Several of the snowshoe trails within the Sleeping Bear Dunes lead to the cliff's edge overlooking Lake Michigan. PHOTO BY DAVE FOLEY
Several of the snowshoe trails within the Sleeping Bear Dunes lead to the cliff's edge overlooking Lake Michigan. PHOTO BY DAVE FOLEY

Created in 1973, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore stretches along more than 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, includes several inland lakes and thousands of acres of forest land as well as the North and South Manitou Islands. For outdoor enthusiasts like myself, we consider it our playground.

For three seasons out of the year, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a favored biking, camping, hiking and paddling destination. Once the snow comes, we return with skis and snowshoes.

Arriving at the visitor center and park headquarters at the edge of the village of Empire, ours was the only car in the lot. But that’s not surprising for a week day in March. During the summer and on weekends, this is a much livelier place. Passes are available at various points in the area. We only have to produce our $10 senior lifetime pass for use of the park.

My wife Cyndy and I talked with the ranger on duty to get some background information and collect maps of the snowshoe trails. The park’s 13 hiking paths become snowshoe trails in the winter and eight of those are recommended for cross-country skiing.

The entirety of Dave Foley's account of visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore appeared in the December 2013 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 888/706-4045 or subscribe online here and never miss an issue!