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Sleeping Bear Dunes: Valley View Trail
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore features sweeping panaromas, towering dunes or long stretches of deserted shoreline. The Valley View Trail has none of those. What this short and easy trail leads to is a handful of backcountry campsites, tucked away in a quiet and often overloaded area of the park and surrounded by an impressive forest of hardwoods.
What the Valley View Trail offers is an overnight escape into in a region of Michigan that is often overrun by tourists in the middle of the summer. When Platte River and D.H. Day Campgrounds are filled to capacity with motorhomes, humming generators and sun-burnt families, Valley View is a peaceful oasis where you can pitch your tent and sip your morning coffee in the shade of hardwoods while watching a whitetail meander through the small meadow. The price for such tranquility is carrying your necessities 1.5 miles from a parking lot. And then carrying them out when you’re ready to head home.
Such a small price in today’s congested world. The best time to arrive is from late September through mid-October when the beech and maples that form much of the canopy are burning with fall colors. Without the heat, bugs or crowds and with such autumn splendor overhead, this relatively obscured trail becomes a priceless weekend getaway. Your necessities should include water as there is neither a source of safe drinking water here nor a stream or lake nearby to filter water.
Valley View Trail begins next to the information sign in the parking lot and immediately crosses Hyland Road. On the north side it enters that beautiful forest and remains in it until you reach the campsites. Nearby is M-22 and you can hear the traffic rumbling by until the trail swings sharply east and begins steadily climbing a ridge. You gain almost 75 feet in the next half mile topping off on the forested dune where the trail swings north and follows the rounded crest of it. The largest beech and maple are located here and will dazzle you in the fall.
At Mile 1.25, the trail swings east again, descends off the dune, climbs a smaller one and then descends gently into a small open meadow. Welcome to Valley View! Not spectacular, not like places on South Manitou Island, but quiet and more than likely all yours. The small meadow is ring in by hardwoods and sumac. On its east side are five numbered campsites, two of them with fire rings, all of them just inside the trees. Sites three and four indeed have a view of the valley from the make-shift benches other backpackers have created. Also located nearby is a wilderness toilet.
Print this map! The park trail maps - available at D.H. Day Campground Office or from a box at the trailhead - are very simplistic. The walk-in campground has backcountry toilets but no source of drinking water.
The trail is open year-round and all visitors are required to have a weekly vehicle entrance permit, an annual park pass or a per-person pass if they arrive on foot, bicycle or motorcycle. Campsites are $5 per night. Passes and camping permits can be purchased from the Philip Hart Visitor Center in Empire.
From the town of Glen Arbor head north on M-22 for two miles. Across from the main entrance of the Homestead Resort, turn right (south) on Westman Roadand then quickly turn east (left) on Hyland Road. The posted trailhead is a 100 yards east on Hyland Road.
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