The most promising part about the winter season in Northern Michigan is the abundant activities the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has to offer. Sledding down the Dune Climb, located 5 miles north of Empire, is the perfect family activity that becomes a popular and thrilling adventure. The 260 ft dune face is a popular destination in the heart of our lakeshore is the only site in the National Park where sledding is permitted.

After hurrying to the top, you can appreciate the expansive views of the Glen Lakes, followed by the exhilaration of zipping down the dunes. Even though it can be lots of joy sledding down the hill, you still need to stay safe while inside the National Lakeshore.

Here are 5 great tips from The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and the National Park Service on how to remain safe while still enjoying the winter fun:

1: Make sure there is good visibility when you sled, as heavy snow can impair vision.

2: Sled down the dunes only when there is enough snow. Otherwise, it can cause severe erosion due to the dune’s steep incline.

3: Enjoy the spacious dunes! Steering clear from other sledding groups will keep you safe from colliding.

4: The freezing temperatures can cause slippery and unstable surfaces. Always watch for the possibility of small avalanches on steep snow-covered dunes.

5: Lastly, while enjoying your time on the dunes, know that there is lots of room for parking at the Dune Climb for access to sledding and the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. 

Here are some great sources for more information on park conditions:

The Philip A. Hart Visitors Center located at 9922 W Front St. in Empire shares up-to-date information on snow conditions in the park, as well as the NPS website with notifications for current weather alerts around the lakeshore.

You can also check the Winter Trails Page on the Friends website for winter trail conditions reports and trail overviews for safe winter trail activities on the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail! Note, Pets are not allowed on designated cross-country ski trails from December 1 – March 31.  See Park Pet Page for more information. 


Article by Olivia Kleshinski

Photo credits: Sledding on the Dune Climb by Kerry Kelly, National Park Photo Archive