Video: The most beautiful place in America – The Sleeping Bear Dunes

America is a beautiful country.

From sea to shining sea there are natural wonders that take your breath away and we plan to visit as many of them as we can on our epic cross-country road trip.

But which one is the best?

The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakefront in Michigan’s lower peninsula according to the viewers of Good Morning America – a breakfast TV show whose viewers voted it The Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011.

Check out our video:

Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in the northwest corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula about 25 miles west of Traverse City

The Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Great Lakes they border were formed millions of years ago by glaciers

I’m usually pretty sceptical of any claims at supremacy. I don’t find Paris to be the world’s most romantic city and I’ve been fairly unimpressed with most Italian cooking. The hype doesn’t always ring true.

But I have to say The Sleeping Bear Dunes deserve the praise. They were like nothing I ever expected to see in the USA.

I had to pinch myself a few times that I had not stumbled back to the aridly beautiful coast of Western Australia where I hail from.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Double-Barrelled Travel

We made it to the top!

Touring the Sleeping Bear Dunes

The dunes are about an hour and a half’s drive from Traverse City but quite close to where we staying at The Homestead Resort.

There is a well marked road that takes you directly to the main area where you can play on the dunes. The dunes are in a National Park and it costs $10 per vehicle to get a pass – you can pick one up as you enter the parking area.

The main entrance that we went to is a good place to start and allows you to climb a tall dune and hike a rambling trail all the way down to the shores of Lake Michigan.

There is also a scenic drive a little further down the road that offers several vantage points where you can look out over the dunes. Right at the end of the drive is a lookout deck and if you’re feeling athletic you can walk all the way down a seriously steep dune to the water.

Just bear in mind you have to climb back up again!

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Double-Barrelled Travel

OK, I tilted the camera bit – but you get the idea!

What it’s like climbing the steep sand

Tiring, but fun. That’s how we’d sum up our day at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

We loved the challenge of climbing the first big dune and taking in the arid beauty of the area covered by the walking trail.

But it was hard going in the afternoon heat and our hearts broke every time we climbed up a dune, expecting to see the water, and saw another dune to climb. Watch the video to see the journey in full!

Bring plenty of water! Also, be wary of the type of shoes you wear. We wore flip-flops yet decided to go barefoot, but the hot sand splayed our toes apart with every step so by the end they were pretty sore.

Other hikers were a bit smarter and wore slip on shoes or boots. Even socks would probably do the trick.

It’s a great work out though and when we finally got to the waters of Lake Michigan we dove in and cooled off enough that the walk back went a lot faster.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Double-Barrelled Travel

Lake Michigan is huge and seems more like an ocean

Why The Sleeping Bear Dunes are worth visiting

The Sleeping Bear Dunes certainly live up to the title they’ve been given. But even without the accolade they are beautiful and offer a very unique experience.

Who knew you could find sand dunes in the middle of America that rival the ones you’d find on the coast? If you love the outdoors and don’t mind a bit of hard work then The Sleeping Bear Dunes will win your heart.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Double-Barrelled Travel

Looking down the drop off ave me vertigo – but these tourists thought it would be fun to go down

What you need to know:

How much – A park pass costs $10 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days. You can also purchase an annual pass for $20.

How to get there – The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula west of Traverse City.

When to go – The dunes are open all year round but are best seen in summer.

Video transcript:

Dave VO – The Sleeping Bear Dunes don’t seem very tall from the bottom – but once your feet sink into the sand it’s like scaling a huge wall. It was a real test of fitness, especially for us!

Carmen VO – Once you get to the top you can keep going – the dunes run all the way to the shore of Lake Michigan and there is a winding track that will take you there – we were told it would take around 2 hours there and back. Sounds good!

Dave VO – These two have the right idea – it was tough going! You’re on your own though Carmen!

Carmen VO – It was a very hot afternoon so we hiked in bursts between the red hot sand and clumps of shady trees that were like an oasis in the desert. Make sure you take plenty of water.

Dave VO – Easier said than done! some of the dunes were so steep it was almost like climbing a ladder, one that slips and slides beneath your feet!

Carmen VO – On and on we went, hot and tired and thirsty – though some hikers had energy to burn!

Dave VO – at long last, water water everywhere! It was a relief to get there are walking for so long…

CarmenVO – We were thoroughly refreshed after our dip and started on the long trek back, though we did speed things up a little…

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About the author

Dave is the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel and has been nomadic since May 2013. When he's not busily working on a novel, he can be found exploring a war museum, sailing a yacht (unfortunately not his own), or hiking up a mountain.

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