Five Places to Discover Amazing Sand Dunes in Michigan

It’s no secret that Michigan is home to some beautiful places – from sandy beaches and amazing forests to crisp, blue water and massive sand dunes! Michigan has more than 300,000 acres of sand dunes that offer breathtaking views or thrilling experiences across the state, some of which have been getting national acclaim for their beauty.

Take a look at the roundup below to learn more about some of the many sand dunes across the state. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire
Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore encompasses a 60 km (35 mi.) stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline, as well as North and South Manitou Islands. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park was established primarily for its outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations and ancient glacial phenomena. Named by Good Morning America as “The Most Beautiful Place in America” and voted one of

America’s Top 10 Family Destinations by Family Fun magazine, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are a must see destination. More information about tours, trails and more can be found here.

Empire-Bluffs

Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Saugatuck
The Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a day-use park along a secluded strip of Lake Michigan shoreline, Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers 2.5 miles of shore line. The park has fresh water coastal dunes that are over 200 feet tall. The park’s terrain varies from steep slopes to rolling hills. Visit the website for more information.

Silver Lake Sand Dunes
HartMears and Pentwater
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a beach paradise! These massive dunes are nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake —the only sand dunes in Michigan where you can drive your own ORV—and miles of pristine shoreline beaches designed for pure family fun. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes encompass the towns of Hart, Mears, and Pentwater making it the perfect spot for a family vacation with miles of tree-lined bike trails, historic towns, a lighthouse and more. Spend the morning on the dunes, the afternoon in the water and finish the day in one of the charming villages for a relaxing dinner at a locally owned restaurant. Visit the website to plan your trip.

Silver Lake Sand Dunes - Margaret Jane Ginster

Silver Lake Dunes, Photo Courtesy of Margaret Jane Ginster

Grand Sable Banks and Dunes
Munising
Located about one mile west Grand Marais; the best place to view is from the trail beginning at the Sable Falls parking area. Another access point for the dunes is from the North Country Trail, one-quarter mile east of the Log Slide. Please stay on the trail as the dunes vegetation is fragile. Five square miles of Grand Sable Dunes are perched atop the 300-foot high Grand Sable Banks. Left by enormous glaciers, the Grand Sable Dunes dwarf comprehension. A portion of the Grand Sable Dunes is set aside as a Research Natural Area. For more information visit the website here.

Warren Dunes State Park
Sawyer
Warren Dunes has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. It also has a dune formation that rises 260 feet above the lake with spectacular views and 1,952 acres of recreational opportunity. We have 221 modern & rustic campsites and three modern mini cabins. Visit the website for more information.

Where’s your favorite place to visit the dunes in Michigan? Share with us below and learn more on michigan.org.

One Dune – Three Great Activities!

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a breathtaking sight in West Michigan. Check out three activities you will want to put on your summer bucket list, courtesy of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.

The first time you get to the Silver Lake area, you might think you’re in another country or on another planet with nothing but vistas of dunes and water as far as the eye can see. But when the moment of realization occurs and you discover that you are actually in West Michigan, you wonder why you haven’t been here sooner.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes - Hart Visitors Bureau.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.

Welcome to the Silver Lake State Park. Home to rolling dunes and dense hardwood forests, the Silver Lake State Park and its 2,936 acres of rolling terrain is the only State Park east of the Mississippi River that allows the use of motorized vehicles on dunes. This unique attribute is one of the major reasons why so many make the return trip to the dunes every year.

The physical dune area is separated into three distinct areas. The southern most section of the dunes, or the lower third, is reserved for Mac Wood’s Dune Rides and their 7-mile guided dune trips aboard one of their many open air dune cruisers. In 1930, Mac Wood’s began with a 4-passenger Model A Ford that carried visitors around the dunes. Today, they now have a fleet of 4-wheel drive dune cruisers with modified aircraft tires for the perfect dune experience. If you are interested in some of the origins of Mac Wood’s you can see their original vehicle at their onsite museum.

All together, this 40-minute trip is a great option for those looking to experience a more mild taste of the dunes as opposed to the fast-paced ORV experience to the north.

Making your way north to the central part of the dunes, you will find an area for pedestrians only which flanks Silver Lake to the east and runs to Lake Michigan on the west. Here you will see many sand boarders, hikers and nature enthusiasts taking in the natural beauty of the dunes. There are no ORVs allowed on this portion of the dunes. Its appeal lies in the peaceful views of the rolling dunes that change with the winds. As the terrain changes year to year, people return to hike and explore the new sand formations that make up the dunes.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes - Hart Visitors Bureau.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.

The outdoor recreational vehicle (ORV) dune section is located on the northern third of the dunes where people can bring their own vehicles and ride the dunes (ORV permits required), or they may rent from any one of the great vendors in the Silver Lake Area. Here you will experience the true culture that is associated with “duning.”

The ORV section of the dunes is fast paced, where vehicles are allowed to freely roam across the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Here you will find a little bit of everything in terms of vehicles. From high-end dune buggies, fully equipped in the latest and greatest gear and technology associated with off roading, to the fresh-off-the-lot Jeep Sierra with the top down and kids laughing.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes - Hart Visitors Bureau.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.

The ORV section is also home to a host of four wheelers and motor bikes, rooster tailing sand as they zip across the open terrain.

No matter what part of the dunes you are drawn to, each section has a common bond in that everyone is smiling, laughing and enjoy time with friends and family as they are unplugged from work and the everyday grind enjoying all 2,936 acres of fun in the sun that is the Silver Lake State Park.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes - Hart Visitors Bureau.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.

FUN DUNE FACTS:

- Park Started in 1919 with the donation of 25 acres of land for park purposes by Carrie E. Mears, in 1964 the official masterplan was dedicated with 2936 acres

- 450 acres – private off road dune riding area – only dunes east of THE MISSISSIPPI to allow this.

- There are three distinct areas – 1. hiking and dune climbing, 2. orv area, 3. tour area for mac wood’s dune rides

- The dunes open for the summer on April 1 and the last day the park is open is on October 31.

- The dunes are home to fulgurites or commonly known as petrified lighting.  These natural forms are created during lighting strikes on the dunes and vary in size and shape and can be as large as a small shrub.

- The central section of the dunes, or the non-motorized section, plays host to many sand boarding enthusiasts throughout the season.

 What is your  favorite activity to partake on this unique Pure Michigan attraction?

Four Reasons to Love Springtime at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Michigan is a wonderful place to visit year-round. Today, photographer Neil Weaver tells us what makes Good Morning America’s choice of “The Most Beautiful Place in America” special in the springtime.

Now that the cold days of winter have surrendered to the warmth of spring, the landscape around us is brand new again. The blooms and blossoms give us vibrant colors that we’ve been missing since last autumn. As a nature and landscape photographer one of my favorite places to photograph this time of year is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Setting

Spring is an excellent season to visit. The wildflowers are out, the climate is comfortable and the park is peaceful. Upon arrival the first thing you will notice is that this park is not simply sand dunes but a diverse group of forests, streams, inland lakes, beaches, historic buildings, and hiking trails. 

The Beaches

The beaches within the park make for excellent photography subjects.  Whether you visit Platte River Point with its river winding out into Lake Michigan, Esch Beach with the towering Empire Bluffs in view, or Good Harbor Bay with its deep aqua-blue water, it is worth your while to take the time to see each one.  These are just a few of the beautiful beaches you can explore as each one along this 35 mile stretch of lakeshore is pleasantly unique.

The Views

For panoramic views of the area’s unique landscape, I like to stop at the park’s scenic overlooks as I take a ride around Pierce Stocking Drive. This seven-mile driving loop is full of stunning views of the dunes, Lake Michigan, and nearby Glen Lake.  The park also has some short hikes that lead to breathtaking lookouts at Alligator Hill, Empire Bluff, and Pyramid Point. I guarantee that after getting a glimpse of the scenery from these spots you won’t want to leave!

The Trails

When I want the full experience of the Sleeping Bear Dunes I take a walk along one of the park’s many hiking trails, which vary in length and difficulty.  To photograph the large expanse of wind-sculpted dunes I enjoy walking the Dunes Trail.  This path winds up and down through sandy terrain past dune grasses, juniper, thistles and bearberries.  The highlight of the hike is passing through the Ghost Forest, an old grove of sun-bleached trees that have been overtaken by the shifting sand.  When standing among them you’ll feel like you’re in another world.

The park’s features mentioned above only scratch the surface of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – a lifetime could be spent exploring and enjoying every corner of the park, realistically. The best part is knowing that at the end of your stay you will leave with some great photos and a lot of good memories. 

To see more photos of the Sleeping Bear Dunes visit Neil’s website and Facebook fan page.

Neil Weaver is a landscape photographer and proud Michigander.  He travels throughout Michigan photographing the state’s beaches, lighthouses and parks.

Will you be making a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this season? Share with us below!