Warren Dunes State Park – Fat Bike Beach Ride

Warren Dunes State Park – Fat Bike Beach Ride
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10 miles – Sand Beach – Warren Dunes State Park, MI

*Unfortunately the Michigan DNR is no longer allowing fat bikes on the beach in Warren Dunes State Park.  See the comment section below for the latest updates on this.

Highlights: 3 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan beach – Dunes up to 260 feet tall – An armed security force.

Trailhead: This ride starts in the day-use beach area at Warren Dunes State Park.  This is one of the most popular Michigan State Parks with over 1 million visitors each summer.  To handle all this traffic there are 5 big paved parking areas and 3 restroom buildings.  In the middle building you will find a concession with food and souvenirs in season.

A Michigan Recreation Passport or $9 day pass is required for non-resident vehicles.  Directions >>

The Ride: Saddle up on your fat bike and try to blast through the soft sand out to the waterline.  I have heard that on a clear day you can see the Chicago skyline floating on horizon straight to the west.  Take a quick look and then hang a right and head up the beach.

The first 3 miles of this ride are in the State Park.  Looking inland you will see several dunes that tower 200 feet or more above the Lake.  When I was here the conditions were almost perfect with flat hard packed sand and calm wind.

Right after leaving the State Park you will come to a big painted concrete structure that I think is the base of an old water tower.  This marks Weko Beach Park . This 40 acre park is operated by the city of Bridgman and looks like it would be a nice place to spend a day on the shores of Lake Michigan. It has a new beach house with restrooms and a food concession stand. There is also a 70 site modern campground here.

The next 2 miles are along a more developed section of beach.  I was stopped several times by mostly nice cottage and homeowners to ask me more about the fat bike.  It may be a good idea to do this ride earlier in the morning if you are here in July or August.

At about the 5 mile mark you come to a barricade of big steel poles that run out into the water about 150 feet.  There is also a “Private Property” sign that lets you know that “THIS AREA IS PATROLLED BY AN ARMED SECURITY FORCE.”  This is the start of the Cook Nuclear Energy Plant property.  I think you could probably sneak your handle bars in between the poles, but I decided it would probably be best to turn around here.

If you are looking to put a few more miles on the fat tires, It looks like there is about another 10 miles of good beach riding to the south of Warren Dunes.  I have not done this section yet.  I decided to go to the north because it looks like it is all homes and cottages along this section.  On the maps it looks like you should be able to make all the way to the channel in New Buffalo, MI.

Map:

Post Ride Beverage: After the ride It would be nice to kick back on the beach with a cooler, but unfortunately there are alcohol restrictions at Warren Dunes from March 1 to September 30.  We were planning to visit Greenbush Brewing Company when we were here, but it didn’t work out.  If you live in the area and have a recommendation please let us know in the comments below.

In the Area: The T.K. Lawless Mountain Bike Trail is just over an hour away from Warren Dunes in Vandalia, MI.  It is a long drive, but this 10 miles of hard packed rolling and twisting single track that is worth the trip.  See more at: http://www.mymichigantrips.com/warren-dunes-state-park-2013.html#TKLawlessPark

Links:

Ride Photos:

warren-dunes-beach-store

The concession at Warren Dunes State Park

beach-ride-warren-dune-stat

Perfect sand for Fat Biking at Warren Dunes State Park

drift-wood-on-beach

Nearing the north end of Warren Dunes State Park

approaching-weko-beach

Approaching Weko Beach Park

fat-bike-weko-beach

The old Water Tower Base at Weko Beach? If someone knows what this is please let us know in the comments below. Thanks.

beach-ride-end

The turnaround point at the nuclear power plant.

 

Make sure to come back and Rate This Ride at the top of this page.


 

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5 thoughts on “Warren Dunes State Park – Fat Bike Beach Ride

  1. jo

    I have done this ride several times over the winter the past three years, it is truly great. The Rangers at Warren Dunes are now saying that this is not allowed. Don’t understand why? Certainly there is less of a footprint than their ATV’s.

    Reply
    1. Bri Post author

      Thanks for letting us know about this. This is the first time I have heard of an issue at a Michigan State Park. I did read a trip report on fat-bike.com where the Park Ranger told them they could not ride the beach in Sleeping Bear: “…under his clear interpretation of the National Park Service rules, bicycles are only allowed on designated bike paths and roadways. ” I was wondering if we would start seeing more access problems with all the new fat bike riders. I always try to slow down and be extra friendly when passing beach walkers hoping to not cause any reason for complaints.

      Reply
      1. Brandon

        I asked a general question of Michigan DNR regarding fat bikes on beaches / dunes within their purview and actually received a very clear, reasonable response back. Feel free to email me if you’d like a copy.

        In that email, I also asked specifically about riding Warren Dunes shoreline – the answer is “no,” unfortunately.

        Reply
  2. Brandon

    Sure thing!
    ——————
    Inquiry
    ——————
    Hello,
    Does Michigan DNR have a clear general interpretation for bicycle access on state-owned beaches and dunes where signage is not posted stating that they are NOT allowed?
    E.g: Warren Dunes has designated hiking trails (no bikes, clearly stated and signed), but the beach is not a designated hiking trail. Is the beach open to bicycles as a form of non-motorized transport?
    I read the DNR webpage for biking/mountain biking (http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10365_16816-39693–,00.html) , but it seems to only address mountain bike trails, roads, and pathways.
    Thanks!
    ——————
    Response
    ——————
    Thank you for your e-mail dated January 3, 2016 concerning bicycle access on state owned beaches and Lake Michigan’s dunes at Warren Dunes State Park. We appreciate hearing from you and others that enjoy Michigan’s great out-of-doors.
    The Parks and Recreation Division (PRD) recognize the bicycle riding is a legitimate recreation pursuit, and as part of our state park management planning process the PRD has facilities for such use. Examples of bicycling complexes can be found at Yankee Springs and Waterloo Recreation Areas. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also is committed to the conservation, protection, and management of Michigan’s natural resources. Both these efforts can be a delicate balancing act, especially in critical dune habitat of southwest Michigan’s state parks.
    The use of bicycles on Lake Michigan’s beaches in state parks is more of a stewardship issue. Per the DNR’s Land Use Rules, specifically R 299.927 (f) it is unlawful to ride a bicycle of any kind except on roads, parking lots, or designated signed bicycle trails. With careful stewardship review, the PRD would need to determine what impacts to the resource would be, then simply “designate” the portion of the beach or other areas as part of the trail system for bicycles. There are many beaches where bicycles would have very little impact, and many others where it would have significant resource effect.
    In the case of Warren Dunes State Park, the PRD does not allow bicycles on the beach or trails, due to the critical Lake Michigan dunes setting. Regarding Warren Dunes and other state parks along the Lake Michigan coastline, the DNR has tipped the scale balance to protect and preserve the natural resource.

    Reply

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