Destinations

Small but Beautiful Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan

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Warren Dunes State Park provides just under 2,000 acres of recreational possibilities along the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan in southwestern Michigan. The sand dunes rise to 260 feet above the lake and offer spectacular views and some scenic hiking opportunities. The park has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. It allows pets and has pet-friendly section on the shoreline.

The park is an “unofficial gateway” to Michigan’s state park system from the west. It is home to an extensive network of partially forest covered dunes, large open dunes and inter-dunal wetlands. It is a stopover location on a bird migration route, and therefore, offers great bird diversity and provides many great bird-watching opportunities.

Small but Beautiful Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan
Trails run all over the dunes.

Warren Dunes State Park Attractions

  • Lake Michigan – there is a swim area at the beach; you can also go paddle boarding, kayaking, etc. There is a paddleboard rental at the beach.
  • Beach – the beach in Warren Dunes S.P. is pretty big. There is plenty of parking space, too. It appears that there are food stands there, too. When I was there before Memorial Day weekend, they were closed.
  • Dunes – even though the park is relatively small, there are big sand dunes to enjoy. The highest of them get over 250 feet elevation.
  • Hiking Trails – there are hiking trails all over the dunes, and the surrounding forest. The park brochure says that there are 6 miles of trails. But I think that by hiking a combination of different trails, you can extend that distance.
  • Wildlife viewing – there are a lot of birds in the woods, and along the lake. The park could be a great place for bird watchers. If you are lucky, you can spot some ground animals there, too. I saw deer and two foxes, and I bet, there are coyotes there, too.
  • Day use area – there are small day use areas with grills and picnic tables.
Small but Beautiful Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan
Beach

Trails

As I have mentioned above, there are hiking trails all over the dunes and surrounding forest. They are nice, in such regards, that the surroundings vary. Some are over open dunes, either in the trough between two hills, or along the ridgeline. Other go through the woods. And some – over wetlands. Most of them have some hills. Some small ones, some steeper. The trails running along the shoreline and the one along the campgrounds are fairly flat.

Trail in Warren Dunes State Park
Trail in the woods.

To pick one you like, look at the trail description on MiDNR website.

Unfortunately, there are no good maps there – just the general map of the park. There are also no pictures.

Small but Beautiful Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan
One of the dune trails.

When you go hiking, take the park brochure with map with you. Not all the trails and intersections are marked, and without a map you will wonder where you are.

Trail in Warren Dunes State Park
Not all trails have maps or markers.

Warren Dunes State Park Campgrounds

Warren Dunes State Park has three campgrounds:

Campground in warren Woods
Mount Randall Campground.
  • Mount Randall campground (1st from the entrance) is a modern campground with electric, running water, restrooms and showers. It has two loops. The one that is closer to the entrance has 89 campsites and 3 mini-cabins. The second loop has 90 campsites.
  • Hildebrandt campground is located just north of the Mount Randal Campground. It is semi-modern campground. It has only vault toilets and no showers. The campground has 37 campsites.
  • Group sites (can’t make a reservation online, call 269-426-4013).
Semi-modern campground in Warren Dunes
Semi-modern campground.

I camped in Mount Randal campground. The sites are wooded, many are shady, and provide some level of privacy from other campers. Not all of them though. There are few that are quite open. So, look at the images when making reservation. Campsite can have the maximum of 6 occupants, and two cars.

I have noticed a lot of poison ivy in some campsites. Be careful, if you are allergic to it.

The park does not allow alcoholic beverages from March 1 through September 30. For this reason there are no loud parties in the campgrounds. Actually, the campgrounds are pretty quiet all the time. However, if you are light sleeper, you will hear constant semi traffic on nearby I-94 throughout the whole night. If you are sleeping in an RV, you are probably O.K.

Restrooms in Warren Woods campground
Restrooms in Mount Randall campground.

The campsites rates vary for each of the locations (see Fee section below). Camping reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance; cabin reservations – up to a year. And if you want a cabin, you better think about it way in advance. Since there are only three of them in the park, they usually get booked for more then half-year ahead.

Mini-cabin in Warren Dunes
Mini-cabin in Mount Randal campground.

Park Store

There is a small store in the park, and that is good since there are few small food and other supplies stores around, but they all require driving. The store sells fire wood, ice, some basic camping supplies, very few food items, and some beverages. I am not sure if the hours of operation vary, but when I was in the park, the store opened at noon.

The store is located at the campground entrance, just passed the camper registration booths.

Campground store
General Store at campgrounds.

Fees

You need the Recreational Passport to enter the park.

The campsites are from $25 to $37, and the cabins $52 (2021 fees).

Playground in Warren Dunes
There is also a small playground for kinds in the campground.

Final Thoughts

I definitely like Warren Dunes State Park. I think that for the reason that they don’t allow alcoholic beverages, the park stays relatively quiet. Though the big wide beach, most likely, attracts the crowds in the summer.

The park provides some incredible dune and Lake Michigan scenery. Although, on a smaller scale than Silver Lake Dunes and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

For active people it provides quite scenic hiking trails, but, unfortunately, in limited amount. However, it is still worth spending a weekend there.

The campground, as I have mentioned before, has some nice secluded campsites, and again because of alcohol ban, is pretty quiet at night.

All these make Warren Dunes one of the nicer of the smaller state parks in Michigan.

Ice-cream vendor at the beach in Warren Dunes
There are few ice-cream and food vendor trailers at the beach.

Resources

MiDNR – Warren Dunes State Park  

MiDNR Warren Dunes S.P. map  

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If you are interested in Michigan state parks, you might want to check out my post about Algonac State Park.

Warren Woods State Park sign

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Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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