2017-06-29 / Outdoors

Tip for beating Fourth crowds: set your alarm

THE GLEN LAKE picnic area is a more private location for people looking to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend. THE GLEN LAKE picnic area is a more private location for people looking to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend. The Fourth of July draws the biggest crowds of the year to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with many looking for some beach time.

But what if that “perfect” beach includes solitude?

Tom Ulrich, Deputy Superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, has several recommendations for those looking to avoid the crowds over the long holiday weekend.

The first tip is to research. Find a place that fits your taste, then look around for park land that’s underutilized, he said.

So while the Dune Climb may be crawling with people, the little Glen Lake picnic area just down the road may be relatively quiet and isolated, Ulrich said.

“It’s not really known all over about this spot,” Ulrich said. “Though there’s not a set beach, people still go swimming there and it’s a great place to get out on the water and a nice place to relax as well.”

Shalda Creek in Cleveland Township is another place that’s just a long enough walk to keep people away, Ulrich said. There’s a restroom and parking facility off Lake Michigan Drive, but most visitors are content to dangle their toes in the water at the popular County Road 669 road-end at Lake Michigan.

Taking a left and driving a couple minutes usually will provide more room to roam. You can’t see Lake Michigan from the Shalda Creek parking lot, but the big lake’s sparkling waves are just a short walk over a sandy rise.

“People don’t think about places like this,” Ulrich said. “They think of the popular spots and so places like this tend to get forgotten by most.”

School Lake, also found in Cleveland Township, offers bathrooms and 176 acres for fishing. Adjacent Bass Lake is visible from M-22, making it a more popular stop.

“We see lakes like this that have the facilities to support visitors but we’re just not seeing the high numbers,” Ulrich said. “This is a good place to go during high traffic weekends and popular summer months.”

Still, timing may be everything when it comes to beating Fourth of July crowds, Ulrich said.

“Early in the morning is better because no one is there and it’s already warm out,” he said. “You’re getting there during the best time of the day when it’s the least crowded and then you’re ready to go when everyone else is leaving.”

Morning is also a good time to see wildlife and stay cool, Ulrich suggested.

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