Chuck Gaidica: Hiking the Silver Lake Sand Dunes for Good Health

Editor’s note: Chuck Gaidica is a paid spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where he works to have real conversations with local people about matters that affect their health. 

Is there any better way to spend a Saturday than to have an adventure with a favorite family member? Not in my book! I highly recommend a day enjoying pure Michigan by hiking the dunes. Here are my top tips to make it a fun and successful day.

  • Plan your parking – drop off one car at a Michigan State Park parking lot, drive to the Lighthouse Park and head for the dunes.  Having two cars saves making the 6.5-mile hike twice. You’ll need a day pass or a Michigan Recreation Passport to get in the park for free. The yearlong pass is well worth the $11-dollars if you visit any of the parks regularly.
  • Enjoy the local flavor! Check out the nearby towns of Silver Lake, Hart, Mears, and Pentwater. There are tons of farmers markets and U-pick farm stands where you can harvest asparagus, berries, cherries, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, peas, corn, melons, and more depending on the season.
  • Make sure you pack the essentials for a casual hike. I recommend a small backpack, sunscreen, several bottles of water and a couple of protein bars.

A Brotherly Hike

On a recent Saturday, I drove up to Silver Lake Sand Dunes for a day of exercise, soaking in the sights of sand and surf, and some mouthwatering chicken – I’ll get to the savory details in a minute. It’s the second year in a row I’ve met my brother Chris to hike the dunes along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and it was a day well spent.

IMG_1178The sky was partly sunny with a temperature in the low to mid-70s, a perfect day for hiking. There are several flights of wooden steps before you actually hit sand. The steepest part of the climb was at the beginning. With every couple feet of climbing uphill in the sand it seems like we slid back down at least half way. But with the help of a large stick and a few trees for support we made it to the top of our first dune. King of the hill baby!

The cool thing about the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area is the proximity to blue water. The sense of scale and beauty of the 690-acre Silver Lake is enhanced by sand that surrounds it, locking it inland while the big, blue water of Lake Michigan awaits your arrival.

Just Around the Bend

As we reach the shoreline of Lake Michigan we make the turn to the south and start walking for the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. We keep walking and eventually start joking that the lighthouse is just around the bend, or is it the next bend?

A few times we need to enter Lake Michigan up to our knees to walk around fallen trees, an old catamaran stuck in the sand and more stuff protruding out into the beach and water. No problem, the water feels great. This also gives me a chance to pick up some great, water-worn stones for my four-year old grandson.

The Little Sable Point Lighthouse
The Little Sable Point Lighthouse

We continue and after many great topics of discussion we hit the final bend and are just a few hundred yards away from the Lighthouse. The Little Sable Point Lighthouse is worth a visit anyway you get to it. Finished in 1874, the lighthouse stands about 100-feet tall in all its red brick glory. You can enter for a small fee and walk to the top to burn even more calories.

Chicken and More

We leave the lighthouse for lunch. The choice for lunch was made before we started hiking. The “Frickin Chicken Shack” is the place if not for the name alone. BBQ grilled half-chickens, pulled pork, wings and several sides round out the menu.

Driving to this part of West Michigan is a treat. You feel like you have stepped back in time, left the bad news of the day and made it back to a time when life was simpler and kids could have fun all day playing in the sand.

If you come for a visit with kids get ready for fun. From sand dune buggy rides to bumper boats, mini-golf and a zip line this is a place for fun. Hotels and campgrounds dot the landscape as well. Festivals and family fun extend from the summer right into the fall. But the beauty of the dunes and lakes is timeless.

My Michigan adventure ended mid-afternoon. I had fun and spent some quality time with my brother. My fitness app shows I hiked over six miles, climbed the equivalent of 13 flights of stairs and burned over 1,000 calories. And you thought the chicken was the best part.

Check out this video featuring Silver Lake State Park sand dunes. 

Photo credit: Chuck Gaidica

If you like this post you may want to check out:

Chuck Gaidica: Keeping Kids Calm During Spring Storm

25 Reasons to Be Happy You Live in Michigan During the Summer 

The Ultimate Michigan Bucket List

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