Located along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities for people of all ages. Defined by rugged dune formations that rise over two hundred feet along the lake shore, this 1,952 acre park is one of the most popular in the state with an average of one million visitors every year. Its main features include three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and spectacular views of the lake from atop the dunes. The park is open year-round and an entry fee is charged.
The large sand dunes found throughout the park were formed thousands of years ago when continental bedrock was shifted by receding glaciers and eventually reduced to sand by wind and water erosion. Modern visitors can enjoy climbing and hiking through these dunes while enjoying a unique natural setting that is constantly influenced by the refreshing breezes coming off of Lake Michigan. The park’s major dunes include Mt. Fuller, Pikes Peak, Mt. Edwards and Tower Hill, which is the highest point in the park standing at 240 feet. Because of the ample amounts of sand and strong breezes, the dunes are a very popular place for those who enjoy sand-boarding and hang gliding.
Included throughout the park are nine different nature trails that range from .20 to one mile in length. These trails can be enjoyed for hiking or cross-country skiing and are defined by an ecosystem that is unique due to the dunes constant influences on the surrounding landscapes. The forests consist of mainly ash, oak, maple, tulip trees and cottonwoods with an undergrowth of scattered bushes and reeds. Wildflowers in the area include jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman’s breeches, white trillium and trout lily. Because the trails wind around and over the sand dunes, they vary in grades from level to steep. They are normally not muddy, but some can become very icy during the winter months.
Visitors can also enjoy seeing a wide variety of wildlife throughout the park. Common animals include squirrels, foxes, raccoons, opossum and deer. With the park bordering directly on Lake Michigan, there is a unique mix of both water and forest bird species inhabiting the area. It is not uncommon for birdwatchers to see species ranging from egrets, herons and terns to thrushes, owls and woodpeckers. The area also supports Michigan’s second largest population of the endangered Prairie Warbler. Hunting is allowed in a portion of the park for part of the year and fishing is allowed year-round in Lake Michigan. Both activities require the proper Michigan permits.
There are several types of campgrounds offered in Warren Dunes State Park that are open from the first of April until the end of October. All sites are easily accessed along paved roads. The largest area includes 36 primitive, tent sites and an area for RV parking with electrical hook-ups and bathrooms. Mini-cabins with electric and heat that can sleep up to four people are also available. Fees and length of stay restrictions do apply to all camping options. There are also numerous private cabins, small motels and B&B’s available for room rentals in the general vicinity just outside of the park’s entrance.
The majority of visitors to the park arrive to spend a day relaxing on the sandy beaches and swimming in Lake Michigan. The central beach area includes a beach house with large bathrooms and a concession stand that is open seasonally. The peak season for swimming in the park generally runs from June through late August. Although swimming is allowed after the end of winter, visitors should be forewarned that the waters in Lake Michigan before the first of June and after the end of August can be very cold!
Additional information about the park can be found at www.dnr.state.mi.us/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=504&type=SPRK.
Warren Dunes State Park
12032 Red Arrow Highway
Sawyer, Michigan 49125