Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore maintains approximately 117 miles of hiking trails, including those on the mainland and both North and South Manitou Islands. When seeking out peace and solitude on your hike, perhaps try a lesser traveled or a longer distance trail. Just plan ahead with a map, snacks, water, emergency supplies and your Park pass. Remember, not all trailheads stock paper trail maps anymore. Download the NPS app and find your map before you leave. Then take a deep breath and let the sights, sounds and scents of the wilderness surround you.
The Platte Plains Hiking Trail might be just what you need to unwind. Although a popular trail, this large trail system consists of three loops with several trailheads within the Park boundaries. The Bass Lake Loop is 3.5 miles of easy, mostly flat, soft terrain passing through woods and beside Bass and Deer Lakes. Otter Creek Loop is also an easy, mostly flat 4.6 miles passing through woods along Otter Creek and around Otter Lake. Lasso Loop is a wooded 6.3 miles with a few moderate hills and access to Lake Michigan.
For a handy trail map booklet compiled by Kerry Kelly of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Center in Empire, MI. While there, grab information on the Trail Trekker Challenge and begin keeping a record of the hikes you complete within the Park. If you can complete all 14 mainland hikes in one year, you will become an official Trail Trekker! Just bring your completed record book into the Visitor Center, claim your prize and get your name listed on the Park website. Bragging to your friends may or may not be encouraged; just bring them with you to accomplish your goal!
Article and photos by Kristy Tompkins