Jeep Adventures: Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Michigan’s Sand Box, Mears, MI

On top of test hill

            Located between the shores of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, Silver Lake state park is home to you off-road fun! The state park has six hundred acres of off-road playground. It has large hills that rival the tallest roller coasters in height. The largest of which, is test hill. Here, all the off-roaders want to prove themselves by making it up the hill (not everyone does). If you don’t make it up the hill, the only safe way down is reversing the same way (which can be more freighting than the way down). In addition to the roller coaster like hills, there are smaller hills and other obstacles throughout the park. There is even a sand-drag-strip for racing (flat area) other off-roaders. Silver Lake State Park also has a beach on Lake Michigan that is only accessible through the off-road park. So, head to the beach when you need to cool off after climbing the dunes.

            How do I take part in the fun? Take your four-wheel drive vehicle, attach a orange flag on a pole, get an ORV sticker for your ride and lower the air pressure in your tires. Our tires were lowered to about fifteen PSI. Dirt bikes, quads, side-by-sides and sand rails are also welcome in the off-road area, same requirement apply. If you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle, fear not, there are a few places where you can rent a Jeep Wrangler.

            My wife and I rented a Jeep with Parrot’s Landing. We drove a four door, Sport JK Wrangler if you were wondering. The Jeep was mostly stock, the only modifications I could see was that it was lifted about two or three inches. Parrot’s Landing offer a special package of a guided tour through the dunes (one hour) and another hour on our own afterwards to explore the dunes. This package costs $249 and I think it was totally worth it. I had never been to Silver Lake before and I had never been off-roading before, so the guided portion was very important. After a short safety briefing, we hopped in our Jeep and headed out, follow the leader to the park. Our guide talked to the group via radio, pointing things out and telling us the tricks to navigate the dunes. For tackling the big hills, our guide told us to drive half speed at the hill, then once you hit the incline, push your foot to the ground and hold it there until you get to the top. If you don’t do this, you will end up digging into the sand 3/4th of the way up the hill. With sand, the more you struggle, the more you get stuck. The only way out is to reverse down the hill. Admittedly, I did get stuck going up a hill once, it wasn’t Test Hill, but it was a smaller hill (I got up Test Hill first try!). Our guide, also warned us not to turn too sharply or the tires could pop off the rims easily because of the low tire pressure for the sand.

            After the guided tour, we were cut loose to explore on our own. We went to Silver Lake in June on a Sunday late morning so we had plenty of room to have fun. We also had perfect weather, 80’s and sunshine. I have a friend who went on the 4th of July weekend and it was so crowded you could barely move. Unlike road driving, in this off-road-playground you have to be more aware of your surroundings and look every direction (including up). There are some parts of the park where traffic is one-way, but most of it is a free for all.

            Go to Silver Lake and you will see a wide variety of vehicles. You will see a lot of Jeeps of different years and modification levels. I also saw various pickup trucks, sand-rails and dirt bikes. The most interesting vehicle I saw was a late 1990’s, or early 2000’s Chevy Astro van. Yes, you read that right. It definitely stuck out among the Jeeps and Pickups. The Chevy Astro has a 4.3 Liter V-6 with a four-speed automatic transmission producing 190 HP and most importantly, four-wheel drive. To its credit, it charged up Test Hill and didn’t get stuck. The Astro was modified a bit; it had a few inch lift, bigger tires, and a bar on the front at a 45-degree angle so it doesn’t node dive in a ditch and get stuck.

            Visiting Silver Lake and renting a Jeep only fueled my desire to have my own Jeep Wrangler someday. In this one day at Silver Lake I had a blast! I can easily see a fun filled weekend here with adventures in the off-road park, swimming, boating and other activities. If you are up for adventure, head to Silver Lake State Park off-road-park.   

Ride the Roller Coaster !

If you liked this post you may also like my return to Silver Lake in 2020!

Check it out, thanks for visiting my website.

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  1. Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


  2. man you didn’t even visit the food truck???


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