Accessibility to the Sleeping Bear Dunes is very important. One of the key elements of the mission statement of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is to “heighten visitor experiences”. The very nature of a national park means that some places and experiences might be difficult for some visitors with limited mobility or impairment of hearing or sight. But we are committed to finding ways to make more experiences in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore easier for people of all abilities to enjoy.
Thanks to grants we received over the past several years from Hagerty Insurance and National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), we have been able to work with Access Recreation Group to conduct several training sessions and workshops in the Park to train park staff, volunteers, TART staff, and conservancy staff in things to consider when designing trails and other facilities.
About 20% of Americans have a disability that limits their use of trails or beaches. Assessment and subsequent improvement of trails and beaches allow more Park visitors to experience dune, woodland, and wetland habitats and our Lake Michigan beaches and inland lakes.
Volunteers were trained to assess several of the Park’s hiking trails and Lake Michigan beach access points. We learned a lot through that process and have found that there are many little things that can be done inexpensively to make a big difference for people in a wheelchair for example. We have now completed this assessment and have included this information in our listing of beaches and trails.
A hardened beach deck was installed at the Cannery in Glen Haven in 2017 to make it easier for people of all abilities to get from the road to the beach. This makes it easier for older visitors, young families, and those in wheelchairs to be able to enjoy our Glen Haven beach. We plan to install a similar walkway and deck at the Maritime Museum beach in 2021. We remove these beach decks each fall and reinstall them in the spring due to the changing water level in Lake Michigan and the potential damage of winter ice. High water levels have caused significant beach erosion and cause us to reconfigure these decks each spring.
Trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes often have steep slopes or sandy soil, which makes it difficult for some visitors to experience the natural environment or get to some of the spectacular vistas that others can hike. The Friends purchased two track chairs to make available to visitors with limited mobility. Track chairs will be available beginning in July, 2021 for visitors to reserve for FREE. A volunteer will arrange to meet with you, provide training, and accompany you and your friends or family on the Bay View Trail.
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail planned to span 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at County Road 651 to the Leelanau/Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. Currently the trail runs almost 16 miles between Empire and Port Oneida, connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Park your car and use your bike to get around! Trailheads are at Bar Lake Road, Pierce Stocking, Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Alligator Hill, Crystal River, Bay View, and Port Oneida.
Sand Wheelchairs are available at the Maritime Museum boathouse and at the Cannery to enable handicapped individuals to enjoy the dunes and beaches. You must present a driver’s license or similar identification. The chair is available on a first-come, first-served basis; we don’t take reservations.
Lake Michigan Beaches are often difficult to use because of deep loose sand. There is a hard-surfaced beach deck with benches at the Cannery Beach in Glen Haven.
The Blacksmith Shop in Glen Haven Historic Village is a fully functioning shop and is accessible by a ramp built up to the front double doors. There is ample space inside the shop to see exhibits and watch the blacksmith and carpentry demonstrations from a safe distance. Benches are provided. Restrooms in Glen Haven are ramped and accessible with running water and a diaper changing station. Beach dressing areas are included.
D.H. Day General Store in Glen Haven is accessible. Parking is provided in the front with a ramped concrete path to the entrance. The interior space includes both displays and reproduction sales items from the late 1920s and early 1930s for purchase. The first floor of the Ranger Station is also fully accessible and is in the same structure as the D.H. Day Store.
The Cannery Boat Museum is accessible. The adjoining picnic area has picnic tables and raised grills. While the parking area is sandy, it is next to the beach and provides a beautiful view of Sleeping Bear Bay and the Manitou Islands. A sand wheelchair is available for use at the site.
Coast Guard Station Life-Saving Museum has accessible parking with hardened surfaces leading to the Boathouse exhibit. This is accessible by wheelchair, and a boardwalk leads from there to the beach. The entrance to the Station House requires stair climbing and is not wheelchair accessible. Benches facing the lake are located on the porch for those who can climb the stairs. A sand wheelchair is available for use at the site. Restrooms are ramped and accessible and there is running water.
D.H. Day Campground has one accessible campsite, on packed soil, with an accessible vault toilet adjacent. The site has an electric hook-up. Water spigots supply water. An RV dump station is located at the entrance to the campground. The Log Cabin shelter, amphitheater, campground office, and additional campground vault toilets are accessible. A boardwalk with a bench leads to the campground beach.
Platte River Campground has eight campsites that are wheelchair accessible: four are electric sites; two are non-electric, one walk-in non-electric site, and one electric group site. These sites have a hardened pad, a fire ring, and a raised grill, and are located near accessible restrooms, showers, and water. An RV dump station is located at the entrance to the campground. The Ranger Station offices and parking are also accessible.
There is an accessible trail from the parking lot at Trails End to the Bass Lake dock and an accessible trail that goes along the shore of Bass Lake.
Platte River Picnic Area is equipped with accessible parking, restrooms, picnic shelters, and a fish cleaning station, raised grills, and a hardened surface river walk. Some assistance may be necessary on the ramps to the river walk and to access boats on the river’s edge.
Platte River Point beach and picnic area is equipped with accessible parking, restrooms with running water, accessible dressing rooms, and raised charcoal grills.
Loon Lake has an accessible canoe/kayak launch system where boaters can board, launch and disembark from a watercraft safely and easily. The ADA-compliant, floating dock system includes an accessible transfer system along with an accessible canoe/kayak launch system. There is also an accessible restroom and picnic pavilion near the new dock.