature and hike a trail that is just too steep or sandy? Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is offering FREE use of a Track Chair for those with mobility limitations. This is the first program of its kind in a National Park! 

We are getting more and more requests for accessible options for park visitors to be able to enjoy the beauty and natural settings of our beaches and trails. The Track Chair offers the opportunity for the whole family to enjoy the Park together. 

In the first year of the program operation, the Track Chair will be available for use on the Bay View trail about 3 miles north of Glen Arbor. A volunteer will train the visitor in the use of the Track Chair and will accompany the group on the trail.

The Track Chair will also be available at some Park events throughout the summer.

For more information or to make a reservation, click here.

BARK Rangers and Piping Plover

Unleashed dogs running the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are one of the biggest threats to the endangered piping plover.

But other dogs and their human companions who volunteer as BARK Rangers can be the tiny bird’s best friends.

Piping Plover and chick

Piping plovers are classified as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region where they nest and raise their young on open beaches. Loss of habitat and nest disturbance are primary factors.

Piping plovers build shallow nests in the sand and line them with pebbles or broken shells. The birds are very sensitive to humans in the area and abandon nests if they feel threatened. Dogs running free on a beach destroy nests and often harass or kill piping plovers.

That’s one of the reasons park rules require all dogs to be on a leash, and ban dogs from certain beaches known to be piping plover nesting sites.

But not every visitor knows the rules.

BARK Ranger on Patrol

As part of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes volunteer program, dog owners and their pets regularly walk the beaches to help educate visitors about the rules. They remind people a leash is required, and explain which areas allow dogs and which are off-limits. BARK Rangers can be identified by their NPS volunteer shirts or vests and BARK vests or kerchiefs on their dogs.

The idea behind the BARK Ranger program is that a conversation between one dog owner and another is often a positive and effective way to educate visitors and help everyone enjoy the park. BARK Rangers also thank people they see abiding by the rules, and serve as park ambassadors to answer questions.




Bark Ranger Ginger Langdon with Mr. Darcy and Moxie talking with a Park visitor.

BARK Rangers also walk our dog-friendly trails as well. Did you know that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few national parks that allows dogs on beaches and trails? Our BARK Rangers help educate park visitors about pet rules, so we can keep this privilege. Besides harming the nesting success of the piping plover, unleashed dogs can also chase wildlife resulting in harm to the wildlife and possibly to the dog. 

Read more

Learn more about volunteer jobs at Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes – including the BARK Ranger volunteer.

Become a BARK Ranger volunteer: fill out our Volunteer Registration Form.

Read the rules regarding pets in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

For more information about the endangered piping plover.

Call for Volunteers to Accompany Track Chair Participants

UPDATE: If you would like to become a track chair volunteer, please go here to sign up as a track chair volunteer and contact Kathy Cole to learn more: 


In the past, the closest Jeanne Esch got to the beach was the parking lot.

As Chair of the Accessibility Committee for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Jeanne has had a long-time love of our sandy beaches surrounded by towering dunes. Unfortunately, as a wheelchair user, access to some of her favorite areas was a challenge.

All that changed last summer, when Jeanne got the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a track chair and the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes successfully raised the needed funds for a Track Chair Program in the park – the first of its kind in a National Park!

Now Jeanne can get closer than ever to her beloved shoreline. “On a personal level, as a chair user – having that access on the beach to be able to go out to the shoreline to sit and enjoy the water instead of [being] out in the parking lot watching from afar has been huge,” said Esch. “I can’t stop smiling, I’m so excited about [this new program].”

What is a Track Chair?

A track chair is a personal mobility system. A power wheelchair with tracks rather than wheels, that allows the user to go through sand, climb steeper hills, and move through other surfaces typically found on a trail. It allows users to experience areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes not otherwise accessible to an individual with mobility challenges.

Here’s How the Track Chair Program Works and How You can Participate!

Imagine accompanying someone with mobility challenges as they ‘hike’ a trail or cruise the beach. Being a Track Chair Program volunteer will surely be an incredibly rewarding experience. Read on to learn how you can participate.

The track chair will be available at no charge to park visitors. There will be a reservation system online at beginning in the Spring of 2019. When the chair is reserved, volunteers will be notified. You may sign up to volunteer on specific days of the week – on a weekly basis or monthly basis.

What are Track Chair Program Volunteers’ Responsibilities?

  1. The track chair will be available on a reservation basis.
  2. When a reservation is received, the volunteer will be contacted to meet the person who will be using the track chair and responsible for familiarizing them with the use of the chair.
  3. The volunteer will accompany the track chair user and his/her party on the hike. The current designated track chair trail is the Bay View Trail.
  4. Following the hike, you will check in the track chair and return it to it’s designated location.

How to Become a Track Chair Program Volunteer

  1. To become a volunteer, indicate your interest by filling out our Volunteer Registration form and selecting “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs.
  2. You will be contacted and required to be trained in the use of the track chair. This includes:
    a. Removing the track chair from the trailer.
    b. How to operate the track chair and adjust the safety and comfort features.
    c. Experience driving the track chair.
    d. Checking for obvious damage to track chair before checking it out and when checking it in after use.
  3. Loading the track chair from the trailer and charging it.
  4. How to train the track chair user in the use of the chair.

All Track Chair Program Volunteers are required to be trained!

Time Commitment

Our new trailer that transports the track chair.

Volunteers may choose days, time of day, they are available to volunteer. The volunteers will be on a “on call” system. If there is a request for use of the track chair during the time you have chosen to volunteer, you will be contacted.

Volunteers should plan on 4 hours per volunteer session. This allows for preparing the track chair, familiarizing the track chair user, hiking with the track chair user, checking the track chair upon return, returning it to the trailer.

Other Information

Volunteers must be able to hike the Bay View Trail.

Volunteers will NOT lift or position the track chair user.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes plans to launch the Track Chair Program this spring. If you’re interested in this great volunteer opportunity, please fill out the Volunteer Registration form and select “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs or contact us at

Kettles Trail Construction

The new Kettles Trail, located in the Bow Lakes region of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is under construction. This trail will be approximately 3.5 miles long with the first segment being universally accessible from the parking lot to an overlook. The trail then goes through a hilly meadow and into a forested glacial moraine with steep kettle moraine and some kettle bogs.

Trail-building is being done by hand, and the project is being led by National Park Service staff and supported by two youth corps (YouthWork and SEEDS) as well as by volunteers from Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Funding for this project is provided by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and grants from the American Hiking Society and the Biederman Family Foundation.

As of September 1, 2018 the accessible segment of the trail is nearly complete, and the trail in the forest is approximately half done. Learn more.

Bike Racks on Heritage Trail


Bike Rack at North Unity School Boardwalk

Bike Rack at North Unity School Boardwalk

Bike racks built at the Glen Haven Blacksmith Shop were placed along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Look for these steel and black locust bike racks at the Cannery in Glen Haven, Kelderhouse Cemetery, and North Unity School as well as in front of the Blacksmith Shop.

Friends Receive Grant to Improve Accessibility

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes (Friends) has received a grant for $17,500 from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to assess trails and beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

About 20% of Americans have a disability that limits their use of trails or beaches. Assessment and subsequent improvement of trails and beaches will allow more Park visitors to experience dune, woodland, and wetland habitats and our Lake Michigan and inland lakes. The Friends will have volunteers working with an expert in accessibility assessment to evaluate trails and beaches and make recommendations. We will also partner with the Disabilities Network of Northern Michigan and Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation to bring individuals with disabilities and their families to attend “Beaches and Trails for Everyone” open house events to showcase newly enhanced accessibility features of the Park. This work will be done in 2017-2018.

If you are interested in being part of this project, click here to send us an e-mail to get on this team.

Echo Valley Mt Bike Trail

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes has begun raising funds to support an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the impacts of an proposed Mountain Bike trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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