Sleeper State Park Welcome Sign

15 Things You Should Know About Visiting Michigan’s Sleeper State Park

Sleeper State Park was the first Michigan state park in the Thumb. It has been a place to visit for over 95 years with an excellent beach and modern campsites. Named for a Michigan Governor and prominent local businessman Albert E. Sleeper, the park is one of two state parks in the Upper Thumb.

Visitors can watch both sunrises and sunsets on its beach on Saginaw Bay. Campers can 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. The park contains impressive secrets in what is available for the veteran visitor.

#1 Sleeper State Park is Bigger than The Beach and Campground

Sleeper State Park – Courtesy of Google Earth

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.

Stairs to the Beach Protect Fragile Dunes

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 Albert E Sleeper State Park was Named for A Local Leader Who Became Michigan’s 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, a group of Huron County citizens petitioned the state to rename the Park. The park was renamed in honor of Albert E. Sleeper, a resident and business leader in the Thumb region.

Governor Sleeper

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

Glamping Site in the Woods

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 site available.

The glamping experience is new to Michigan’s Albert E. 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 Sleeper State Park

Sleeper State Park Trail Map

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 been 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 break wall at nearby Port Austin.

#8 You Can Buy a Latte or Smoothie at the Sleeper Campground

The Chuck Wagon at Sleeper State Park

If you get a hankering for a Latte or Frappuccino when you’re camping you’re in luck. We found the “Chuck Wagon” waiting for us in the Albert E. Sleeper State Park campground area. It’s an open-air bar with seating for 12 people. They offer coffee, frappe, and smoothies. This is a mobile food truck part of Chucks Drive-Thru Diner in Caseville. This mobile bar may move on from time to time especially during the Cheeseburger Festival.

#9 – You Can Camp On The Beach At Sleeper State Park

Camping on the Beach at Sleeper State Park

Starting in the summer of 2020 Albert E. Sleeper State Park offers the ability to camp on the beach. The Michigan DNR is working with the camping outfitter, Tentrr to set up 15 secluded glamping sites between sites in the forest and on the beach. Each has a large platformed walled canvas tent containing a queen-sized cot or bunk bed.

Glamping Beach Camp Site at Sleeper State Park

Each beach campsite at the park is supplied with tables, benches, Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit. There are an on-site water supply and a sun shower provided to round out the other amenities to make for an extremely comfortable outdoor experience. Guests need only bring their own food, firewood, and bedding. This outfitted option is great for first-time or busy campers who may not have their own camping gear and don’t want the hassle of setting up and tearing down your campsite.

The views are beautiful and the experience of going to sleep lulled by the sound of the waves of Saginaw Bay is not to be missed.

#10 Many of the Park’s Buildings Were Built During the Great Depression

Sleeper State Park Day Use Pavilion

The first buildings at Sleeper were a product of the Great Depression. In the early 1930s, workers from the Civilian Works Administration and the Public Works Administration built the park’s first modern toilet and shower building near what was then the beach area campground. A second beach building built in 1933, served the day-use area and included changing rooms, restrooms and a checkroom, a park store, and upstairs apartments for the park rangers and their families. In 1981 the second story was removed and the building turned into the current Pavillion.

#11 How Much Does It Cost To Visit or Stay in Sleeper State Park?

The Michigan Recreation Passport is required for all Michigan state parks, trails, historic sites, boat launches, harbors – Including Sleeper State Park. Check out for more details on vehicles, motorcycles, and commercial events and to purchase.

#12 What are the Hours to Visit or Register To Camp At Albert E. Sleeper State Park?

The camp registration office is open from 8 am-10 pm. The campsite check-in is 3 pm, Check-out at 1 pm. Overnight Lodging: Check-in at 4 pm, Check-out at Noon. Quiet Hours:11pm-8 am.

#13 Can I Bring Pets to Camp At Sleeper State Park?

Yes! However, pets must be kept on a 6-foot leash and must never be left unattended. Please clean up after your animals. Dogs are welcome at the designated areas of the beach.

#14 What Other Things Should I Know About Sleeper State Park?

Campers may not camp for more than 15 continuous nights. Campsites must be attended each night. Two vehicles are permitted per campsite. Visitors must leave by 10 pm. Fireworks are not allowed.

#15 Can We Smoke Pot When Camping at Sleeper State Park?

Despite the change in the law regarding the legalization of the use of marijuana, smoking or vaping pot in public is still not legal or allowed.

Frequently Asked Questions

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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.

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Michael Hardy

Michael Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. Michael was born in Michigan and grew up near Caseville. In 2009 he started this fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

View all posts by Michael Hardy →

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