Adopt-A-Trail

A Ranger leads a group on the Cottonwood Trail

Each year thousands of people use over 50 miles of trails on the mainland in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to experience the variety of natural ecosystems that exist in the Park and to see beautiful vistas that are inaccessible from a vehicle. Downed trees or branches due to high wind, snow or ice sometimes block the trail, or erosion can cut gullies into the trail making a hike more difficult or dangerous. Trail volunteers commit to hiking their trail about once each month to clear small obstructions and to communicate larger obstructions or other trail issues. Having volunteers regularly hike the trails assures that they will be clean and in good condition for future visitors.

Trails in the Adopt-a-Trail Program

At this time, there are 13 hiking trails in this program. Some trails have additional loops or spurs.

  • Old Indian Trail    (Lake Michigan Loop, Red Arrow Loop, Green Arrow Loop)
  • Platte Plains Trails    (Lasso Loop, White Pine, Bass/Deer Lake, Otter Creek Loop, Otter Creek West, Otter Creek East, White Pines Campground Spur)
  • Treat Farm
  • Empire Bluff
  • Windy Moraine
  • Shauger Hill
  • Cottonwood
  • Dune Loop
  • Sleeping Bear Point Loop and Spur
  • Alligator Hill    (Advanced Trail,  Intermediate Trail, Easy Trail, Big Glen Lookout Spur)
  • Bay View    (Farms Loop Trail, Ridge Loop Trail, High Trail, Low Trail, Moosewood Loop Trail)
  • Pyramid Point    (Main Loop Trail, SE Loop Trail)
  • Good Harbor Bay
  • Kettles Trail

You can get more details about each trail from our online Hiking Trails brochure. This brochure is also available in paper form, for a free-will  donation, at several locations within the park, including the campground offices and the Visitor Center in Empire.

How to become an Adopt-A-Trail Volunteer:

  1. Contact the Adopt-A-Trail Manager, Jeff Brown to indicate your interest. The Manager will help you select a trail and help you through the process of getting signed up, becoming trained, and obtaining the materials you will need including an annual pass, volunteer vest, trail map, SLBE map, and Tree Reporting and Emergency Contact card.
  2.  Fill out the  FOSBD Volunteer Registration Form so that we know how to contact you.
  3. Sign up as a Volunteer-in-Park (VIP) at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Download a Volunteer Agreement Form and take it to the Visitor Center in Empire. If you are already a VIP, we will add this job to your existing VIP profile.
  4. Attend a one-hour training session where you will receive all the information you need to get started on the trails.
  5. After training, each time you patrol your trail, file your patrol report using our on-line Rustic Trail Reporting Form to report the hours you spent, and to report any maintenance issues that require handling by Park Maintenance Staff.
  6. The Adopt-A-Trail Training Manual 2018 is available as a resource for our volunteers. If you have a question, check the manual or contact Jeff Brown, the Adopt-A-Trail Manager.

Duties & Responsibilities of volunteers:

The volunteer will patrol the trails and provide a situation report including windfalls, drainage problems, erosion, vandalism, and litter. Volunteers certified for using hand tools by the Park are allowed to cut low-hanging limbs or branches and small downed trees that block the trail.

The volunteer may also pick up litter, remove leaves and debris from drainage’s, and remove sand from boardwalks.  The volunteer may greet and provide park education and assistance to park visitors using the trail.

The volunteer will submit a Rustic Trail Report including hours worked and any observations about the trail.

Anticipated Results & Benefits of Project:

Park trails will receive more frequent scrutiny than is possible through visits by paid staff. Problems will be corrected on the spot, or else reported to the appropriate staff member for prompt attention. The presence of volunteers on the trails will have a positive influence on visitor behavior and enhance their overall experience.

Skills and Abilities Needed by Volunteers:

The volunteer’s physical conditioning must be good enough to permit walking moderate distances. They should be comfortable interacting with park visitors, and using their best efforts to answer questions and provide a positive image of the park as well as the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes organization.

Limitations for Volunteers:

Volunteers must be certified by the Park to use power tools or hand tools for trail maintenance.

Time Commitment of Volunteers:

Volunteers are asked to patrol their trail once per month from April through October.  Patrolling more frequently, and patrolling other trails is encouraged.

Here are some of the views you will experience as an Adopt-A-Trail volunteer:

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