Dog-friendly Winter Hikes

Photo by Crow’s Feet Photo & Design

As cabin fever sets in with a ferocity, we know the desire to get outside is strong. Spring is so close, yet still so far away. So bundle up, load your dog and their leash into the car, and come visit our favorite dog-friendly winter hiking trails!

Winter hiking with a pup can be a little tricky in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many of the National Park’s hiking trails are off limits to dogs during the snowy cross-country ski season. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still great places to explore with your dog! Check out the list of some of our favorites below!

As a reminder, please keep your dogs on-leash at all times to protect other dogs and wildlife. Remember that many trails become icy in the winter, so plan accordingly and bring snowshoes or traction cleats if possible.

1. Empire Bluff Trail

The Empire Bluff Trail is a beautiful 1.5-mile roundtrip hike takes you through a hardwood forest to a sweeping overlook of Lake Michigan. It is a moderately difficult hike year-round, with a mildly hilly terrain, but its difficulty is increased in the winter by deep snow and potentially icy conditions. Use caution, especially as the snow melts and freezes again along the path.

2. Chippewa Run Natural Area

Located just north of the village of Empire, the Chippewa Run Natural Area is a 1.5-mile trail through easy, rolling terrain. The trail passes a beaver pond and takes you through an historic apple orchard. Once called the “Gateway to Empire,” this Natural Area was established by the Leelanau Conservancy in 2000. In the winter, if the parking lot on M-22 is not plowed, turn onto LaCore Street as if heading toward the Empire Museum. Then turn right on Fisher Street and follow signs to recycling bins. Park in recycling area, and you will find the trail guidepost just east of the recycling center.

3. Empire Village Beach Park

Winter in Northern Michigan often means a frozen lakeshore, with many unique views to explore. Our village beach is pet-friendly, and features a beautiful stretch of lakefront to wander. Please use caution when walking on the ice over Lake Michigan, remembering that the Lake changes at a moment’s notice and the ice formations shift frequently.

4. Kettles Trail

The most recently created national park trail, Kettles Trail, is located just east of Empire in the Bow Lakes region. The trail is accessed off of Baatz Road, but the trailhead is unplowed in the winter months. You can park along Baatz Road and enjoy the 2.2-mile loop through an open field and woods. The trail wanders through kettle formations, which are depressions left when the glaciers retreated from the area. It is recommended to wear snowshoes on this hike, as the snow drifts quite a bit in the meadow.

5. Sleeping Bear Point

The Sleeping Bear Point Trail is a 2.8 mile loop in the national park that winds through the woods and dunes just west of Glen Haven Historic village. There are sweeping views of the dunes and Lake Michigan throughout the hike. The trail is only open to pets during the winter season, as it is home to the breeding piping plover from April 15 though August 15.

6. Pyramid Point Trail

Pyramid Point Trail is located north of Glen Arbor in Port Oneida, and is a 2.7-mile loop that follows Basch Road part-way, before winding through the woods and leading you to a lookout above Lake Michigan. With views of North and South Manitou Islands, it is a stunning sight. In the winter, Basch Road is often unplowed to the trailhead, so you may be required to hike an extra 0.5-mile in each direction to access trailhead. You can also hike straight to the lookout from the trailhead, rather than following the full loop. The lookout is 0.6 miles from the trailhead parking lot.

National Park Trails where dogs are prohibited from December 1 through March 31:

Old Indian
Platte Plains Trail System (including Bass Lake, Otter Creek, and Lasso Loop Trails)
Windy Moraine
Scenic Drive Ski Trail (seasonal trail system)
Shauger Hill
Alligator Hill
Bay View
Good Harbor Bay
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail