Michigan State Parks: Van Buren State Park

A man and woman in front of a state park entrance sign

Van Buren State Park is located in Southwest Michigan, about five miles south of the town of South Haven. The park is home to high dune formations, a modern campground, one mile of sandy beach, woodland trails, and a day-use area. 

Its prime location on Lake Michigan with easy access from I-196 makes Van Buren State Park very popular for Michiganders and out-of-state visitors alike.

Camping info

If you’re planning to camp, the campground has 220 sites. There is a mixture of 20-, 30-, and 50-amp power. The sites vary in size and are organized into five U-shaped loops. There are two modern bathhouse and restroom facilities.

A short, woodchipped trail leads from the campground to the day-use area parking lot and the main swimming beach.

An RV at a campground
Campground at Van Buren State Park

Swimming and other activities

 Van Buren State Park is known for its wide sandy beach, making it a popular destination for beachgoers all summer long. This is evident in the enormous parking lot. However, due to the current high water levels, most of the flat beach is gone and the sand dunes drop off pretty sharply to the water.

A sandy beach and waves on a lake
Swimming Beach at Van Buren State Park (But not when the waves are this high!)

If you’re not into hanging out at the beach, a picnic area with tables, grills, playground, soccer field and volleyball net is located near the parking lot.

For those with dogs, a designated dog beach also is accessible via a short trail from the day-use parking lot.

A soccer field
Soccer field at Van Buren State Park

A small handful of hiking trails (approximately 1 mile each) lead through the dunes to the beach. However, the access points are not direct from the campground or the day-use area. To access the trails, you need to ride your bike or drive to the trailheads located past the contact station. This would be a good place to go at sunset for a more private viewing experience away from the crowds at the main beach.

Biking Trails

A 4.5-mile paved bike trail connects the park to downtown South Haven. It is popular not just for biking, but also for walking, running, or skateboarding.

A bike trail
The Van Buren Trail State Park split – pavement heads to the campground, dirt to Hartford

The trail is actually a spur of the Van Buren Trail State Park, a 14-mile linear park that runs between South Haven and the city of Hartford. That park is unimproved and best suited for mountain bikes and horses. (Note, the only designated parking on the South Haven end is at the state park, and horses cannot be ridden on the paved portion of the trail.)

Also beginning in South Haven is the Kal-Haven Trail State Park – a 33.5 mile trail that runs to Kalamazoo. That trail is hard-packed crushed limestone and accommodates all types of bikes. Follow the paved spur into town and then follow the signs to the beginning of the trail, or drive in and park at the trailhead.

Convenient location

Van Buren State Park is very convenient if you want to visit South Haven, a busy beach town with shops and restaurants, artsy stores, and ice cream. South Haven has a big city beach and the lighthouse, which is a pretty big draw for people to walk out to.

A lighthouse in Lake Michigan
South Haven Lighthouse

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Van Buren 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 hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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