Silver Lake State Park in northwest Michigan is one of the more unique state parks. It is mostly known for its off-road scramble area in the sand dunes next to Lake Michigan.
The state park, totaling close to 3,000 acres, also has a large campground, swimming beach, boat launch and the well-known Little Sable Point Lighthouse. Note, the campground, lighthouse and scramble area are all miles apart from each other and require driving to each section.
Silver Lake State Park is located in the village of Silver Lake, near the towns of Mears and Pentwater. The scramble area and lighthouse are along Lake Michigan. The campground sits adjacent to Silver Lake tucked behind the dunes.
Silver Lake State Park was established in 1920 with a donation of 25 acres by Carrie Mears. (The daughter of lumber baron Charles Mears for whom Mears State Park in Pentwater is named). In 1926, the federal government transferred 900 acres to the state which became Sand Dunes State Park. The state combined the two in 1951 creating Silver Lake State Park.
Sand Dune Scramble Area
The state park comes alive from April to October with thousands of visitors from around the world who want to take their turn on the sand dunes. It is the only place in Michigan where private ORVs are allowed on the dunes.
Every day you will see a variety of off-road vehicles – from Jeeps to trucks and dune buggies to motorcycles. With 450 acres to play in, there is a challenge for all ORVs and driver abilities.
The scramble area consists of three major sections – the twisty trails, the flatlands, and the directional high-dunes. Each section provides different challenges, from a friendly competition for speed to tackling Test Hill — the highest, steepest hill in the park. Not ready for that challenge? It’s often fun just to sit at the bottom and watch everyone else try to make it over the top.
There are a lot of special rules and regulations for ORVs, so if you are planning to go, be sure to check out the website for details.
Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Another famous feature is the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. At 107 feet, it is one of the tallest lighthouses in Michigan. It was constructed in 1874 and there are130 steps to the top of the tower. The tower was painted white in the early 1900s and a large dwelling was added for the keepers and their families. When the light was automated and the last keeper left in 1958, the house was dismantled. The lighthouse was sandblasted back to its original brick in 1974.
From late May through late September, the lighthouse is typically open for tours daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check online for current prices and availability.
Silver Lake State Park Campground and Day Use Area
The campground at Silver Lake State Park is quite large and has two loops, one on either side of the main road. There are 200 sites total. The north loop has waterfront views of Silver Lake. The south loop is more tucked into the woods.
Both campground loops are really packed in tight, with lots of mature trees. Maneuvering large trailers, boats, vehicles and more to all fit can be challenging. (Remember, this park was created long before modern-sized RVs!) There is 30-amp electric service at each site, along with a picnic table and fire ring. There are nice modern restrooms with unisex showers in each loop.
While the lakefront sites are desirable for the view, a heavy rain can cause bad flooding. Choosing a spot slightly away from the lake might be better.
Located adjacent to the north campground is the day-use area with a nice playground, swimming beach, and boat launch. Swimming also is available anywhere along Lake Michigan, but there are no designated swimming areas, so be careful of water conditions.
Things to do near Silver Lake State Park
While visiting the state park, you might want to check out the local attractions, such as Whippy Dip ice cream, Mac Dune Rides, Craig’s Cruisers and more. The small town can get very crowded on summer weekends. Be prepared to have patience and allow a little extra time to get around. Or head on up to Pentwater or Ludington, or maybe take your bikes over to the Hart-Montague Trail State Park for a nice ride through the country.
We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Silver Lake State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see each of the parks we visited on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtag #hikecampgo.