It’s no secret that the Great Lakes State is awesome. Northern Michigan has won countless awards for its picturesque views and local vibes; even as a Michigan native, I am always amazed when I see Lake Michigan or The Sand Dunes. We planned a day trip to Glen Arbor, planning on climbing the Dunes, but after a slight direction disagreement, Jeremiah and I ended up heading to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
This is an absolute must for anyone visiting Northern Michigan. Most people flock to the Dune Climb or Empire Bluffs, but this drive has amazing overlooks, dunes, and Lake Michigan, all in one trip!
This scenic drive was developed in the 1960s by Mr. Pierce Stocking himself. After his death, the National Park Service purchased it, and its been a tourist attraction ever since.
We recommend heading there as early as possible; the overlooks can get a bit jammed if there are a lot of people. We went two days in a row, and tried to make it there around 8am; okay let’s be honest, it was more like 9am, I’m not a morning person. Each overlook offers something special, and gives you a different view of what Northern Michigan has to offer. We started out taking some pictures of the Covered Bridge and the Glen Lake Overlook; then we shared breakfast overlooking the dunes. The park is also dog friendly, so we brought Luna along for the drive, and got to walk her down Cottonwood Trail. The trail is only 1.5 miles, but because it goes into the dunes, hiking through the sand felt a lot longer.
After the hike, we had a little break in the car, and got to check out some of the tree filled stops. It may seem not as beautiful as the overlooks, but this was definitely Jeremiah’s favorite part of the drive. For any nature lover, it’s just amazing to look and walk through a quiet forest, and take in that fresh, clean tree smell. The air is just so crisp, and the land tells a story through it’s trees.
But if you’re in love with Lake Michigan as much as I am, the Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook is definitely the place to go. It was so crowded, and we couldn’t remember if the Lake Michigan access was dog friendly, so we ended up skipping these stops; but I know we’ll be heading back soon, and hopefully we can go on a weekday or a less crowded weekend.
Next, we arrived at my favorite stops. The North Bar Lake Overlook is so underrated compared to the Lake Michigan Overlook. It’s never crowded, but offers one of the best views on the drive. Plus, at this point, you might be hungry again, and can enjoy a quiet lunch, while looking at North Bar, before heading out of the park. A lot of people skip out on the last overlook, but I love walking by and just looking up at pine trees. It makes me feel so small, and puts everything in perspective. Soaking in that last bit of crisp, fresh, air, we are back in the car, and ready to enjoy the rest of the day.
When you check into the park, you will get a map that goes over the stops and what to expect at each one; but until then, my illustration below will give you a sneak peak.