11.8+ miles – Sand Beach – Silver Lake, Michigan
Highlights: 3 miles of undeveloped beach, a historic lighthouse and the Silver Lake sand dunes.
Trailhead: This ride starts at the Little Sable Point Lighthouse Beach which is part of Silver Lake State Park. This is a popular beach access with parking for over 100 vehicles. On nice afternoons in the summer this lot can fill up quickly and there will be people everywhere. I would recommend doing this ride in the off-season or getting an early start. The only facilities available are pit toilets available at the north end of the parking area. A Michigan Recreation Passport or day-use fee is required to enter the park. Driving Directions >>The Little Sable Point Lighthouse was built is 1874. At 105 feet tall it is one of the tallest light towers in the State. From late May though September the lighthouse is staffed by the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association and you can climb the 130 steps to the top for a small donation.
The Ride: To start, saddle up on the fattie and ride up the sidewalk heading straight towards the lighthouse tower. Hop down into the sand and when you hit the waterline turn to the north. The main part of this ride is an out and back along the shoreline of Silver Lake State Park. After about 500 feet the Lighthouse portion of the State Park ends and you will encounter a short section of summer homes. About half through the private section of beach is the mouth of Silver Creek. This is also a small Oceana County public beach access. On my visit in April the creek looked pretty deep so I decided to take off my shoes and wade through with my bike on my shoulder. This turned out to be a good decision because the deepest spot was well over the top of my knees. After the creek crossing you may see “No Trespassing” signs where the private beach starts again. It is okay to pass through here as long as you are below the high water line and do not stop. There will be a few breakwalls to navigate around in this section, but there are easy to ride around of over.
At about 0.6 miles the cottages end and you enter into the main part of Silver Lake State Park. The park protects almost 3,000 acres and much of this is open sand dunes. The sand dunes area is divided into 3 different sections. The south section is leased to the Mac Woods Dune Rides concession. The biggest section in the middle is designated as a pedestrian area. Then finally the 450 acres on the north end is the famous ORV area. This is the only place where off-road vehicles can be driven in sand dunes in the eastern half of the country.Soon the trees end and the dunes open up to your right. At about the 1 mile mark you may start seeing tire tracks on the beach and even a dune cruiser from mid-May through September. There is a 1000 foot section where the dune ride runs along the beach and then stops for a few minutes to take pictures.
The next 1.5 miles is some of the best fat bike beach riding in the park with smooth sand on the shore and interesting dune formations inland. 3 miles into the ride the the dunes open up and a fence and picnic tables start lining the beach as you enter the ORV area. You will likely hear and smell it before you see it. The ORV area is open from April 1 through October 31 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. On my visit in early April there were only a few 4 wheels out riding in the dunes at 9:30 in the morning. However, it can get very busy on nice weekends in the summer.In another 0.5 mile you reach the northern border of the State Park and the turn around point for this ride. There is a cottage up on a bluff with a big rock breakwall. At the time of my visit the Lake Michigan water levels were near all time highs, making this section impassable. If the Lake goes back down to more normal levels it may be possible to continue riding north. Although, looking at Google maps, the breakwalls continue for about a mile until the beach opens up again.It is a nice 7 mile ride to the end of the State Park and back. On my visit the beach riding conditions were almost perfect with firm and sand and a light east wind. I decided to continue on past the lighthouse and explore to the south. The first 2 miles were more of same nice and open sand. Although, this is a private beach area lined with summer homes. At about 2 miles from the lighthouse there are breakwalls that start running out into the water to help stop beach erosion. I was able to ride over or around the first few, but it looked like they continued on for a while so I decided to turn around here.
By the time I got back to the parking area by the lighthouse I had logged 11.8 miles of sweet sandy beach riding. Exploring this section of beach on the fat tire bike had been on my to do list for a while and it was a really nice early spring ride.
Post Ride Beverage: I wasn’t able to stop after this ride, but on a recent camping trip we had a good meal at Big Hart Brewing Company. Big Hart opened in February of 2016 and is the first micro brewery in Oceana County. At the time of our visit it was getting mixed reviews, but we enjoyed our meal and had great service.
In the Area: If you have not experienced the Silver Lake Dunes before I would highly recommend driving around to the other side of the Lake and taking a hike in the pedestrian area. The huge open dune area has been described as walking in the desert and is like no other place in Michigan. We like to pick a sand ridge and walk it out towards Lake Michigan and then circle back along Silver Lake. With the sand constantly moving and changing the landscape every time we visit it is a little different experience. Directions to the Pedestrian Dune Access >>