Sleeping Bear: Find solitude by visiting one of the most visited places in the U.S.

Michigan.  You think white sand beaches, towering dunes, and crystal clear waters.  Valley View trail and backcountry campsite inside the park offers none of that!  In a slow weekend just before Memorial Day, my wife and I decided to break in our packs and do our first backpack trip of the summer.  The weather was cool and rainy, and the crowds had not formed yet in the small beach towns on the northern tip of the mitten.
Or so we thought!
We loaded up our packs (Osprey Kestrel 38), and made sure to pack rain and wind breakers.  The weather off the lake can be unpredictable, but with proper gear, you can have a very enjoyable experience.  We had originally planned on backpacking a 2-mile clip to “White Pine Backcountry Campground” right near the beach in the deep interior of the National Lakeshore.  There we could setup camp and enjoy the dunes of Lake Michigan away from any crowds, and cars.
Or so we thought…again!
After a bit of trouble with some directions, we finally found the DNR station.  There, the ranger informed me that the camp we were planning on hiking to, was filled with a troop of boy scouts, and there were no spots left!  Really?  On a rainy 51 degree day, with wind spray and a couple weeks before Memorial Day?
So he recommended another backcountry site.  Valley View Campground, nestled in the hills over looking over the tiny town Glen Arbor, MI.  The short, easy trail, gradually gains a few hundred feet elevation through an amazing forest of hardwoods, and thick Northern Michigan timber, before topping out on a ridge and into a small open valley.
The ranger told us this trail, and its little set of backcountry tent sites would be virtually guaranteed privacy, and we probably wouldn’t see any other people in this rarely visited corner of the park.  He was right!
The hike only took us about 35 minutes, and we were able to enjoy the deep forest of mature timber around us. We arrived in camp in a heavy rain, pitched our tent under a huge pine, and tried to dry off, completely alone in the site.  Sitting inside the tent sipping whisky, and playing blackjack while listening to Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen provided entertainment, while we gently were pelted by the tiny beads of rain slipping off the pine.
Around 9:30 pm the rain stopped, and I was able to make a little dinner on our butane stove.  About this time we heard a coyote a little ways away give a fantastic howl into the night sky.  This was our yellow lab Gus’s first camping trip and the coyote’s howl reminded him he wasn’t in Kansas anymore!  The evening was chilly, with rain off and on, but the morning brought fantastic sun, and great color for some pictures, as the sun bathed our little valley

While the other campgrounds are filled with motorhomes, huge tents, and sun burned city slickers, Valley View is a peaceful clearing where you can pitch your tent and sip your morning coffee in the shade of hardwoods while watching a whitetail meander through the small meadow.
The price for such tranquility is carrying your necessities 1.5 miles from a parking lot. And then carrying them out when you’re ready to head home.  Valley View is an EXCELLENT choice for a quick backpack getaway that is virtually guaranteed to be private!