Welcome to my article on Empire Bluff Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes! My name is Kate Morrissey and I grew up in Portage, Michigan. I spent every summer exploring Northern Michigan – whether it was camping with my family, hunting for rocks at the beach or hiking my favorite trails of the area.
I’m currently a student at the University of Central Florida studying hospitality marketing. During the school year, I worked as a concierge at Walt Disney World® Resort and also as a performer at Universal Orlando Resort – but I spent this summer as a guest service and marketing intern at the incredible Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan.
I have always loved nature. Wanting to get back to my Michigan roots and escape the Florida summer heat, I packed up my car and made the long drive to Glen Arbor. The three months I spent immersed in the wonders of Northern Michigan will be an experience I will never forget.
I did all my grocery shopping at local markets and farmsteads, and hiked or paddle-boarded before my shifts at The Homestead. On my days off, I enjoyed the many incredible wineries of the region and road tripped to all of the charming towns – there were very few days that one could not find me hunting for rocks or enjoying a sandwich from Village Cheese Shanty.
Hiking the Amazing Empire Bluff Trail
Empire Bluff Trail is a hike that I have done countless times over the years, but every time I go it takes my breath away. It’s only ten minutes away from The Homestead and so I would often take spontaneous trips to the Bluffs.
I typically start this hike at the main trailhead and go as far as the boardwalk or continue to the Treat Farm section, depending on how much time I have. The overlook at the start of the boardwalk is my favorite part, as you catch that first glimpse of the blue water (maybe we should call it Michigan blue)! Depending on how far I go, the hike takes 1-2 hours.
Empire Bluff Trail is always the first hike I recommend to The Homestead guests as it’s the perfect adventure for people with all skill levels. Families come with their young kids and even bring their dogs! The hike starts in a meadow, has a gradual incline through the woods, and once you reach the boardwalk, it’s easy to navigate the trail of sand scaling the bluffs.
If you are looking for something more advanced on this hiking trail, you can always run down the dune to the water at the bottom. But be warned! It can take over two hours to climb back up and the only other way out is to be air-lifted by the coast guard, which is not very friendly on the wallet!
My Best Memory on the Empire Bluff Trail
My favorite day on the Empire Bluff Trail was when I was hiking by myself and ended up meeting a group of girls who had all met each other on social media. They were so sweet and invited me to hike with them. We had the best time! We all piled into my car afterwards to check out the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and kept in touch throughout the summer.
To me, the Empire Bluff Trail is a solid 9/10 in terms of enjoyment. While the trail can get a little crowded on weekends and during the peak of summer, it is a stunning place to catch a sunset, marvel over the endless views of the blue water and enjoy all the beauty that Northern Michigan has to offer.
Need to Know Before you Go
To enjoy the trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you need to purchase a pass from the National Parks Service. A 7-Day pass is $25 per vehicle and it’s worth it! This pass covers the Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Empire Bluffs, Pyramid Point and more. You can get a pass at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center. And, of course, bring water and bug spray!