How Safe Is Glen Arbor for Travel?

Updated On January 28, 2023
Glen Arbor, United States
Safety Index:
76
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Are you planning a trip to Glen Arbor, Michigan?

Tell your friends you’re going to a place between the sleeping bears.

The town is on an isthmus, with Lake Michigan to the north, the Glen Lakes to the south, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore flanking each side.

Glen Arbor is a four-season destination in Northern Michigan, with small-town charm and a big reputation as one of the most beautiful places in America.

Seriously!

Sleeping Bear Dunes won a 2011 Good Morning America contest!

Additionally, Glen Arbor is along the scenic M-22 highway, which was ranked the Best Scenic Autumn Drive in 2015.

While Glen Arbor has fewer than 900 permanent residents, more than 1.7 million people visit this region yearly.

It’s hard to find any information about Glen Arbor that isn’t predominantly about the dunes, but we’ve got you covered.

Surrounding Leelanau County is known as the “Little Finger of Michigan,” a reference to the state being shaped like a mitten.

This area is known for its wineries, with Madonna’s father owning one just 40 minutes away.

If you’re in the mood for a more exciting town, Traverse City is less than 40 minutes away.

While the Great Lakes tend to get all the attention, visitors are amazed by the indescribable blue water at Big & Little Glen Lake.

It just might be the most pristine lake I’ve seen outside of Lake Tahoe.

Warnings & Dangers in Glen Arbor

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Since Glen Arbor doesn't have its own police department, we will use the Leelanau County Sheriff's Office crime statistics, which cover this region but don't cover Traverse City. The crime rates are low throughout the county, but the violent crime rate has increased by 70% since 2014.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) provides bus services around the "Village Loop," which spans Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties. You can even wave down the buses on the road if you aren't at a stop. This is a safe way to get around, but ideally it supplements having your own vehicle for maximum exploration.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

The overall theft rate is low, and pickpocket reports are nonexistent. The largest theft category is "other," which could include items taken from a campsite or yard, so keep you those good safety practices to protect your valuables.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

In between beautiful weather in all seasons, there's a risk for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding, winter storms, blizzards, and ice storms. The Leelanau County Emergency Management team has a great website with risks and safety tips, plus health statistics such as seasonal flu cases.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

No reports of robberies in the county dating back to 2011 show how low the risk is. While the risk is slightly higher in Traverse City, it's still not an elevated risk.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk. It's a remote area near a large park. It's not even near a major city that could be a potential target. Vigilance will always be important, so you should still report anything suspicious you see to keep the community safe.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The most common scams here target residents, so tourists shouldn't have a big concern. Vacation rental scams are the one thing you should learn more about before booking. There aren't a lot of hotels in Glen Arbor and the most abundant options will be rentals. Review the Michigan Attorney General's "Rental Scam Listing" website section to learn more about warning signs and how to report suspected scammers. Use the Glen Arbor Chamber of Commerce website to get to the "Business Listings" section. There you'll find B&Bs, cottages, hotels, lodges, and resorts for rent in the area through a verified organization.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

This is another low-risk category, with a welcoming community for mothers, friends, bridal parties, and solo travelers. You'll need to know outdoor wilderness safety and the necessary items to pack when heading to the dunes.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

It's very hard to find information on the tap water quality in Glen Arbor, but I did find the list of violations for all Michigan communities in 2021 and Glen Arbor wasn't on it. You should ask your hotel, inn, or rental home owner for the most recent water quality report to get specific information.

Safest Places to Visit in Glen Arbor

VisitGlenArbor.com is the Chamber of Commerce website for the village.

You can get information about city events, restaurants, and shops with planning tools and downloadable maps.

The National Park Service website has a robust web section for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (nps.gov/slbe) and you can download the NPS app to get the same information and use it during your trip for convenience.

Downtown Glen Arbor runs parallel to Lake Michigan.

It’s a quaint five block street with an easy-to-read walking map of the different amenities, including art galleries, salons, and churches in addition to shopping and dining.

Two fishing charter businesses are right at the dock on Lake Street.

Wine lovers can explore “Michigan’s Tiniest Wine Trail” in Glen Arbor with three stops or go big on the Leelanau Wine Trail with THREE loops going through 6-7 stops on each one!

(Madonna’s dad owns the Ciccone Vineyard and Winery on the Grand Traverse Bay Loop, but don’t expect to see the Material Girl there.)

The Glen Lakes are separated by “the Narrows” at M-22, and much of the shoreline is private property.

The national park does come close to the shoreline with many great scenic lookouts.

There are a handful of public access points:

  • On the Narrows Marina (rentals available)
  • Glen Craft Marina & Resort (rentals available)
  • Glen Lake Beach Park
  • Old Settlers Park

Spa Amira at The Homestead Resort is open to the public and has an array of spa services, including seasonal specials.

I’m eyeing a Hot Cocoa Scrub & Peppermint Massage package right now.

The view from the pool deck is breathtaking.

Let’s dive into Sleeping Bear Dunes now.

This national lakeshore includes 35 miles of shoreline, but that’s split between three sections of the park and two islands.

It’s not as simple as “visiting the park.”

You have to plan this out extensively, while also considering if you are going to be there at night for a stunning view of the Milky Way galaxy with no city light pollution.

Here are the top 5 pieces of advice:

  1. Go to the Philip A. Hart Visitor’s Center first. It’s nine miles south of Glen Arbor. Get the lay of the land and talk to rangers about seasonal activities.
  2. You’ll need a pass to get into the park. Daily fees are $25 for each car and $15 for walk-ins. If you’re staying more than two days, opt for the $45 seasonal pass.
  3. If you plan to visit the island(s), North Manitou or South Manitou, get a reservation as early as possible with Manitou Transit. The number is (231)256-9061.
  4. The park is more than sand, wildlife, water, and trails. Glen Haven Village, the Farms of Port Oneida, and the Maritime Museum are other attractions within the park.
  5. If you are traveling with kids, get a Junior Ranger Program Book and complete all the tasks to become a certified Junior Ranger. You can do this at every national park you visit.

Places to Avoid in Glen Arbor

Crime isn’t a concern here, but don’t let that safety make you vulnerable to potential crimes.

You should avoid private property and stick to the main roads.

Sleeping Bear Dunes has a famous stop at Number 9 Overlook.

This 450-foot-tall dune mesmerizes people to climb down it.

It also has quickly become one of the top rescue sites for emergency officials because people can’t get back up.

With higher lake levels, the cost and complexity of a rescue increases.

If you get stuck, you will pay for your own rescue and that could run $2000 or more.

Look for guides in orange shirts to help you with any safety advice while you are there.

They won’t stop you from going down the dunes, but they strongly suggest you don’t.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Glen Arbor

  1. Since there isn’t a police department in Glen Arbor, load your phone up with contact information for the Leelanau County Sheriff, Emergency Management, Sleeping Bear Dunes Park Rangers, and your hotel.
  2. Your mobile device likely won’t work in the remote areas of the park. You should test your phone’s GPS capabilities by putting it in airplane mode and then opening Google Maps to see if it still tracks you. Most phones are GPS capable without Wi-Fi or a hot spot. Bring a compass and paper map in a sealed bag, just in case.
  3. If you’re taking a wine tour, rent a vehicle through a Wine Transportation Company to get you safely to each winery and home. You don’t want to risk driving while under the influence.
  4. Take your time on M-22, as it will be crowded with traffic throughout the year, with a thick crowd in the fall for the foliage. Watch for bicyclists and pedestrians on the road and just enjoy the views. You’ll go through smaller communities where the speed limit will slow down to 25 mph.
  5. If you want to fish while you’re here, you’ll need a license from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. You can buy those online or at designated stores in town (a list is on the website). Hunting licenses are much harder to get and require specific safety training.
  6. Sleeping Bear Dunes gets its name from a folklore legend, not because the bears here are sleepy. They are actually quite active. Black bears roam this region. If you see one, stay as far away as possible. If it notices you are there, you are too close. If a bear approaches you, speak in a firm tone (look up social media videos of people screaming “HEY BEAR!”) to let the bear know you are not a threat. Use bear-proof containers for all foods and dispose of trash in bear-proof containers.
  7. The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes post trail reports daily, so use that resource to plot your path before you get to the park. Severe weather, heavy snow, and thick mud can lead to trail closures. Never cross over a barrier to a trail.
  8. If you are taking a boat on any of the lakes here, designate a boat driver to stay sober. Law enforcement does patrol the water and will pull over any driver suspected of being under the influence.
  9. Sign up for Nixle alerts from Leelanau County to get emergency information to your mobile device. This will include weather alerts, road closures, major accidents, or civil emergencies.
  10. To clear up some geographical confusion, Glen Arbor is a village within Glen Arbor Township. Many of Michigan’s cities have a township of the same name, making it challenging for a first-time visitor. Also, don’t get Glen Harbor confused with Ann Arbor, which is just outside of Detroit.

So... How Safe Is Glen Arbor Really?

The 24 violent crimes that happened in 2021 broke a 10-year record.

Prior to that, the county hadn’t seen more than 17 violent crimes in a year.

80% of those 2021 crimes happened in private homes, making the low risk even lower for tourists.

Glen Arbor is safe if you’re educated on wilderness and weather safety in the selected season.

If you wouldn’t know what to do if you found a tick stuck to your armpit, you need to do some research on wilderness safety.

First-timers might be surprised to learn that Lake Michigan is big enough to have rip tides.

Details like that can be the difference between a safe visit and a scary one.

You should definitely pace yourself, especially in winter and summer when the elements can quickly wear out your body.

Stay hydrated and wear comfortable shoes while walking around the towns and bring hiking boots for the woods because you’ll face a lot of hills.

Take advantage of tour companies and rental store guidance, so you can safely explore the snow, sand, or water.

There is truly no other place on earth like this region, and it’s worth the trip – and the safety research.

How Does Glen Arbor Compare?

CitySafety Index
Glen Arbor76
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

You'll need a visa and a passport to get into the United States if you're traveling internationally, but you can go between the park and towns/villages without needing to show ID. Visa applications can take months, so plan early.

Currency

Currency

You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and you should keep your wallet in a waterproof container to protect it from the elements. Try to purchase tours and rentals in advance to limit how often you pull out your wallet.

Weather

Weather

With four distinct seasons, you should always pack for the worst of the season and always have sweatshirts and pants, even in the summer since the mornings and nights can be cool. Be casual and comfortable. There is no reason to dress up here.

Airports

Airports

Use the Traverse City airport (Cherry Capital Airport), about 45 minutes away from Glen Arbor. It has 17 destinations to choose from, and it's much closer than any other option.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

You should consider basic travel insurance and adventure insurance for any accidents or disasters in the wild. Rental cars should have full coverage, but you might have that through your own car insurance policy.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Glen Arbor Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -5° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 7° C
May 13° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 22° C
Aug 21° C
Sep 18° C
Oct 11° C
Nov 4° C
Dec -2° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-2161219242726221571
Low
°C
-7-7-3271316161371-4
High
°F
283443546675817972594534
Low
°F
191927364555616155453425

Michigan - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Ann Arbor63
Battle Creek45
Dearborn77
Detroit56
Farmington Hills72
Flat Rock81
Flint47
Frankenmuth84
Glen Arbor76
Grand Rapids73
Houghton82
Ironwood83
Kalamazoo44
Lansing41
Livonia76
Mackinac Island83
Mackinaw City78
Macomb84
Marquette78
Muskegon72
Pontiac45
Port Huron73
Saginaw42
Sault Ste. Marie82
Sterling Heights78
Taylor68
Traverse City77
Troy78
Warren58

Where to Next?

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