13 miles – Sandy Beach – Muskegon State Park
Highlights: 2.5 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan Beach.
Trailhead: This ride starts in the day-use beach area at Muskegon State Park. It is located on the south end of the park near the channel to Muskegon Lake. There are 2 paved parking areas that each hold at least 200 vehicles. Between the 2 lots you will find a beach house with restrooms and changing areas.
A Michigan Recreation Passport or $9 day pass is required for non-resident vehicles.
The Ride: At the start the beach is about 400 feet wide and you may have to push your fat bike down to the water depending on the time of the year. This ride goes out and back to the north. For about the first mile you will see the Scenic Drive running parallel to the shoreline just above you. There are a couple different spots where the road shoulder is wide enough to park cars and you will notice more people on the beach in these areas. When the road swings inland you should start seeing less traffic. This is also the beginning of the less developed and most scenic part of the ride.
At about 2 miles you come to the Lake Michigan Campground beach area. Muskegon State Park has 244 modern campsites split between here and the Channel Campground on Muskegon Lake. On a nice summer day you will encounter a big groups of campers spread out enjoying the beach here.
About a 0.3 miles past the campground you pass the northern border of the State Park and homes and cottages begin. You will also start to see more wood break walls that were installed by property owners to control beach erosion. Most were easy to navigate around or you can try and bunny hop the shorter ones.
At about 4 miles into the ride you will pass Pioneer County Park. This 145 acre park is operated by Muskegon County and has just under a 0.5 mile of beach frontage. According to their website they also offer: “modern camping, swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, tennis, softball, basketball and volleyball.” This would probably be the best place of a pit stop along this ride if you need one.
After Pioneer Park the next 2.5 miles are smooth pedaling with few obstacles. At 6.5 miles in there is a maze of break walls running both along shore and out into to the water. I shouldered the bike and started walking around the first couple, but then it became apparent that to continue I would have to either walk in the water or trespass to get around. The water was still in the 40s so I decided to make this the turnaround point. Passage here will likely vary from year to year based on Lake levels and sand bars.
I had planned to continue on another 4 miles up to the White Lake Channel and see the White River Light Station. If you do this ride please let us know in the comments below if you were able to make through this section.
Post Ride Beverage: There are only a couple options right by Muskegon State Park. The Red Rooster Tavern is only 6 miles north on Scenic Drive so we thought we would give it a try. It is a typical tavern atmosphere with okay pub food. There was an interesting mix of people with everyone from families to bikers. Most of the bikers were the kind that wear the leather chaps…if you are running these on your fat bike you are a true BA.
I did see that the Red Rooster has new owners since our last visit. It sounds like they have updated both the interior and the menu. We will have to check it out the next time we are in North Muskegon.
The Bear Lake Tavern is the other option and is only 3 miles from the State Park. It looked nice when we drove past, but it has mixed reviews.
In the Area: Muskegon State Park has 11 miles of hiking trails that are worth taking the time to explore. We recommend the Dune Ridge Trail for a panoramic view of the harbor and the dunes leading out to Lake Michigan. Muskegon State Park hiking guide and map >>
A GoPro time-lapse video of the beach ride.
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