Size: 32,557 acres
Year Designated: 2014
Fast Fact: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the country’s newest wilderness area.
As the country’s newest wilderness area, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was designated as wilderness in 2014, but its history stretches back to continental ice sheets, or incredibly massive glaciers, which once covered the area. The area features 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, but the most striking feature are the namesake dunes, which slope precariously toward the lake. The dunes themselves sit 400 feet above Lake Michigan atop glacial moraines, which are accumulations of debris left over from the presence of glaciers.
The wilderness area itself is long and narrow, but it’s still able to support a thriving ecosystem. Several types of northern hardwood and conifer trees grow in the area, and cougars have been spotted roaming through the wilderness in the past several years. The area is often called “the most beautiful place in the country,” an honor bestowed upon Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore by ABC’s "Good Morning America" in 2011.