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.
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.
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.
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.
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?