Camping at Mears State Park and Hiking in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes – July 22-24, 2016
About a week prior to this trip we realized that we had an open weekend for camping. We checked the Michigan State Park campsite reservation system, but there was nothing available along the Lakeshore. The next day we started to look at private campgrounds, but decided to go back and check one more time to see if anything opened up. We were surprised to find 1 site available at Mears State Park in Pentwater, so we quickly logged in and made the reservation. We usually try to plan well in advance, but we got really lucky with this one. Mears State Park is right on Lake Michigan with a nice beach and it is just the right distance from our house for a quick weekend getaway.
We stayed at Mears back in May of 2015 and had a nice time, so we were excited to go back.
When we pulled into the campground it was packed with people, and the weather was hot. However, when we found our site (107) we realized that our streak of good luck was continuing. We ended up with one of the few sites in the entire campground that was fully shaded by 2 nice oak trees.
Site 107 is right across the road from the only bathhouse is the campground. We usually try to stay at least a little ways away from the bathhouse because of all the traffic. Although, in the Mears State Park Campground it felt like it gave us a little more room. The narrow one lane roads in the loops here do not give much space between you and the site across from you. With everyone trying to squeeze in huge campers and multiple vehicles it is pretty much solid rows of cars lining both sides of the road.
My only complaint was that everyone seemed to think it was okay to cut right through other campsites here. The site right behind was the worst for this because there was an opening in the fence between the upper and lower sites. It looks like they did this to give easier access to the bathhouse, but it is a pretty poor layout because you go right through 2 campsites to use it.
After dinner we grabbed our chairs and headed over to the beach. It was a perfect summer night and the water was warm and crystal clear.
The beach area at Mears is really nice, but a little smaller than some of the other State Parks along Lake Michigan.
On the south end of the beach their is a short pier. This is also the start of a nice walkway to runs along the channel towards downtown Pentwater.
Looking south from the end of the pier.
The sea of footprints in the sand at the end of a busy day at the beach.
Hiking in the dunes at Silver Lake State Park
The forecast for Saturday showed it was going to be a hot one. We tried to get an early start and drove down to Silver Lake State Park to hike the dunes. It is about a 20 minute drive from Mears State Park. There were only a few other cars in the parking for the Pedestrian Area Access when we arrived.
The Silver Lake Dunes are divided into 3 sections. The north end is an ORV (off-road vehicle) area and the south end has the Mac Woods Dune Ride concession. (See our previous visit to Pentwater for the dune ride) The section in between is designated a pedestrian area.
From the parking area there are a couple sets of stairs that take you up into the dunes. The top of the stairs show a good example of how the dunes are slowly moving inland. I’ve heard there are cottages buried under the dunes, but I am not sure if this is an actual fact or just a legend.
The view of the open dunes as you break out of the trees at the top of the stairs.
To the north you can watch all the vehicles in the ORV area.
It hard to capture all the elevation change of the open dunes in full sun. The kids in the bottom left of the photo give some perspective of the height of these mountains of sand.
Playing in the giant sandbox.
Checking out some of the ghost forest areas.
After wandering around in the dunes for a while we were all starting to overheat so we headed back towards Silver Lake.
Heading down to the water.
Cooling off with Gatorade in the lake. This was our first time swimming in Silver Lake and it was not as clean and clear as we would have expected being surrounded by sand. Along the dunes it also drops off over your head really fast so you will want to keep an eye on the little ones.
Looking back along the north shore of Silver Lake.
This shot gives a better perspective of the size of the dune right along Silver Lake.
We tried to find the path of least resistance back to the parking area, but we still had to climb over two big dunes and it didn’t take long before we were starting to sweat again. If you go, make sure to take plenty of water. On the way back to the van we walked along the boarder of the ORV area so we could watch all the custom trucks and dune buggies. By the time we got back parking lot at around 11 a.m. it was full and there was a line on the road waiting to get in.
Hiking around in the Silver Lake Dunes is one of the most unique experiences you will find in Lower Michigan. With the dunes in a constant state of change, every visit is a little different experience and the kids always love playing in the sand.
For more on the Hiking at Silver Lake State Park see: Best Hikes with Children in Michigan
After eating lunch back at our campsite we packed up and headed back over to the beach for the afternoon. It was a hot day and main beach area was packed. There were no openings near the water and in most places the rows of chairs were 5 deep. We wove our way through the people down to the water and walked north along the beach. We finally found a nice open spot almost all the way at the north border of the park. We were really happy that we had our Wonder Wheeler Cart to haul everything down the beach.
The water was perfect for swimming again.
After a little relaxing I decided to take the paddle board through the channel and into Pentwater Lake. The water was so clear that I could see down at least 20 feet and it was cool to see the fish swimming down along the pier heads.
The Pentwater Yacht Club from the water.
Heading back out the channel to Lake Michigan.
As the afternoon went on more high clouds started coming in over the Lake, but they gave little relief from the heat and humidity. We spent most the time swimming and playing frisbee in the water to stay cool.
We had planned to walk to downtown Pentwater for dinner, but everyone was tired out from the day. Taking a drive gave us time to relax and soak up some AC. We decided to go to Hart and try the Big Hart Brewing Company. This nice little Brewery that just opened in Feburary of 2016 and is the first micro brewery in Oceana County. Early on we saw that they had some mixed reviews, but they seem to have everything figured out now and we had very good meals and service.
Back at Mears State Park we walked over to the beach concession for some ice cream. They also have snacks, t-shirts, ice, firewood and a few other miscellaneous souvenirs. In the background you can also see the stand up paddle board rentals.
The night stayed so warm and muggy that we didn’t even feel like getting up out of our chairs to light the fire.
It started raining sometime in the middle of the night and continued raining on and off all morning. We cooked our breakfast under the awning while waiting to see what the weather was going to do. The rain let up mid morning, but the forecast said that more was on the way. We decided to take advantage of the break in the weather to pack up and head for home. We would have liked to have spent more of the day here because it was a fairly short drive back home. By the time we got back down to Grand Haven it looked like we made the wrong choice because it was clear and sunny. However, when we got home and looked at the radar there was a big storm rolling through Pentwater. It looked like the weather man actually got this one right.
Overall we had a short, but nice stay in Pentwater. It was a little busy, but you can expect that this time of the year. We were fortunate to get a site and would like give a big thanks to whoever cancelled.
Our family doesn’t mind walking a little further than the average person to find the perfect spot on the beach. That’s why the Wonder Wheeler comes with us on every trip, we use it all summer long! It can handle up to 100 lbs. and we don’t need to leave anything behind- beach chairs, boogie boards, 2 umbrellas, cooler of food and drinks, books, towels, everything you need to enjoy a long day at the beach. On sidewalks, boardwalks and hard packed trails the Wonder Wheeler pushes with very little effort. When you get to the soft sand, just turn it around and drag it behind you. The oversized wheels can handle the sand, no problem.
It also comes in handy when a picnic lunch is needed and so is the huge cooler full of food. The Wonder Wheeler makes going to the beach a breeze. The kids aren’t complaining about the walk because their hands are free and they can skip ahead and enjoy the day- and so can you. – MMT Mom