Sleeping Bear is one of those majestic places that don’t seem real, with its stretches of pristine white sand beaches and freakishly blue water–but it totally is. There are a number of ways to experience Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore depending on how much energy you feel like expending. For us, on a short visit, we didn’t have a lot of time or energy for long hikes. In order to get the best overview of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we started out with a visit to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This driving loop travels 7.5 miles through the park and some of its most unique scenery and overlooks.
The scenic drive took us through forest, wetland, and finally dunes, where we were standing on the precipice of a dune that stands 450 feet tall. Looking out over the lake, taking in the different, shifting hues of blue, We had to remind ourselves that we were in Michigan instead of the Mediterranean or Caribbean. It was easy to be fooled; easy to forget that we were still in the Midwest. We were in awe as the sand dunes and blue waters will hold a lifetime full of memories for us. We probably don’t need to explain why Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was voted the most beautiful place in America by GMA in 2011.
Right before reaching the opening at Sleeping Bear Point there was a sign warning us to not go down the dune or it might take upwards of 2 hours to get back up. We didn’t take it seriously up until when we got to the top of the point and looked at the steep, sandy drop below us. The scenery was almost too pretty and majestic to take in with the aqua blue waters and the sounds of the waves pounding below. And the slight fear that if we tripped we would tumble a few hundred feet down into Lake Michigan.
The biggest challenge to cramming as many activities as possible into a small window of time is actually being able to enjoy everything on the itinerary. On our recent four-day visit to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, we were faced with this situation as we wanted to experience as much of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as possible, while also visiting other attractions. So we didn’t attempt to hike down the dunes rather enjoyed the overlooks and went on with our day.
Next up was an uphill hike to the Empire Bluff Trail. We just couldn’t get over the turquoise –green color of the water. It is hard to believe that this water is in Michigan and not the ocean! At the top of the bluff, there was the panoramic view of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and the beach located in the Village of Empire. We sat at a wooden bench 400′ above the shoreline watching the sunlight dance on the water and the golden light color the sand. If you make it to this spot, 400 feet above Lake Michigan, breathe in and feel some harmony with everyone that holds this view.
We finally ended our day at the Mackinaw city watching the Mackinac Bridge coming in and out of the clouds. The Mackinac Bridge also known as the “Gateway to the North” was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened, but today the bridge is 3rd. While crossing the five mile long bridge, Abhi exclaimed me to let the Pure Michigan air flow in as we are now breathing the purest air on earth! The bridge is just breathtaking and one of the most beautiful bridges we’ve ever seen. Stats say it is the longest suspension bridge in America, with a total length of 8,614 feet suspended. Imagine how it feels like to drive over it on a beautiful clear day, knowing our adventure into the Upper Peninsula is about to begin.
As we began to appreciate more and more how special Upper Peninsula Michigan is in so many ways, our hearts agreed that this is pure truth. Our first day in Pure Michigan was beautiful as we watched reflections of light and sound off the surface of the lake, felt just enough sun on our skin, shook sand out of our shoes and took sunset strolls down the lake before stopping for ice cream.
♥ Abhi & Suchi ♥