Silver Lake – Michigan Recreation Hot Spot

The Silver Lake area with its surrounding dunes and Lake Michigan offers many different activities for every kind of tourist. There are of course the famous dunes, then there is Lake Michigan with its sandy beaches, there is also an inland Silver Lake also with dunes and beaches. There is the Silver Lake State Park. South of the park there is Little Sable Point Lighthouse. These are the main attractions.

There are activities for adults as well as for families with kids.

So, without further ado, let’s discover the things that you can do there…

Silver Lake – Michigan Recreation Hot Spot
Dune buggy in the Off-Road Vehicle Area.

Walk the Silver Lake Sand Dunes

First of all, you should walk the dunes. The stretch between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan is wide enough to give you the appearance that you are surrounded by desert, when you are in the middle.

Silver Lake – Michigan Recreation Hot Spot
Walking the Silver Lake Dunes.

The dunes are divided into three areas: off-road vehicle area, pedestrian area, and area leased to Mac Woods Dune Rides. The pedestrian area is south of the off-road vehicle area. (See the map here. )

The dune walk starts at the parking lot on the north side of the Silver Lake, at the end of the road. You first take the wooden stairs up and then climb the dune along the Off-Road Vehicle Area. Then you walk west towards the Lake Michigan. The hike to Lake Michigan is 1.6 mile long. So, if you go to the lake and back, you cover 3.2 miles.

Walking the sandy dunes is not easy, so even the 3.2 miles will be an exercise. However, if this is not enough for you, once you get to Lake Michigan, you can turn south and follow the lake all the way down to the Silver Creek, then turn east following the creek, and then following the dunes north along Silver Lake, to finally finish in the parking lot where you started from. The whole loop is 7 miles long. (See the map here.)

Duen riding with Mac Woods
Riding the dunes with Mac Woods – the stop at the top of the dune overlooking Silver Lake.

Ride The Dunes with Mac Woods

If you would like to ride the dunes, but not on your own – there is Mac Wood’s Dune Rides company that will take you on a tour through the dune landscape.

They have been there doing just that for long time – since 1930.  For $20 ($12 for children)(2020 prices) they will take you for a 40-minute wild ride in a kind of open bus vehicle.  You will stop at the top of the dune overlooking Silver Lake. You will hear some stories and facts about the dunes and local area from the driver.

The ride is smooth, but still provides for a little adrenaline with steep ups and downs, and tight turns. You will enjoy it, and your kids will, most likely, love it.

The place is open from May 15th through October 4th (2020 dates).

You can find more information on their website here.

Silver Lake – Michigan Recreation Hot Spot
Busy Off-Road Vehicle Area.

Ride The Silver Lake Dunes with Off-road Vehicle

Off course, if you want some adrenaline, you can be the driver and ride the dunes on your own. This is done in the Off-Road Vehicle Area. This is an over 400-acre stretch of dune covered area designated for vehicular traffic only. So, take your own 4×4 vehicle, dirt bike, or rent a dune buggy, Jeep or a 4-wheeler and take off, and experience the dunes at fast pace.

Dune riding
Dirt bikes riding on the dunes.

The place most likely will be very busy. It is like this the whole season. (With Labor Day weekend supposedly the busiest.) You will find here some people with a lot of off-road riding experience, flying by you and everybody else, like you are standing still. This can be a little intimidating. However, if you are a novice, don’t worry – the area is big enough that you can find a quieter spot, where you will have more space to yourself, and will be able to ride slower.

You have to be careful though, as accidents do happen here. I have met people in the past that got hurt here. I am talking broken bones…

Because there are no roads there and there is only general indication which direct to go, the vehicles kick the sand left and right at high speed causing the ride to be a little rough. After riding there for an hour or two, you will have enough of vibration and shaking. But the fun, the adrenaline high is worth it!… If you can handle it…

There is a rental place in town that provides you with your choice of vehicle, take you to the dunes and bring you back.

Silver Lake – Michigan Recreation Hot Spot
Silver Lake Buggy Rentals.

Go to the Beach

At one point or another, you will probably want to go to the beach, either, to lay down and relax, suntan, or to cool off in the lake.

In the immediate area you have two beaches  easily accessible by car – one at the Silver Lake, and another along Lake Michigan.

The Silver Lake beach is located inside the Silver Lake State Park. It is a small beach, right between the parking lot and the lake.

Silver Lake State Park
Small beach on Silver Lake in Silver Lake State Park.

The Lake Michigan beach is located south of the dunes, by the Little Sable Point Light Station Tower. This one is much bigger.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Beach at Little Sable Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

Both are very popular.

There is another beach at the northwest end of Silver Lake. It is unofficial, but also popular. However, to get to it, you need to park in the Dune Pedestrian Parking, and then climb the stairs, the dune and then descend down to the lake.

Silver Lake
Silver Lake – the beach at the base of the dune.

Off course, you can also go for a dune walk the whole mile and half, all the way to Lake Michigan, and have the whole beach there pretty much to yourself. The choice is yours…

Silver Lake
Overview of Silver Lake from the dune.

Enjoy the Silver Lake in a Kayak, Canoe, on Wave Runner, Pontoon or Speed Boat

The Silver Lake is all-sports lake, so you can enjoy it in any possible water craft that you bring with you, or a one rented in a local rental place. I have seen people kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, riding wave runners, speedboats, other power boats and sailing.

It can get pretty busy, so if you prefer quite and solitary environment, it is not for you. But if you don’t mind a little crowd and a little noise, you will have fun there.

The only good swimming area is in the state park.

The local watercraft renting place is:

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

Visit a Little Sable Lighthouse

The Little Sable Lighthouse is located south of the Silver Lake, and south of the dunes. It is a part of the state park, so Recreation Passport is required to enter the parking lot.

Normally, you can tour the lighthouse from late May through late September between 10am and 5pm. You can go to the top climbing the 130 stairs for $5 ($2 for children 12 and under) (2020 prices).

As I mentioned earlier, while talking about beaches – there is a beautiful, and usually busy, beach by the lighthouse.

Places to Stay and Eat

Since the area is very popular with tourists, there are many places to stay and eat. There are few local hotels, motels, b&b’s, campgrounds (state park and many private ones). Instead of listing them here, I will refer you to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes – The Official Travel Guide of Silver Lake brochure.

It is updated annually, and therefore, will provide you with the up to date information.

Since the area is pretty busy during the warm part of the year, I recommend planning the trip ahead, and booking the place to stay and also the off-road equipment, if you plan on riding the dunes.

Silver Lake State Park
Silver Lake State Park campground.

Final Thoughts

Silver Lake area is very scenic. It offers a wide range of different activities. If you don’t mind some crowds and noise, you will enjoy your visit.

If you are seeking solitude, and quiet surroundings – it is not for you.

The listed above activities and locations are the ones in the direct Silver Lake area. There is much more available in the surrounding region. There are biking and hiking trails, there are golf courses, rivers to paddle, more beaches, and other fun Michigan towns. So, if you have time, do not restrict your stay only to immediate area, but explore around.

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Below are some resources that will help you with planning your trip.

Silver Lake –

Silver Lake Sand Dunes –

Silver Lake State Park Map –

Silver Lake Off-Road Vehicular Area

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If you enjoy beaches and small beach towns, you might want to read my post about The Best Beach Towns in Michigan.

Rich S.
Rich S.
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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