Love the outdoors and looking for a new Michigan state park to explore? Check our guide to one of the best parks on the shores of Lake Michigan — Warren Dunes State Park.
Many places in Michigan are just so beautiful that they take your breath away. One of those stunningly beautiful spots is Warren Dunes in Sawyer Michigan. This truly is a crown jewel in Southwest Michigan with almost 2,000 acres of land to explore year-round and plenty of sandy shoreline.
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan may get a lot of attention where Lake Michigan sand dunes are considered. But, the Warren Dunes in Southwest Michigan are just as special, if not more so, for some Michiganders and out-of-town visitors.
Just 20 miles from the Indiana border, this spectacular Michigan state park is the perfect Southwest Michigan getaway and a place that may just become your new favorite Michigan vacation destination.
Getting to Know Warren Dunes State Park
The dunes at Warren Dunes State Park along Lake Michigan formed almost 10,000 years ago, but what remains today are magnificent mounds of golden sand that invite visitors to run, climb, and walk on them.
The dunes and beach area that comprise Warren Dunes State Park were purchased and preserved by Edward K. Warren, a successful businessman and inventor. He purchased the land from a friend and developed it into the park visitors know today.
By the 1930s, the area became a state park, overseen by state officials. The rugged dune formations can be found all throughout the park and are designated with names like Pikes Peak, Mt. Fuller, Tower Hill, and Mt. Edwards. Tower Hill stands almost 260 feet above Lake Michigan and is the park’s highest point.
One of the best things about Warren Dunes State Park is that you’re not limited to just one recreational opportunity. Here, you can do it all, and more than 1 million people visit every year.
A Multitude of Fun Activities
Warren Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan’s western shore offers so much for visitors to do. Put very simply, the park can be your outdoor playground. It offers swimming, hiking, skiing, camping, hunting, sandboarding, metal detecting, and a playground.
For active folks who love to always be on the move, the park offers 6 miles of winding trails for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking. The trails range from 3/4 of a mile to a 6-mile trail meant for skiing. That makes it easy to pick a trail that works best for you and start exploring.
Even if you just want to take it easy by the water, the park has 3 miles of shoreline, so you can splash and swim or relax and soak up some rays.
Fun Things to Do at Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park is not only a hidden gem but also a place where visitors can have fun all year along the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan.
Spectacular Summer Fun at the Park
The most popular activity in the summertime is swimming at the designated beach and swim area on the south end of the park’s shoreline. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than cooling off with a swim in beautiful Lake Michigan.
If you’re just looking to take it easy on the beach, spread a towel out and let your skin soak up some sun. Build some sandcastles, toss a football around, or sit down for a family picnic lunch. Take some beach footwear, too, in case the sand is hot.
Along with swimming, you can participate in other water-based fun like paddle boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding from the beach or area boat launches. If you don’t have your own equipment, don’t worry because rentals are available on-site from mid-May through Labor Day.
Hang Gliding & Sandboarding
If you’re really feeling adventurous, request a permit from the park staff to go hang gliding off the tall dunes. There’s no bigger adrenaline rush than gliding off the towering dunes with the beauty of the lake in front of you.
Looking for more fun on the dunes? Try riding down them on a sandboard (aka sand sledding). Think of it like skateboarding but on a picturesque sand dune.
Fantastic Fall Fun at the Park
There are many great places in Michigan to see fall colors, but the park is perhaps one of the most unique. The trails are lined with trees, and the dunes provide the perfect backdrop as you marvel at the bright red, orange, and yellow leaves.
Small Game Hunting
Fall is also the perfect time to go hunting, which you can do in designated areas at the park. Reach out to park officials before you arrive, and try your luck at hunting small game or other animals that are in season.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, bring your binoculars too, and keep your eyes peeled for birds and butterflies. Warren Dunes State Park is built on an old migratory flight path, so it’s a great spot to see a variety of bird species.
Wonderful Winter Fun at the Park
Keep your phone or camera handy, and head to the shoreline. As you look out at the water, you may be able to see eye-catching ice formations and take plenty of pictures.
Cross Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
Strap on your cross-country skis, and explore a wonderful 3-mile loop that takes cross-country skiing enthusiasts through the woods and behind the park. If snowshoeing is your favorite wintertime activity, head to one of the park’s many trails or trek up the dunes for a wonderful wintertime view.
Super Spring Fun at the Park
After the snow melts and the ice thaws, walk along the beaches and keep your eyes peeled for shoreline treasures, like fossils and beach glass. In mid to late spring, take a leisurely stroll along the park trails to see pretty wildflowers and tree blossoms.
After watching the birds fly for warmer destinations in the fall, keep your eyes peeled for their return in the spring.
If you’re looking for a fun beach activity in the spring, wait for a windy day to try your hand at flying a kite. Whether you’re 5 or 50 years old, there’s something so satisfying about seeing a colorful kite soaring in the sky.
You can do some metal detecting on the beach too. In fact, you can go metal detecting along the entire Lake Michigan shoreline. Warren Dunes recognizes it as a recreational activity as long as you don’t damage the cultural and natural resources.
More Activities to Do at Warren Dunes State Park
Hiking Trails of Various Lengths
With 6 miles of trails, there are several possible hiking routes that you can take throughout the park, and some of them are very short.
For instance, the Oak Ridge Trail and Golden Rod Loop are less than a half-mile. On the other hand, the Nature Trail, Mount Randal Trail, and Yellow Birch Loop are each 1 mile long. You have some in-between options as well — Blue Jay Trail, Red Squirrel Trail, and White Tail Trail.
A Pet-Friendly Area
If you want to take your dog on the trails, you can. Plus, Warren Dunes State Park is a pet-friendly park with a designated, 2.5-mile dog beach. Although, you can’t let your dog wander into the regular beach area. Also, you must keep your pet on a 6-foot leash and clean up after it.
During your visit to Warren Dunes, you’re bound to need something to eat. From May through September, the Warren Dunes Concession sells food, soft drinks, and ice cream to keep you energized, hydrated, and cool.
Whether you buy from the concession or take your own snacks, there’s a picnic area with fire pits and grills near the beach and a picnic shelter just a little farther away.
Lodging Near Warren Dunes State Park
Whether you want a truly rustic camping experience, a modern camping experience, or a nearby hotel, you have plenty of options to choose from for staying near Warren Dune State Park.
Modern & Rustic Camping Options
Warren Dunes State Park is not only stunningly beautiful but also the perfect spot to enjoy some camping. The park has two campgrounds on-site — the Mt. Randall Modern Campground and the Hildebrandt Semi-Modern Campground.
The Warren Dunes modern campground has 200 campsites and is located close to the beach on the inland side of the dunes. The modern campsites include amenities like electric hookups.
The Warren Dunes semi-modern campground offers a more rustic experience with 30 campsites and several rustic mini-cabins.
Additionally, there’s a Youth Group Use Campground and some rustic mini cabins. So, grab your tents, camping chairs, and swim trunks, and get back to nature by camping outside. Make your reservations well in advance because slots fill up quickly!
Other Nearby Campgrounds
The campsites at Warren Dunes State Park aren’t the only ones where you can stay. Consider these options for a variety of activities and scenery:
Great Boutique Hotels Near the Park
If you’re looking for non-camping lodging options, you’re in luck because several nearby towns have some great boutique hotels.
Among the Vineyards Bed & Breakfast
Among the Vineyards Bed & Breakfast in Baroda Michigan is about 15 minutes from the Warren Dunes State Park. It’s a quaint bed and breakfast tucked into the Lake Michigan Wine Trail, so you’re just minutes from wineries, u-pick orchards, and the beach.
Lakeside Inn in Lakeside Michigan is about 10 minutes south of the park and offers visitors a chance to relax in rustic, historic lodging that includes a private beach and a 100-foot front porch.
Three Oaks Inn
Three Oaks Inn in Three Oaks Michigan sits about 15 minutes from the park. This bed and breakfast offers the best comfort with comfortable beds, tasteful furnishings, and tranquility.
Additional Nearby Lodging Options
More To Do Near Warren Dunes State Park
If you decide to stay at one of the Warren Dunes campgrounds, you don’t have to limit your activities to within the park. You can explore nearby attractions as well.
For instance, Warren Woods State Park has a beech and maple climax forest, a quiet hiking trail, and a picnic area. At Captain Mike’s Fun Park, families can enjoy Go-Karts, mini-golf, bumper cars and boats, batting cages, an arcade room, and more.
Dairy & Fruit Farms
Shuler Dairy Farms provides tours of its animals and innovative farming technology and serves fresh ice cream. Over the summer, Rambo Blueberries is a 120-acre blueberry farm that offers U-pick and ready-pick berries.
Restaurants Near Warren Dunes State Park
While you’re out and about, you could check out some of the local restaurants too. The Peasant’s Pantry serves breakfast all day, lunch salads and sandwiches, and a range of baked goods. You can get made-to-order burgers, a variety of fries, and ice cream and malts at Mikey’s Drive In.
For traditional American food and a full bar, Red Arrow Roadhouse is the place to go. And if you just want to stop for ice cream, Scoops Ice Cream is the oldest ice cream shop in Bridgman Michigan, operating for more than 40 years.
FAQs About Warren Dunes State Park
Where is Warren Dunes State Park?
Warren Dunes State Park is located in Sawyer Michigan, just 20 miles from the Indiana border.
When is Warren Dunes State Park open?
The park is open year-round, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Is there an admission cost to enter Warren Dunes State Park?
You can buy a daily pass to Warren Dunes State Park, or you can get in if you have a Michigan Recreational Passport.
Does Warren Dunes State Park have a beach?
Yes, indeed. Warren Dunes State Park has 3 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan.
How high are the Warren Dunes at the state park?
The Warren Dunes at this state park vary in height, but the tallest one is Tower Hill, which rises about 260 feet above the lake.
Is Warren Dunes State Park busy?
Weekends are usually busy here, but the park has an uptick in visitors during major holidays, such as Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekend.
Make Plans to Visit Warren Dunes State Park
There’s no doubt that there are many great Michigan state parks, but Warren Dunes State Park is one you’ll definitely want to make plans to visit.
You can see and explore magnificent sand dunes up close, as well as do just about any outdoor activity that your heart desires.
Soak in the spectacular views of Lake Michigan, explore 6 miles of hiking trails any time of year, enjoy seasonal hunting and metal detecting, or cool off in Lake Michigan’s waters.
If you’ve been looking for a new place to enjoy Michigan’s wonderous outdoors and get back to nature, book a camping trip for Warren Dunes State Park today.