Tips to conquer Sleeping Bear Dunes with toddlers

Just because we have two toddlers doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! Take for example, our latest trip to one of the most beautiful places in America (according to Good Morning America), Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. We tried to conquer the famous Dune Climb. Who would have thought that trekking up a dune with two kids would be so much fun (and so much work)?

Here are some tips for you and your family to conquer these awesome dunes

1. Take your time and don’t expect to climb it all – The dunes are very deceiving. Just when you think you’ve climbed to the top to see the lake views, you find that you’ve just hit another dune to climb.  When we paid for our parking, the  friendly lady said that it would take 20 minutes to complete the climb. Ummm…she obviously didn’t climb it with toddlers! We passed by many people on our way to the top. One couple that passed by said it took them about an hour. One man said he didn’t even climb to the top of the dunes and it took an hour and half. He still had a half mile to go but decided to turn back and go down. I asked another passerby if it was worth it and she huffed a resounding, “Oh YES!” So my point? Take your time, enjoy the views, and don’t be bummed if you don’t climb all the way up. Consider it a perfect excuse to visit again! Plus, the views that we did see were nothing less than spectacular.

Tips to conquer Sleeping Bear Dunes with toddlers

2. Shoes or no shoes? I brought shoes, but I took them off because it got annoying trying to remove the sand from them. We visited when the weather was above the high 60s, and the sand just the right temperature. In the summer, I can imagine the sand would be scorching, so I would probably bring footwear then.

3. Bring water/liquids – This is an obvious one! The climb may be the easiest out of the others, but it still requires some effort. Okay, a lot – especially if you factor in the little kiddos.
4.  Bring toys – This is after all a huge sandbox. Why not bring some toys?  I even saw a family bring a plastic sled to slide down the dunes. Pure genius!

5. As always, doing a little research goes a long way. Check out the Sleeping Bear Dunes CVB for more info on what else to do around the area. The Park encompasses 26 inland lakes, 80 ponds, 8 sites on national historic, 1 lighthouse, so you can EASILY spend an entire day here (hiking, trails, beaches).

6.  Didn’t conquer the dunes? Don’t worry – go to the 7.4 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive with 5 overlook points. Check out the Lake Michigan Overlook.  Entrance is included if you paid for the entrance fee at The Dune Climb.

7. Have fun…especially on the way down! We saw other kids having a blast running down, but since we were afraid our toddlers would tumble down, my husband ran down with the my three-year-old (keeping a watchful eye), and I carried my youngest down.

8. Bring food! There are picnic tables located at the base of the dune. Grab a lunch and watch as people run down the dunes having the time of their lives!


Admission: A permit costs $10 and you can also use it at Pierce Scenic Drive.

Have you visited conquered the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes? Do you have more tips?
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