First, I highly recommend doing the Scenic Drive and stopping at stop # 9 Lake Michigan Overlook. Don’t plan to go down to the Lake Michigan beach from there unless you are prepared for the extremely strenuous hike back up the bluff. That means wearing shoes, sunscreen, lots of water and snacks. It doesn’t look that hard when you look at it from the top – but believe me, it looks a lot harder when you are 1/4 the way back up!
One of the best ways for the kids and young adults to learn about the park is to get a Junior Ranger book and complete the activities in that. When done, they can get a Jr. Ranger badge. You can pick these up at the Visitor Center in Empire or at the campground office at Platte River Campground.
Also, you will want to go to the Dune Climb. Tons of great sandy fun, hikes and areas to play and explore. Once again make sure to wear sunscreen and stay well hydrated and be ready to get sandy.
To learn about the history of this area, logging, and Great Lakes shipping, go to the historic village in Glen Haven. There are several museums, a working blacksmith shop (great fun to watch the blacksmith make things out of red-hot metal), and the Lake Michigan beach is right there! You will definitely want to drive from Glen Haven to the Maritime Museum – just 1/2 mile west of Glen Haven. At 3:00 PM every day, they do a reenactment of the life-saving service rescue.
Thursday afternoon – either at the Maritime Museum or Glen Haven beach, they shoot off the Lyle Gun, which is a cannon that takes a rope from shore to a stranded ship. Very cool!
Recommendations for Hiking:
Here is a link to information about our hiking trails. https://friendsofsleepingbear.org/trails/
I highly recommend Empire Bluff trail for a hike through the woods to a great view of Lake Michigan. Also, recommend Sleeping Bear Point trail for an experience of hiking through sand dunes to the beach and some great views of Lake Michigan – not too strenuous.
I DO NOT recommend trying to hike to Lake Michigan from the Dune Climb unless you are really prepared with lots of water, snacks, good hiking shoes, sunscreen, etc. This is a very strenuous hike and will take you at least 2 hours round trip.
Here is a link to information about our beaches: https://friendsofsleepingbear.org/beaches/
Both the Lower Platte River and the Crystal River offer a great opportunity to kayak, canoe, stand-up-paddleboard, and more! Complete equipment rentals and shuttling are available from Friends Business Supporters Riverside Canoe Trips on the Platte River and Crystal River Outfitters on, you guessed it, the Crystal River.