The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in lots of things last year, including operations at Silver Lake State Park’s ORV Area. If you didn’t make it up to the dunes in 2020, you weren’t alone.
But when you return to Silver Lake this year, you’ll be in for some surprises. There’s a bunch of new stuff that’s making the Silver Lake Sand Dunes better than ever.
For one, there now are vault toilets placed within the 450 acres of sand dunes that are open to ORVs.
“It sounds funny, but there never were any restrooms out there so people had to leave the dunes and come all the way back down to the parking areas to use the restrooms,” said Scott Beal, executive director of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau. “They now have them in three different locations out there.”
The state park has opened a new parking lot for vehicles used to trailer in dune buggies and other ORVs that are not street legal. While there’s never been an official limit on the number of vehicles that can drive around the dunes at the same time, inadequate trailer parking resulted in a practical limit. Now, the DNR has created hundreds of new parking spaces for trailers in a new lot, ensuring enough parking for the Silver Lake Sand Dunes on all but the busiest summer weekends and holidays.
In addition to a better parking experience, an expanded entrance ramp now makes it easier for vehicles to get up on the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. What used to be a one-lane road leading to the dunes past a DNR checkpoint now has two lanes. Traffic flow is much improved and lines to get onto the dunes are now much shorter, eliminating waits that were up to an hour long at times in the past.
Lighthouse Concessions has contracted with the DNR to operate two food trucks in the southwest corner of the ORV Area near Lake Michigan. Visitors can get a burger, snacks and drinks without having to leave the Silver Lake Sand Dunes and come back into town. The food truck will get taken up onto the dunes in the spring and remain there throughout the season.
There are three ways to go joyriding on the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
“People are always shocked by that,” Beal said. “Any four-wheel drive vehicle works out there fine.”
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes consist of 2,000 acres of towering dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. The ORV area covers the northern third of the dunes while the southern third is reserved for Mac Wood’s Dune Rides, which is scheduled to open this year on May 14. The middle third of the dunes is open to hikers and sunbathers who arrive by boat across Silver Lake or by an access point near the north end of Silver Lake.
Some places to stay, restaurants and attractions in Silver Lake are scheduled to open in April in conjunction with the ORV Area, while others open later in the spring. The seasonal destination really kicks into gear around Mother’s Day, and most everything is open by the middle of May.
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