Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Lake Michigan, Michigan
Good Morning America has tabbed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan's Lower Peninsula as the "The Most Beautiful Place in America." There was not much consideration given to your dog in the selection but we called Sleeping Bear Dunes one of the great places to take your dog hiking over eight years ago. Typically increases in park popularity and dog friendliness do not go forward in lockstep. But so far so good. Most trails are still open to dogs as are the vast stretches of beach where the Lake Michigan waves are ideal for your water-loving dog - sporty enough to delight your adventurous fetcher but no so vigorous to intimidate your more cautious canine swimmer.
Long ago, according to Ojibway Indian legend, a forest fire ravaged the Wisconsin shoreline driving a mother bear and her two cubs into the waters of Lake Michigan. The three bears swam for safety across the entire lake but the two cubs tired in the crossing. The mother bear continued to the shore and climbed a high bluff to wait for her cubs who couldn't make it and drowned within sight of shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear. The national lakeshore, established in 1970, protects 35 miles of dunes - the highest 480 feet above the lake - that are the product of several glacial advances and retreats that ended 11,000 years ago.
Your dog isn't allowed to make the Dune Climb up a mountain of sand but she may thank you for that. Otherwise dogs are welcome on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore trails. The best canine hike is the Cottonwood Trail off the popular Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The loop leads out into dunes speckled with the bleached remains of overwhelmed trees and the hardy survivors adapting to their sandy world. The rollicking trail, open May to October, is completely on thick sand that, while soft to the paw, can tire an unfit dog.
In the north section of the park the Good Harbor Bay Trail is a flat, wooded walk. Most of the starch has been taken out of the Lake Michigan waves here for gentle canine swimming. More adventurous dog paddlers will want to test the frisky waves in the southernmost Platte Plains section. You have your choice of trails here to choose how much you want to hike before reaching the surf. The 13 mid-length trails throughout the park are all hiker-only. Dogs are not allowed on North or South Manitou Island, both floating just offshore.
RETURN TO DECEMBER 2011 NEWSLETTER
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