The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

I don’t want to bore you to tears with a minute by minute recap of our time in the great north (just know that we’re having a darn tootin’ good time), but I would like to share one of our National Parks that not many people outside of Michigan are familiar with – the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Anybody out there (aside from my Michigan family) been? I have been too many times to count but this marked Clay and Weston’s first time, as well as the first time for my sister’s husband, Mike, and my brother’s wife, Kelly. My Aunt Sue, Uncle Mike, cousin Heidi, and her two sons, Ian and Caleb {all visiting for a couple of days) joined us on our hike.

Beginning the hike of the first hill, known as The Bear.

So why are they called the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes? Well, according to Chippewa legend, in the great forest that is now Wisconsin, a fire burned from horizon to horizon, driving a mother bear and her two cubs from the woods. When they reached the shore of Lake Michigan, they plunged in the cold water. However, somewhere in the dark she lost sight of her cubs. The next day, she sighted the tall white dunes of Michigan. When she reached the shore and looked back, her cubs where nowhere to be seen. She called to them with no answer, finally climbing the dunes to look back. As the sunset, she saw her cubs struggling far offshore. Her heart broke as the first one and the other slipped under the waves. Heartbroken and exhausted, she lay upon the dune for days and days, looking at the waters. The spirit was moved by her sorrow and faithfulness and raised two islands, North Manitou and South Manitou to celebrate the cubs. Knowing that her heard would never med, the spirit laid slumber upon the mother bear and drew the sand over her like a blanket (Please see the comments below by Domino for more accurate information about Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes).

Mom and Dad at the top of the first hill.

Scott and Kelly. Little Glen Lake can be seen from the top of the first hill.

Once finished with the first hill, we walked across a flat area and then hiked up a second hill. Our little guy insisted on walking up the sand dunes by himself. I think he wanted to be like Ian and Caleb. Can you spot his orange shirt in the picture?

On top of the second hill. Lake Michigan is in the background.

Mike, Mikey, and Megan

Beautiful, isn’t it?

One of the best part of climbing the dunes is being able to run down the dunes. Here are Caleb, Ian, Scott, and Dad prepping for their decent.

And they’re off! You can see how high we were up…the line in the background between the sand the cars represents the top of the big hill and where the drop off begins.

I ran down some parts of the dunes (e.g. the non-dangerous parts) while holding Weston.

He screamed with joy.

  The little guy wasn’t too sure about descending the big hill so Clay had to hold his hand.
Caleb opted for the old-fashioned run as fast as you can method.
While Ian rolled his way down the big hill.


So I totally spaced out and failed to snap a picture of the large dune. So here is a vintage picture from the 1970s. While it wasn’t as impressive as it was when I was a child, you still feel the climb in your calves. With each passing year, the large dune erodes a foot or two. In 1961, the dune was only 132 feet high, and by 1980, it was down to 103 feet. This means it will only be a matter of time until the Bear disappears completely. So you better start planning your trip now!


6 thoughts on “The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

  1. thank you, thank you, thank you for all the fantastic pictures of Sleeping Bear! Brings back so many memories of running/falling/rolling down the hills as a child. Haven’t been on the hills since then, but have been back to see them a time or two. Sure looks like the whole family is having a wonderful time.

      1. thanks, Karen. I really missed seeing all of you. And as hot as it is down here, I really miss being in the northern country.

  2. Nice story and photos, Karen. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for some dunes photos—they came up on a Google Search. Allow me (a summer resident since 1970 and major Dunes enthusiast) to correct a few items of fact, however, in the spirit of the accuracy at the dunes….

    The first big hill (The Dune Climb) is not “The Bear”. The actual “Sleeping Bear” is at the Lake Michigan cliff side of the dunes, and (used to be) a big tree and grass covered hill that looked like a sleeping bear if you viewed it from the ships that passed by on Lake Michigan. It was the highest point on the Dunes and very distinctive.

    Today, what is left of the Sleeping Bear doesn’t look like a bear at all. It may be 1/3 of the height it used to be. I just hiked out there in early July, 2012 and took some pictures. Erosion has substantially diminished the Bear in less than 100 years. So that is what the Stocking Scenic Drive brochure is referring to when they say the height of the Sleeping Bear is declining—they are referring to the pinnacle, not the Dune Climb. It is true that the Dune Climb is migrating towards the parking lot and is less steep than it used to be.

    Finally, the view from the top of the Dune Climb is of “Little” Glen Lake. Big Glen doesn’t start til past the bridge. Of course, it’s really all one lake….

    Hope everyone had a great vacation and enjoyed the Dunes!


    1. Thank you for the information, Domino! I fixed the big/little Glen confusion (which I totally knew but spaced out on) and made reference to your comment in the post. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Do you have something to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s