Thursday, June 1, 2017

There are plenty of dunes to be found in southwest Michigan, like at Warren Dunes State Park

The view after climbing to the top of a dune on a trail at Warren Dunes State Park.
Sand dunes are typically associated with the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Most notably is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is a wonderful stretch of beach.

Signs mark part of the six miles of trail at
Warren Dunes State Park.
But the southwest portion of the state has its share of sandy beach. One such location is Warren Dunes State Park, located near Sawyer in Berrien County, about 15 miles north of the Michigan/Indiana border.

It's a park that doesn't get the attention it frankly deserves. We spent the weekend before Memorial Day camping in both the modern campground and the group sites. We decided to take this trip as one with backpacking incorporated into it, though after walking the trails and figuring out the group sites, I found backpacking in a little redundant, since there was a parking lot just 100 yards from the group sites.

After battling plenty of rain in the afternoon, it was time to head to the water. The group site is about a mile from the water, and takes a short hike through the woods and up. After climbing up the dunes, a truly spectacular sight was our reward: sloping sand dunes covered in vegetation led to the crystal shores of Lake Michigan.

Flowers on the dunes.
I remember going to the dunes more than 15 years ago with the Boy Scouts. I don't remember much about that trip, but I was reminded of one aspect of that trip: the massive, steep dune off of the lake. We happened to see several people trying to climb it, though I imagine it took quite some time to make it up.

After passing the dune and some flowers sprouting along the trail, we reached the beach. A fairly narrow beach, it stretched for several miles. Sloping sand dunes approach the water, making for the perfect place to perch while watching the waves crash along the sand.

It can be a bit tough of a hike, especially coming back uphill in the sand, but the view and the water is well worth it. We saw very few other people at this park that weekend, just some bird watchers and Boy Scouts. It was a little surprising, though I suspect the rain had scared them off from earlier in the day.

Warren Dunes State Park is well worth the visit, even if just for a stop on the way through town. With it being right off Interstate 94, it makes for a great pop-in in an afternoon. Just climbing to the top of the hill to overlook Lake Michigan is all one needs to feel at peace.

A broken sign approaching the lakeshore.

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