Sleeper State Park was the first state park in the Thumb. It has been a place to visit for over 95 years with an excellent beach and modern campsites. Visitors can watch both sunrises and sunsets on Saginaw Bay, relax in the shade and seclusion under the tall oaks in the campground or roam the trails of the ancient dune forests. It’s one of the most widely visited parks in Southeast Michigan. Yet the park contains impressive secrets.
#1 Sleeper State Park is Bigger than The Beach and Campground
Driving by the park, visitors immediately see the day-use picnic and beach area along the shoreline and the extensive 226 site campground across M-25 from the beach. That is a small slice of the park. Sleeper State Park has over 700 acres of wetlands, an ancient dune forest, a half mile of beautiful sandy beach and natural dunes guarding the shore.
Families and groups can spend the day swimming, kayaking, and playing at the beach. Then take a break and picnic in the shade under a thick cool canopy of oak trees. There are two handicap-accessible restrooms and changing areas with showers.
A large covered pavilion is available for rent steps away from the beach. It’s perfect if you have a large group, such as a family reunion. The beach area is known as an ideal spot for beach weddings and company picnics.
#2 Sleeper State Park was Named for A Local Leader Who Became Governor
In 1925, the woods, dunes, and beach we see today opened as a county park. By 1927, the State of Michigan acquired the property and called it Huron State Park. In 1944, the park was renamed in honor of Albert E. Sleeper, a resident and business leader in the Thumb region.
Sleeper was governor of Michigan from 1917 until 1920. He signed into law the Michigan State Police, Women’s right to vote, and led through the end of World War I and the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. He was honored with the park name due to his role to help create Michigan’s State Park system. As of 1921, only 17 states had established state parks.
#3 You Can Camp in Relative Luxury Away from Everything Else
Sleeper State Park has arranged with a camping outfitter that offers people a more private and comfortable camping experience. It’s called “glamping”. Glamping is a concept where nature meets a bit of spacious luxury. A fusion of the words glamour and camping or “glamping” is a way to authentically experience a bit of remote rustic camping in unique locations.
The outfitter, Tentrr sets up prime secluded sites with a large platformed walled canvas tent containing a queen-sized cot or bunk bed, and a wood stove. Your camp is supplied with tables, benches, Adirondack chairs, and a campsite fire pit. Your on-site water supply and a sun shower round out the other amenities to make for an extremely comfortable outdoor experience. There are currently 15 secluded wooded and one beachside sites available.
The glamping experience is new to Michigan’s Sleeper State Park and Highland Recreation Area starting the summer of 2020. More information about the Sleeper-Safari Tent program is on their website.
#4 There are Mountain Bike Trails in the Park
One of the parks’ best-kept secrets is the extensive trail system located just south of the campground. Over four miles of marked trails are available for hiking, cross country skiing, (Which is groomed in the winter), and mountain biking.
The park has four marked trails; Candlestick Trail is short at just over a half a mile, and it connects to the other parts of the trail system. The Deer Run Trail is a 2-mile loop, the longest of the trails that run through the park. The trailhead is located on State Park Road near the outdoor center, kitchen, and dining area on the south-eastern side of the park. Hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing are allowed. The Huron Trail is about a quarter of a mile and connects the Candlestick Trail to the Deer Run Trail.
If you are a little more adventurous, you can hike and bike in the adjacent 2000 acre Rush Lake State Game Area. There is a hiking trail with blue tree marks to stay out of the way of the off-road vehicle, (ORV), of ATVs and Jeeps exploring Sand Road.
#5 You Can Try Kayaking at Sleeper State Park Beach
Saginaw Bay is known for its sea kayaking areas. Explore the islands and inlets of Wild Fowl Bay or paddle along the sugar sand shoreline. Just a bit further north in Port Austin is two well-known Kayaker destinations of Turnip Rock and Broken Rocks. Sleeper State Park beach is also a stop on the 100-mile Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail. The beach at Sleeper State Park is a perfect place to try out kayaking for the first time or to show others how it’s done. Kayaks are available for rent at the beach. For more information visit Michigan’s Sleeper State Park website from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
#6 There are archaeological Significant Sites in the Park
In a Stewardship report made in 1995 by the Michigan DNR, it noted that the potential exists for prehistoric sites in the park. Similar land formations have proven in the nearby Rush Lake State Game Area, where 36 sites have been recorded. These include prehistoric sites, as well as nineteenth and twentieth century historic sites. Three more sites exist west of the park. One of these was found to be a large multi-component site. Its thought that smaller sites related to this large site are located in Sleeper State Park.
#7 You can See Both the Sunrise and the Sunset on the Beach
The park is uniquely situated such that visitors can view both sunrise and sunset during the
peak season during the summer. This unique experience can also be seen at Port Crescent State Park and on the breakwall at nearby Port Austin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sleeper State Park Beach has a designated Dog Play Area on the west end of the beach. It’s required that your dog remain on a leach, even in the water. Waste bags and receptacle is provided. Upon entering the Sleeper picnic/beach area, take a left. Head all the way to the end of the parking lot. You will see a boardwalk leading to the Dog Play Area on the Beach.
Sleeper State Park is located adjacent to Rush Lake State Game Area. One of the many state game areas in Huron County. It’s a 2000 acre reserve with forest, marsh and Rush Lake which you can fish in.
Related Reading for Sleeper State Park Camping
Ten Free Things to do in Michigan’s Thumb – Are you ever looking for things to do in the Upper Thumb? Bored of the same old things to do with the kids? We went looking for unique sites, inexpensive and interesting things to do. We came up with this list of ten free things to do without breaking the bank or extensive driving.
Under the Radar, Michigan Visits the Thumb – The PBS Network show Under the Radar Michigan visited the Thumb area during the summer of 2019. The crew hit some of the top attractions in the region. To those who love the area, this has been a much-anticipated episode. We offer a glimpse of the highlights.
Caseville Beach – It All Happens Here – This mini Daytona Beach of the north creates fond memories. The park’s waterfront offers a large sandy expanse with plenty of room to build sandcastles, play touch football, rent kayaks and swim the day away. It’s one of the most Instagrammed and Facebook Selfie spots around.
Michigan Road Trip on M-25: Riding A Ribbon Around the Thumb – A favorite Michigan road trip for a motorcyclists is the Michigan State Highway M-25. It’s a 147-mile scenic two-lane trunk line running from Port Huron to Bay City Michigan. Bikers like the drive because M-25 offers many places to turn off for a rest, find a biker friendly place to eat or take a bit of shelter during a storm