2023 Was Another Great Year For Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

2023 Was Another Great Year For Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake MI Overlook Pierce Stocking

Last January we looked at visitor numbers for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2022, which was the park’s lowest yearly attendance since 2014. With more than 1.5 million visitors it was still a good year and a top ten all time number for Sleeping Bear Dunes, but we were curious to see what 2023 would bring. The National Park Service has shared visitors numbers from 2023¬†and it was awesome to see an increase of almost 100,000 visitors from the previous year! Today we will take a look at the numbers, check in on which parts of the park saw an increase in traffic, and share some of our favorite destinations from this northern Michigan paradise.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Esch Beach Otter Creek

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore saw 1,598,248 visitors for 2023. This marked the sixth busiest year overall and an increase of almost 30,000 visitors from pre-pandemic years. Here’s a look at the last 10 years at this national park, which includes nine of the top ten years of all time:

2023: 1,598,248
2022: 1,501,117
2021: 1,722,955
2020: 1,718,696
2019: 1,570,001
2018: 1,643,600
2017: 1,678,126
2016: 1,683,553
2015: 1,535,633
2014: 1,395,401

All but three months (January, October, November) saw an increase in visitors from 2022. The busiest month was July with more than 475,000 visitors. May and September had the largest increase from prior year, likely boosted by some great weather.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Glen Haven Blacksmith Shop

Among the park sites that saw an increase in traffic were the Dune Climb (5% increase), the Coast Guard Museum (3% increase), the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, and Esch Rd. (63%). The 51,000 visitors on Esch Rd. (home to an amazing beach and some great hiking trails) was a top mark since statistics have been kept. The park has continued to see visitors from all over the country since it was named “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011. Over a decade later the area continues to make it on “must-visit” lists, most recently making CNN’s list of 24 places to visit in 2024 (in the whole world!).

south manitou island lighthouse

So what makes Sleeping Bear Dunes NL such an appealing destination? With miles of scenic dunes and pristine Lake Michigan coastline, it is a paradise for outdoor recreation lovers. Hiking, kayaking, bicycling, camping, and swimming opportunities keep bringing people back year after year. Some of our favorite stops here include the Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, South Manitou Island, the Empire Bluff Trail, Esch Road Beach, Platte River Campground, and Sleeping Bear Point. We look forward to seeing if this upward swing in visitor numbers continues in 2024, we know we will be a part of it for sure!

Pierce Stocking Covered Bridge Sleeping Bear

A weekly entrance pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is $25 (motorcycle $20) and an annual pass is $45. There are six Free Entrance days this year which are great for first-time visitors!