Spanning over 3,000 acres in west Michigan, Silver Lake State Park offers a spectacular natural retreat. Situated along Lake Michigan, Silver Lake itself is a gorgeous dune-ringed freshwater lake perfect for recreation.
From hiking towering dune climbs to swimming crystal clear waters, the diversity of activities at Silver Lake State Park makes it a top state park destination. Here is a guide to the best things to do in Silver Lake State Park for an unforgettable outdoor getaway!
1. Hike the Dunes
The iconic activity at Silver Lake State Park is hiking up the towering coastal dunes. The Dune Climb Trail provides access up the tallest dune rising 137 feet above Lake Michigan. Make the steep 0.5 mile climb to take in panoramic views of the shoreline from the top.
Continue hiking along the ridgetop on the 1 mile Little Pines Nature Trail through beach grasses and evergreen trees. For a longer 4 mile sand trek, follow the Dune Ridge Trail as it winds up, over and through sandy peaks and valleys along the lakeshore.
2. Paddle Silver Lake
While Lake Michigan borders the park, pretty Silver Lake itself lies just inland. The 450 acre all-sports lake is ringed by vegetated dunes, making it perfect for boating and paddling.
Rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards from the Silver Lake Resort. Paddle the calm waters taking in views of the sand dunes, cottages, and forested shoreline.
Launch your own boat at one of the park’s two boat launches. No motors are allowed, so the lake remains serene. Gliding across Silver Lake’s sparkling waters surrounded by the dunes is an idyllic way to spend an afternoon.
3. Bike the Pathway
Silver Lake State Park has a 2.1 mile paved bike path that runs through the campground and into the picnic areas. The path has access points from the day use area and campground C.
Bring your own bike or rent one from the camp store. Pedal the path taking in pretty views of Silver Lake, the forest, and dunes as you ride. The paved pathway is smooth and mostly flat, perfect for a casual ride or family bike ride.
4. Attend a Nature Program
Silver Lake State Park offers insightful naturalist-led programs to help you learn about the diverse ecosystems and wildlife found in the park. Programs on topics like birdwatching hikes, insect safaris, edible plants, and dune ecology are available.
Kids will enjoy hands-on junior naturalist programs like pond study and geocaching adventures. Special events spotlight nature topics like migratory birds, moths, monarch butterflies and more throughout the year.
5. Go Fishing on Silver Lake
Cast a fishing line on peaceful Silver Lake at the park. The lake contains species like bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike and more for great fishing.
The fishing pier on Silver Lake provides easy access. Shore fishing is also possible at the boat launches or anywhere along the undeveloped shoreline. A Michigan fishing license is required for those over 17.
6. Camp Along the Lakeshore
Enjoy panoramic views of Lake Michigan and beach access right from your tent site by camping at Silver Lake State Park. The campground stretches along over a mile of prime shoreline real estate.
Sites are nestled in the dune grass and trees, providing privacy and seclusion. About half the sites can take RVs up to 45 feet long, while the other sites are walk-in tent sites just steps from the beach. Amenities include showers, playgrounds, camp store and firewood.
7. Relax on the Beach
There’s nothing quite like spending a day relaxing on the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan, and Silver Lake State Park offers over a mile of sandy beaches to enjoy.
Take a refreshing and brisk swim when you need to cool off. With clean sand, shallow swimming areas, and stunning dune views, the beaches at Silver Lake can’t be beat for the quintessential Michigan beach day.
8. Ride the ORV Dunes Trail
Adventure seekers will enjoy riding the sand dunes at Silver Lake on a specialized Off-Road-Vehicle. The park has a designated 2 mile ORV route along the shoreline north of Silver Lake.
The trail provides access over steep hills, wooded paths, open dunes, and scenic Lake Michigan overlooks only possible via ORV. Rent a vehicle from a local outfitter and access the trail from Basch Road.
9. Cheer on the Kiteboarders
When the wind is up, head to the beach north of the campground to witness the awesome power kiteboarders harnessing the wind over Lake Michigan. Kiteboarders skim and jump over the water controlling lifts and turns with large specialized kites as their propellant.
Local kiteboarders flock to Silver Lake due to its combination of sand dunes, consistent wind, and tranquil waters that form an ideal setup for the sport. Watching their aerial acrobatics and high-speed moves is quite a spectacle!
10. Enjoy a Sunrise from the Beach
For a magical experience, wake early and head down to the beach to catch a colorful sunrise over Lake Michigan. Just before dawn, the sky lights up in beautiful hues of orange, pink and purple cast over the water.
The calm lapping waves and stillness of early morning make it relaxed and peaceful. As the sun peeks over the horizon, sunlight sparkles over the lake making for stunning photos. Sunrise is also the best time to spot shorebirds feeding along the water’s edge.
11. Geocache the Park
Have fun treasure hunting searching for geocaches hidden throughout Silver Lake State Park. Over 25 geocaches are placed near landmarks and points of interest around the park. Use a GPS device or the geocaching app on your phone to navigate to the coordinates where each is hidden.
The geocaches come in different sizes from micro to large tupperware containers. Inside you’ll find a logbook to mark your find and treasures like trinkets, coins or pins to swap. Exploring the park off the beaten path while geocaching makes for an adventurous time!
12. Explore the Shoreline North on the Little Sable Point Trail
For an extended 8.5 mile roundtrip hike along over 4 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, embark on the Little Sable Point Trail. Pick up the trail north of the state park past the Little Sable Point Lighthouse.
The marked trail continues north over steep dunes, pristine beaches, small creeks, and hilly woods. Extensive and panoramic shoreline vistas open up at multiple points.
Plan for an all day hike to fully experience the diverse coastal scenery. Return the way you came or walk inland to loop back on quiet roads. The Little Sable Point Trail highlights the region’s most beautiful and secluded stretches of Lake Michigan beach.
This covers the best ways to experience the natural majesty of Silver Lake State Park. Hiking the dunes, swimming, boating, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, and more – Silver Lake has it all!
The park’s combination of stunning scenery and copious recreational opportunities make it a gem of the Michigan State Park system.