About the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a 27-mile bicycle and multi-use trail that connects the small towns of Empire, Glen Arbor and ends at Bohemian Road (CR-669). and M-22.
It roughly parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline and offers panoramic views of the lake and glimpses into their past. Visitors will pass by marshes, forests, farms, rivers, and inland lakes along the trail. The trail travels through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (named by ABC's Good Morning America as one of the "Most Breathtaking Views in America").
The terrain is mostly flat however the section between Bar Lake Road and the Dune Climb does have a few large, steep hills. These tend to be short, but they do have grades up to 11%. While it is mostly paved, there is a section that passes through the Port Oneida Historic District that is unpaved. There are plans are to extend the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail an additional 5.2 miles beyond the current Bohemia Road end point, passing along Little Traverse Lake and on to County Road 651.
It is a non-motorized trail and is groomed in the winter for cross country skiing.
About the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a United States National Lakeshore located on the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan in Leelanau County and Benzie County. Established 1970, the park covers an area of 111 square miles over a length of thirty-five miles.
The dune climb is extremely popular with visitors to this picturesque lakeshore park where tourists can enjoy stunning views along Lake Michigan's shoreline while ascending 460 feet above water level to the top of the dunes.
A total of thirteen different hiking trails wind through this park where hikers can view rugged shoreline, hardwood forests and unique flora and fauna that occupy the park's various habitats. In addition, North Manitou and South Manitou Island lie eight miles offshore.
Getting to the Trail
It is about a 45-minute drive from Traverse City, Michigan. You can even catch a ride on the Traverse City BATA bus line. For details see https://www.bata.net/maps-schedules/seasonal/
Trail head parking is available at the following locations:
- Empire (Philip Hart Visitor center)
- North Bar Lake trailhead
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
- Dune Climb Trailhead
- Glen Haven
- Glen Arbor
- Crystal River Trailhead
- Bayview Trailhead
- Port Oneida Trailhead
- Basch Road
- Bohemian Road
Trail Map and Guide
The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, Michigan is a great first stop. Here you can get your park pass, trail maps, and other information about the trail and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The visitors center has restrooms, and you can park here to begin your ride.
To access the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, head north on M22 and then veer left on to LaCore Road. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail shares the road and travels north for one mile before reaching the actual dedicated trail. Just past this is the Bar Lake Road trailhead.
Empire also offers restaurants, lodging, and a sandy beach on Lake Michigan.
Bar Lake Road Trailhead
The trailhead is located at the intersection of Voice Road and North Bar Lake Road. here you will find a dirt parking lot, pit toilet, and repair stand, and trail map.
Pierce Stocking Drive
While not part of the actual Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, if you want an extra hilly challenge, you can also ride the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4-mile loop is accessible from the trail. If you choose to ride this, be advised that it is extremely hilly (one section is an 18% grade), and that it is open to auto traffic. Again, this is very hilly and not for beginners.
Dune Climb trailhead
The trail passes by what is probably the most popular attraction of the entire park. The dune climb is where you can walk up one of the dunes and see a magnificent view of Glen Lake as well as the backside of the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
There is plentiful parking, restrooms, water, and bike racks at the dune climb.
Glen Haven is the location of the historic Glen Haven Canning Company, Life Saving Station, and Blacksmith shop, and maritime museum. Here you will also find parking, water, and restrooms. Of course, there is also the amazing Caribbean blue waters of Lake Michigan and a sandy beach.
You'll pass along Alligator Hill on your way to Glen Arbor. This area was devastated in 2015 by a storm with 100mph straight line winds. You can still see evidence of massive trees that were blown over like match sticks. There is also a separate hiking trail that goes to the top of the hill and offers a phenomenal view of the North and South Manitou Islands and on a really clear day, South Fox Island.
There is limited parking along Forest Haven Drive in Glen Arbor.
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail enters the tourist town of Glen Arbor on South Forest Haven Drive and then onto M 109 or Western Avenue. Follow the bike trail signs eastward to Lake Street and then onto Northwood drive and finally turning onto Fisher Road where you will again join the dedicated pathway at the Crystal River trailhead. Parking and pit toilets are available here.
Glen Arbor is a busy tourist town so be careful of traffic and pedestrians.
Bike rentals are available at Crystal River Outfitters.
Crystal River Trailhead
Located at the intersection of Fisher Road and West Crystal View Road (CR655) is parking and pit toilets. No drinking water is available here.
Port Oneida Historic District
While much of the National Lakeshore has been allowed to slowly return to its natural state, the Port Oneida Historic District has many old farms that have been preserved. As you enter the area, the pavement turns to fine gravel for the next four miles. This was intentional as to help maintain a historic presence.
The surface is a fine limestone gravel surface. Bikes with narrow tires (less than 38mm) may want to avoid this section.
Basch Road Trailhead
Parking is available at the intersection of Basch Road and M22.
Near the eastern end of the historic district lies Narada Lake. A boardwalk passes along its southern shore. The lake is a popular photo-op as it is both picturesque and a home to wildlife including beaver, loons, and Bald eagles.
Adjacent to the lake is North Unity School, an old one-room schoolhouse that was part of the Port Oneida community.
Bohemian Road Trailhead
The trail ends at the intersection of M22 and Bohemian Road (CR-669). There is limited roadside parking here. However, if you continue northward on Bohemian Road about one mile, there is a large parking lot, pit toilet, bike racks, and another sandy beach on Lake Michigan.
- Stay to the RIGHT, alert others when passing on their left.
- DO NOT block the trail when stopped – move to the side.
- Cyclists ride single file when other users are present.
- Consider wearing a helmet for your safety.
- Don't litter! Dispose of all trash in trash receptacles.
- Respect plants, wildlife, and private property - stay on the trail, leave no trace.
- Sand can sometimes be present on the trail, especially in the open areas near the dunes.
- Debris (twigs, sticks, leaves - especially in the fall or after storms).
- The 3-mile gravel section in the Port Oneida area.
- Driveways - There are many driveways that cross the trail especially near Glen Lake and the Dune Climb.
- Busy Intersections (M22, Pierce Stocking Drive entrance, Dune Climb entrance, Glen Haven, Glen Arbor)
- Other trail users- the trail can be quite busy during peak tourist season.
- The trail passes through areas that are seasonally open to hunting.
Video of the Heritage Trail
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