There’s something about sand dunes that I find incredible. I guess it’s a landscape that isn’t a common one. It’s an environment that’s usually associated with boiling hot desert like conditions that aren’t easily accessible (believe me, I’ve camped in the Sahara Desert during a sand storm!). Thanks to a roadside sign on the I-94, advertising ‘dune rides’, I did a bit of research and discovered Silver Lake Sand Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. Did you know you can go sandboarding in Michigan?!
My SatNav decided to send me down a single lane dirt track through a forest so part of me wondered if we were ever going to find the dunes! When you first enter the town of Mears, you drive by multiple off road vehicle rental companies, each vehicle proudly displaying a bright orange flag to make them more visible in the dunes.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Our first stop was at Wave Club Water Sports, a rental company on the Silver Lake lakefront. We picked up a couple of sandboards, initially paying for a 1 hour rental.
*Tip* The Wave Club has both beginner and advanced board rentals. Beginner boards are $5 per hour but are aimed more at children and have a rope to help with balance. The advanced boards are $10 per hour, have foot bindings and require scribbling over the bottom with a bar of wax before each ‘run’. Even though they are labelled as ‘advanced’, these ones are recommended for adults.
You can also rent sandboards at The Sand Box, including sit down sleds that are easier for children.
Following the road around to the right hand side of the lake, you drive straight into the car park for the ‘pedestrian dune access’ part of the Silver Lake State Park. At 10am on a Sunday morning, we had the car park (and the dunes!) to ourselves! If you’ve got good lungs and can hold your breath, there are also long drop toilet facilities.
Wooden stairs through the forest take you part the way up the dunes but when you get half way up, the stairs are swallowed by the sand! I’m not going to lie, walking up sand dunes is the toughest part! It’s very much one step forward, two steps back, it’s exhausting and so taking water is a must!
But when you reach the top, it doesn’t disappoint.
It’s hard to capture it in a photo. It’s a landscape that shocks me everytime I see it! In one direction there are trees as far as the eye can see, then in the other, BOOM! Hills of sand everywhere!
To the right is the off road vehicle area. It’s well marked out so you don’t have to worry about an ATV flying over a hill and squashing you, pedestrians (and sand boarders!) are kept away from this area! Several people sat on top of a dune opposite watching the off roading action!
There were only a handful of people sandboarding, the majority were just hiking (? I guess you would call it that!), both adults and children were equally enjoying running down the dunes, reaching the bottom and then questioning how they were going to walk back up again!
The key to sandboarding is wax. Along with the board rental, you’ll be given a stick of wax. It’s surprising what a difference it makes! Without the wax, there is too much friction and the board will struggle to glide over the sand, if you have too much, it’s like ice! You’ll most likely have to reapply the wax after every run.
We sandboarded down one dune heading towards Silver Lake, where my other half went for a (freezing cold) swim. I passed on this knowing that if I fell over afterwards while boarding I would be covered head to toe in sand!
Related Reading: Exploring Lancelin Sand Dunes Western Australia
A small section of the dunes is closed to the public. There are concerns that the dunes are getting closer to the houses on the edge of the State Park. They are hoping that by keeping people off a section that’s closest, it’ll stop the sand sliding onto the private properties. (Picture above, the fence divides the public and private areas)
Not only are the dunes awesome, I also fell in love with Silver Lake! It’s a typical tourist town but I love it! There are several camp grounds, hotels, independent restaurants, beach shops, go karts, mini golf and a Soaring Eagle zip line, plenty of things to do while visiting Silver Lake Sand Dunes! There’s a free car park (with real toilets!) along Silver Lake, with a small beach and a playground, this is where we parked to walk into town.