The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore takes less than an hour to cover, making it the perfect day trip from Traverse City, Michigan. Notable stops include the picturesque covered bridge at the park’s entrance and several stunning pull-offs for soaking up the natural beauty of Lake Michigan. The shape of the sand dunes no longer resembles a sleeping bear (thanks, erosion!), but the steepness makes them look all the more spectacular. Numerous signs warn against scrambling down to the water; too many inexperienced climbers have found themselves unable to make the strenuous two-hour hike back up. (Needing rescue = humiliating. Also: $$$.)
Fortunately, you can shoot plenty of cool photos from the designated overlooks; on our sunset visit, we were even treated to a hang-gliding launch. Park entry is $15 per vehicle, or you can pick up an America the Beautiful pass for $80—good for a year’s admission to all national parks across the USA.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Northern Michigan; 231-326-5134.