Michigan is home to many exceptional outdoor pursuits, none so exciting as the dune buggy rides available on its shorelines. The Great Lakes are bordered by the world’s biggest expanse of freshwater dunes, creating a fantastic landscape to take advantage of for off-roading.
Where can you go for dune buggy rides in Michigan, and how can you make the most of them? Silver Lake State Park is your best destination for fully experiencing the dunes, riding as well as walking and viewing. With its 3,000 acres of dunes and forest, there is a little bit of action available for everyone, whether you’re renting a dune buggy or just exploring on foot.
Here’s how to make the most of the world-famous Michigan dunes and all you need to know to find the best spots and best dune buggy rentals.
Where Are the Dunes?
The rideable dunes in Michigan can be found in Silver Lake State Park, which covers 3,000 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan. Most of the park is covered in dunes, but the widest area can only be accessed by hiking. However, there are 450 acres dedicated to off-road dune buggy riding.
You may not expect the expanse of dunes in Michigan, but you’ll need to remember this is the biggest surface of freshwater dunes in the world. Formed about 16,000 years ago by glaciers, the landscape is truly unique and attracts millions of visitors every year.
What Can I Ride On the Dunes?
Dune buggy riding is the main way to get around on the part of the dunes where this is allowed. However, any off-road vehicle is allowed, from ATVs to SUVs.
Michigan State allows visitors to ride their own vehicles or rent them from local dune buggy rental outlets. You can ride on the dunes from April 1st to October 31st every year, but you should also check opening times with the State Park officials.
To ride in Silver Lake State Park, you should have a Recreation Passport, an ORV license, and your vehicle has to be registered and abide by the rules set out by State regulations.
Dune Buggy Trails
There are lots of tours and trails available within Silver Lake State Park for your dune buggy rides, but you can also enjoy some unstructured riding if you’re up for it.
Unfortunately, there are no marked trails other than the limits for the ORV Riding Area, to which you should adhere at all times. But this just means you can enjoy your dune buggy riding adventure even more without any rules!
For a more structured approach, check out one of the guided tours and experiences below.
Dune Buggy Rentals Michigan: Silver Lake State Park
While many choose to bring their own dune buggies, it’s also very easy to rent one at Silver Lake Buggy Rentals in Mears. They offer a range of vehicles, from 2-seaters like the Rover to more family-friendly 4-seaters like the Kawasaki Teryx.
The Michigan sand dunes are extremely popular, and so are the rentals, so you should always book well ahead of your trip and plan your day so you can get as much riding in as possible if you’re returning your vehicle that same evening.
If you have your own ATV or dune buggy with you and you need any help with gear or just a shop for essentials, check out Duneland Off-Road Center, also in Mears. They offer parts and accessories for anything from dirt bikes to 4×4 trucks, and they also have breakfast and lunch deli on-site.
If you want to stay over a few nights, you also have the option of renting a unit at Duneland Cottages just up the road from the shop.
Another way to ride the dunes is in a Jeep, which you can rent from Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rentals and Tours. They also offer some fantastic family tours, which we’ll talk about shortly.
Finally, for ATV riding, check out Wild Bill’s ATVs: they provide one passenger quads and two-passenger side-by-side razors to take out on the dunes. You must be 18 or older to rent, and only one driver per quad is allowed. There are some early bird rental deals available too.
Dune Buggy Tours and Experiences
As the dunes are such a special destination, there are many options for enjoying them with a tour guide or even as a passenger if you don’t want to drive a dune buggy yourself. Here are some great operators to choose from.
Mac Wood’s Dune Ride
This 40-minute sand dune tour is a fun experience aimed at the whole family. They will take you to the top of the tallest dune so you can take in the landscape around you and ensure you have an all-around entertaining day.
Mac Wood’s Dune Ride is named after Mac Wood, the one-time operator of the Flora-Dale Resort, who came up with the idea of Dune Scooter Ride to entertain guests back in the 1930s. The 7-mile ride offered today will take in Silver Lake and Michigan Lake and ensure that you enjoy very different bits of scenery and information. You may spot piping plovers along the way – an endangered bird species that live at the beach area of Lake Michigan and may be visible to groups of visitors.
Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rentals & Tours
The dune tours offered by Parrot’s Landing will see you tackling the sand in 4-door Jeep Wranglers, where a tour guide can lead a group of drivers through the sand dunes. Tours last roughly an hour, and you stay in radio contact with the guide who leads the way and gives you some additional information as you go.
One Jeep can have four passengers and the driver, so this is an excellent option for seeing the dunes with families and even with large groups where several drivers are available.
Other Dune Buggy Michigan Rides
Silver Lake State Park may be the premier destination for dune buggy riding and marveling at the great expanse of sand dunes, but it’s not the only place in Michigan where you can enjoy sand dunes. Here are some other great destinations on Lake Michigan.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
The second best-known state park for sand dunes is further down Lake Michigan’s coast, just south of Holland. Saugatuck Dunes State Park covers 1,120 acres and offers 14 miles of hiking trails and 2.5 miles of beachfront. Bird watchers come here for the varied species they can encounter, and you will also get to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Saugatuck Dune Rides organize 40-minute dune buggy tours taking in the nature and history of the area.
Warren Dunes State Park
You can find 1,952 acres of dunes at this state park set between Benton Harbor and New Buffalo. Its highest dune rises to 260 feet, with incredible views all around Lake Michigan. You can enjoy some excellent hikes here, but there are no ORV riding areas.
Northwest Michigan Sand Dunes
There are many other sand dunes in state parks on the Northwest Michigan shoreline, although without the possibility of sand buggy rides. You can find out about all the other sand dunes destinations here.
Conclusion: Get Dune Ready and Enjoy Michigan Views On Unforgettable Dune Buggy Rides
Michigan welcomes ORV riders with a multitude of parks and trails through woodlands, mud, and rocky terrain, but it also has some unique destinations on the shores of Lake Michigan where you can ride dune buggies on some exceptional terrain. While most sand dunes are not available for off-road expeditions, you can explore the dunes on guided tours and organized experiences, or you can make the most of them by riding your own sand buggy at Silver Lake State Park.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.