A variety of dunes along the Lake Michigan coast have nice winter views from high overlooks, but for me Empire Bluff in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers the most eye-catching vistas.

It’s not necessarily the easiest overlook to reach, involving a bit of a climb, but once you’re out along the bluff you won’t mind.

Rising over 400 feet above the lake it offers some of the best shoreline views along the coast. From that lofty perch they stretch north to Sleeping Bear Point Dune and South Manitou Island floating offshore on a blue horizon.

To the south it extends around Platte Bay, a distance of more than 25 miles. Depending on the winter there are sometimes ice floes along the shore. Probably not this winter.

The trail isn’t long, but does climb a couple of hills, during the .75-mile trek to the overlook.

I don’t recommend trying to cross-country ski out and back. The hills are fairly steep, and the trail is often hard-pack snow that’s well trodden and sometimes slick.

Most of the time a good pair of winter hiking boots are the best choice, and walking poles with spiked points also help. Snowshoes would be good with sufficient fresh snowfall.

Pick a sunny, windless day so you can spend time out along the bluff to enjoy the panoramic view.

Early March is normally a great time to catch the right combination of snow, sun and warming days. I’ve watched gulls skimming over the lake below me and watched wind currents dance across the open water. It’s a very tranquil setting, and the good news is that it’s mostly downhill back to the trailhead. Relax and enjoy the jaw-dropping view.

If you visit midweek there’s a good chance you will have it all to yourself.

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