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Dog Friendly Hiking at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

We love hiking National Park trails. They’re well maintained, wide enough for multiple hikers, and offer some of the most scenic views. The only downside – its hard to find dog friendly trails inside major National Parks.

During our recent trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore we did a little research and found some amazing trails we could enjoy with our pup River!

Here are two we recommend hiking with your furry companion:


Empire Bluffs Trail

Empire Bluffs Trail is 1.5 miles round trip. The path winds through a tall forest, working uphill until it reaches the coast. Once out of the forest, you’ll find yourself high on a bluff over looking miles of lakeshore. There are benches to relax and enjoy the overlook. This is also where the trail loops back on itself, leading hikers down the same trail they hiked in.

We encountered less than ten hikers on the trail, and we never felt crowded. The path is about seven feet wide with a fine-gravel surface. We’d give the hike a “moderate” rating due to the elevation changes. The scenery is a solid 10. The blooming forest was beautiful in June, and the Lake Michigan overlook was stunning.

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There is a large parking area at the trail head. At the information kiosk you’ll find a few hiking rules, a shoe scrapper to help maintain the trail’s natural ecosystem, and free trail maps. There’s also a picnic area and a vault toilet.

Alligator Hill Trail

Alligator Hill Trail is located a few miles north of Empire Bluffs. This hike is also a forested uphill path that leads to a beautiful lakeshore overlook. Unlike Empire Bluffs, you’ll be viewing Glen Lake from this trail. We only saw two other hikers during the 2.5 mile roundtrip.

During the first quarter-mile of our hike there were countless gnats buzzing around us. It was almost enough to make us turn around. We pushed through and the bugs died down – the perched lakeshore view was well worth our effort.

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This is another “moderate” hike containing long uphill stretches. There is a parking area, vault toilet, and a historic kiln located at the trailhead.



These are two trails all three of us enjoyed together. We hear there are a few more dog friendly trails in the area and may test those out in the coming days.

If you find yourself at Sleeping Bear Dunes with your beloved dog, give these trails a hike!

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  1. jason says:

    Gnats almost stop you! For shame, you are from LA and can handle any critters, except snakes, the are in your way. The view is awesome!

  2. You have no idea. I thought river was kicking sand on us at first, I can only handle so many gnats up my nose before I lose my sanity. For that view, it was well worth it.