One of the most unique geological features of the Great Lakes are the various sand dunes we find along the shores. These sights are usually reserved for more exotic locales like Saudi Arabia or northern Africa but we have our own freshwater, Midwest mini-deserts in our own backyard.
This month we’ve compiled some of our favorites for you to visit (safely of course), before it gets too cold to put your toes in the sand.
Silver Lake Dunes
The Silver Lake Dunes are located on Lake Michigan just north of Muskegon. The dunes are unique in that they separate Lake Michigan from the 690 acre Silver Lake. The Silver Lake Dunes are actually part of the 3,000 acre Silver Lake State park that includes 1,000 acres of lush forest and 2,000 acres of dunes. Here you can find something for everybody. The northern most part of the dunes is open to off-road vehicles like ATVs and Jeeps. The center is open for walking and enjoyment on foot. The southern portion is leased by Mac Wood’s dune rides which give groups tours and history of the dunes on modified dune-going off-roaders. A must for every first timer!
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear is possibly the most well-known of the Great Lakes dunes and also the largest at over 32,500 acres of dunes. Sleeping Bear is actually part of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore which is almost 72,00 acres in size and comprised of forests, beaches, dunes and even the Manitou Islands. All of this protected land means that you can truly get our and enjoy the spoils of nature. Sleeping Bear has camping, playgrounds, and of course dune climbs. When you’re done there, check out the Glen Haven Village and Port Oneida Historic Farm District.
Arcadia Dunes are part of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy on Lake Michigan just South of Frankfort. Arcadia Dunes offer a wide array of hiking trails for the more active visitor. The trails cater to all skill levels from the relaxing paved .5 mile trail “Old Baldy” taking you to the bluff of the dunes all the way to the 10 mile Dry Hill Trail.
The Nordhouse dunes are a federally designated wilderness area that encompasses more than 3,400 acres of National Forest. The dunes feature 10 miles of hiking trails and is a popular spot for campers. Camping on the dunes and watching the sun set over Lake Michigan is truly worth the trip. The wilderness area is also a great spot for wildlife and the amateur photographer.
Before your trip make sure you check to see if your dune of choice is open for all the activities you want to go. REMEMBER: pack out what you pack in! Keeping our lands beautiful means leaving nothing behind but our footprints. Trash, litter, cigarette butts, and empty bottles can’t contaminate these gems we have. Do your part.