2022 Visitor Numbers Show Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Is As Popular As Ever
It has been more than a decade since Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning in America, which led to a surge in visitors in the years that followed. Attendance records were set in 2020 and again in 2021, as visitors looked for large and open outdoor spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. A look at 2022 visitor numbers shows that things cooled off a bit from the record years, but still comparable to other years in the last decade. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors a year dating back to 2015 as they check out the trails, dunes, lighthouses, history, and 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Here’s a look at 2022 visitor numbers and how they compare to previous years:
Things started off strong in 2022 and showed that the trend of people checking out the park in winter in greater numbers has continued. January’s 16,143 visitors was actually an increase from 2021 (the only month that happened) and the second-best mark for that month in history. February saw a slight decline but its 15,160 visits were the third-best for the month. March was where the first big gap came up, with a drop of almost 30,000 visits from 2021. Michigan weather can be a big factor in winter and early spring visits, as can spring break and most families with young kids heading south. Things got back to normal in April with a slight decline from 2021 but an overall number that line up well with the previous decade.
As things started to warm up in May, attendance at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore shot right back up. With more than 86,000 visits (a top 5 mark for May) things looked to be set up for a busy summer. Close to two-thirds of the park’s 1.5 million visitors came in June, July, or August. The three summer months’ attendance could best be described as slight drops from a record 2021 but steady compared to the prior ten years.
The fall months of September, October and November were quite strong as they only saw slight dips from 2021 numbers while beating out 2020 numbers. December followed that pattern as well.
What can we learn from this look at 2022 visitor numbers from Sleeping Bear Dunes? It appears the record year of 2021 will be a hard one to beat but people are still drawn to this amazing destination. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore continues to improve the visitor experience, and we are excited about one of the big changes coming for 2023 – cashless payments at staffed locations like Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive! As technology continues to improve, it is great to see our Michigan national parks catch up to their southern and western counterparts where cashless payments have been the norm for awhile. Let’s hope this leads to shorter lines and and more money for upgrade projects. Numbers used in this article can be found at irma.nps.gov.