Where is Silver Lake State Park?
Silver Lake State Park is located on the Western shore of Michigan, just a short walk from the shores of Lake Michigan. The small park is a rare find, nestled in the woods of Silver Lake, a small but popular summer town that many Michiganders flock to every year. The park is a two-hour drive from Grand Rapids and about a five-hour drive from Michigan’s metropolis, Detroit.
How Big is Silver Lake State Park?
Silver Lake US State Park seems small at first glance, but it actually spans a massive 3,000 acres along Lake Michigan’s coastline. You won’t need to worry about being overwhelmed by too many visitors because the park offers diverse, spaced out living arrangements. The park is about 4.5 square miles total, but it's massive 2,000-acre sand dunes recreation area makes up for its small size. The highest point of the park is the top of the sand dune’s highest peak, Razorback, and the lowest points are among Lake Michigan’s beaches, which rest at the bottom of the sand mounds.
Silver Lake State Park Weather
Silver Lake, Michigan is a classic American summer town. From the months of September to April, it’s a sleepy, cold Midwestern town that seems to always look towards the exciting summer months. The best time of year to visit Silver Lake is the summer because the weather is ideal; warm winds from the lake combined with temperatures that may reach the high 80s during the day and dip into the 50s at night make for a dreamy summer vacation. Plus, many businesses in the downtown area are only open during the summer, so visiting during the off-season may be unexciting and too cold for any outdoor activities. The off-season may be a great option if you’re looking for fall and winter activities like hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
When Did Silver Lake Become a State Park?
Silver Lake officially became a state park in 1964, but its history spans all the way back to 1919. A mere 25 acres was originally donated to Parks and Recreation to use for public park purposes, and it wasn’t until 1951 that boundaries were set, and plans were made. When the park was officially dedicated in 1964, park officials immediately saw the importance of including the sand dunes within the park’s limits. Ever since, Silver Lake State Park has been a major success and an important part of many Midwesterners’ summers.
Things to Do in Silver Lake State Park
With 3,000 acres of playing space, it’s no wonder summer visitors always have tons to do in Silver Lake. Our National Park Visitors Guide highlights activities below.
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes
The massive expanse of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes is definitely the main draw for many summer season visitors. Similar to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a natural wonder, and visitors can enjoy many activities on these mountains of sand. An especially popular activity is driving dune buggies within the park’s boundaries. Festivals and buggy takeovers take place nearly every weekend during the summers where avid drivers outfit their vehicles and dirt bikes to meet Silver Lake’s requirements and join other enthusiasts on the dunes.
For those visitors who don’t want to drive themselves, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides offer fun and safe tours for an affordable fee.
Off-Road Vehicle Recreation Area
Adjacent to the sand dunes is a 2,000-acre wilderness that’s set aside for ATV’s, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, hikers, and trail runners. The ORV recreation area covers all kinds of terrain like forests, marsh, and of course, the shore of Lake Michigan. Visitors need to obtain an ORV license to take advantage of the recreation area.
Silver Lake is the moderately-sized lake that the adjacent town was aptly named after. Thanks to water sports businesses in the downtown area, park goers can rent jet skis, pontoons, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards to check out the lake and get a great view of the sand dunes from the water.
The sand dunes separate Silver Lake from Lake Michigan, and this is often the main reason people enjoy walking from one end of the dunes to the other. There aren’t many places in the U.S. where you can see two beautiful lakes from the peak of a sand dune. Lake Michigan is a busy waterway, and it’s common for visitors to see freighters and merchant ships running north and south. Visitors can go to the beach, go out on a boat, and in recent years, parasailing has become an increasingly popular sport thanks to Lake Michigan’s powerful winds.
Downtown Silver Lake
During the summer, downtown Silver Lake transforms from a sleepy neighborhood into an exciting, upbeat, and classic summer town. Visitors can find local, family-owned restaurants, Michigan’s famous go-kart and arcade hotspot, Craig’s Cruisers, and plenty of family-friendly activities like mini golf, bumper cars, and souvenir shops.
Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Just a short drive from the downtown area, Little Sable Point Lighthouse sits on a short stretch of beach on Lake Michigan. The lighthouse carries historical significance, and visitors can climb up inside of it to get a great view of Silver Lake.
When to Go to Silver Lake State Park
One of the best times to visit Silver Lake State Park is during the summer months, between May and August. If you’re looking for a classic summer vacation without the added stress of large crowds and long lines, Silver Lake is a great option because it really is Michigan’s best-kept secret.
Michigan in the fall is also a great option because the average temperatures haven’t dipped to icy levels yet. Winter and spring can be a little tricky, but if you’re looking for a getaway to enjoy winter sports and activities, Silver Lake will have plenty of ice and snow. Just make sure you dress warm!
List of Parks Must-Have Things to Bring to Silver Lake
Depending on where you’re staying, there are some must-haves to put on your Silver Lake packing list.
Silver Lake’s beach options are surprisingly vast. Lake Michigan’s waters may be cold, but the summer is still hot, so make sure you pack plenty of beach gear.
Silver Lake’s ORV recreational area has some great hikes, so pack your hiking boots and backpack! A popular activity that many visitors like to do is to hike through the woods to the beach.
The closest banks are about a 15-minute drive into town, and even then, most of the banks are purely local and regional. Take along some extra cash with you just in case you run into any issues with your debit or credit cards. Plus, since Silver Lake is a small town and most of the businesses are family owned and operated, it’s not uncommon for some establishments to be cash only. More national banks can be found about half an hour north, in the city of Ludington, but you can save yourself the trip by bringing along some cash.
Where to Stay in Silver Lake State Park
Silver Lake has some great resorts like Silver Sands Resort, the Dunes Waterfront Hotel, and the Sierra Sands Lodge. However, you should know that Silver Lake is a popular camping town, so campgrounds are usually the preferred lodging option. Whether you have a RV, camper, or you want to camp in a tent, check with Silver Lake Resort and Campground, Jellystone RV & Campground Park, or Sandy Shores Campground to make a reservation.
Food Nearby Silver Lake
Aside from family-owned, local restaurants, Silver Lake has one stop-n-shop, a gas station, and a couple of grocery stores where you can buy all your food, drinks, and cooking supplies.
Airports Near Silver Lake
While there is a small airport in Silver Lake, you won’t be flying into it on a commercial jet. The closest major airport is in Muskegon, which is about an hour south of Silver Lake.