The trip up there from Chicago takes about 6 hours. It would make for a nice weeklong roadtrip to travel and stop at numerous places along Michigan's west coast (Holland, Grand Haven, Traverse City, etc.), but we only had a couple days to enjoy Sleeping Bear Dunes. A scenic drive, dune climbs, hiking, and small towns to walk through, Sleeping Bear has a lot to offer. We also had one of the best camping experiences at Platte River Campground where on calm nights you can hear the waves of Lake Michigan go back and forth as you fall asleep and wake up.
The picture above was taken at what's probably the most popular spot in the national lakeshore. Driving through the Pierce Stocking Drive is stop #9 which is home to a pier overlooking Lake Michigan. It's also next to a 450 foot sand dune with a 40-degree slope that people go down at their own risk (the phone number to the Coast Guard hangs around the warning sign).
As a hobbyist photographer, I live for sunrise and sunset when I'm travelling somewhere new. I'm not sure if I'd call Sleeping Bear THE most beautiful place in America, but it definitely had one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever experienced. We stopped by stop #9 a couple hours earlier just after a good downpour to stake out a good sunset location. It was cold and windy and I was way underdressed. I had serious doubts about coming back for sunset, but there was a small crack in the horizon that gave me a little hope that the sun might peak out. As the sun came down behind the dark clouds, most people gave up and left. I stuck around and was rewarded with an awesome sunset under some pretty ominous clouds that painted the entire dune pink.