image Warren Dunes, Tower Hill And A Rattlesnake

A large sand dune towers in the distance over a very large parking lot.
This is the monumental Tower Hill. I swear it was bigger when I was a kid. It is Still an impressively 250 feet high.

One of my favorite all time places on the planet is Michigan. I’m talking the entire state. I love the place. There are so many beautiful spots that make realize what a wonderful world we live in. I could start singing now, but I don’t know the Michigan State song.

A wide stream leads into the beach and right behind it is Lake Michigan. A girl stands at the entrance of the inlet
This is where the inlet meets the lake on an incredibly calm day at the beach of Warren Dunes.
Inside of Michigan, one of my favorite destinations is Warren Dunes State Park. I’m warning you now, it’s a popular park. So if you hate crowds, you might want to check it out during off peak times, such as spring or fall, or early mornings in the summer. But either way, it’s a great place to see. 

A man stands ankle deep in waves that are hitting the beach.  The sun is flaring behind him.
This could be you if you were at Warren Dunes right now. Not too shabby.

The beach, which is the primary reason for going, is exceptional. It has a super soft sand that is pretty rare. If you have been to the other side of Lake Michigan, you might run into that coarse, gritty sand, or even beaches entirely of rocks. But because the glaciers thousands of years ago decided to dump its tow in Warren Dune’s general direction, it created this satiny soft beach. It is so soft that it sings when the wind blows across it. When I was a kid I used to think of the sound like a million tiny little zippers being unzipped at once. If you run really fast, you can imitate the wind and make a small zip with your feet. Someone wiser than me dubbed the area “The Singing Sands,” and then named my Girl Scout troop after it. At least that’s how I remember it. 

Sand and water meet in this close up of the tide coming in at Lake Michigan.
This sand is great to swim over, walk in , play in, take a nap in, or even wipe from your sandwich after your friend ran by just as you were about to take a bite.

So take off your shoes, dig your feet into the sand and enjoy it, or you’re missing out. Then run like a crazy person to the water, because Lake Michigan is a great place to swim, weather permitting. I think there are those people who have no feeling in their skin that jump in during the middle of winter. Boy are the some kind of brave. For the rest of us, there is always summer. The lake will eventually heat up to a decent temperature, especially by July and August. 

A small sand dune is seen from below. The sky is behind and reeds are growing out of the top.
These are the best Dunes. As if the beach and water was not enough, the Dunes are spectacularly beautiful.

The singing sands not only feel good on your feet, but they make some beautiful dunes as well. If you close your eyes and picture your happy spot, where you feel most relaxed and at home, the dunes are mine. I can imagine sitting on top of a small one amongst the reedy grass, sun shining on my face, sand and reeds singing, and the lake softly breaking into waves against the shore. You can almost hear the seagulls now. Of course in reality, that blissful moment lasts a millisecond before life kicks in and someone runs by spraying you with sand in the face.  

A view looking down on a the bottom part of a very large sand dune.  Tow people are walking up.
This is the slow flat part of Tower Hill, where you still feel like a champion. It’s also where you can start thinking about slowing down safely when you run down like a maniac.
A couple sits on top of a very large sand dune.  They are look out towards the Lake Michigan.  You can see a nice view from the top.
Once you make, sit down and enjoy your achievement. The view is worth it, plus you just might need the rest.
A tree at the top of Tower Hill has initial carved in it, b plus a with a heart around it.
I am a sucker for romance. Of course, it also seems a little wrong to be carving a tree in a protected park, but who’s gonna tell. I wonder who “B and “A” are and where they are today.
If you should be so lucky to visit Warren Dunes, you should check out their largest dune, called Tower Hill. It is impressively huge, and many people’s main goal is climbing to the top. I have seen so many families wear out their kids by forcing them to walk all the way up. Most kids love it, though, and for adults, it will give you a nice workout, since it is somewhere around 250 feet tall. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, remember that sand sinks when you walk in it, so the time you get close to the top, your legs are burning. It’s worth it though, because the view is spectacular. And if you happen to still be a kid, even at heart, you will want to run all the way down so you can get that body moving faster than legs feeling. Just don’t kick yourself in the head as your feet fly out behind you. 

The inlet is now looking like a large stream facing an opening in woods off in the distance.  Sand banks are on the sides.
This is where the inlet meets the woods. It seems a lot bigger now and a bit intimidating.

Back on the beach there is a unique inlet that seems to change as the years go on. The water is coming from a stream or small river in the woods, and as it hits the beach, it grows and recedes. When I was a kid, a friend walked me up river into the woods where there is natural clay. The already legend was that it was supposed to be good for your skin. We walked waist deep for a while through murky water, and when we finally got to the spot, we covered ourselves with mud, which may have been more dirt than clay. I’m pretty sure are a park ranger or two would cringe at this story, and I won’t even mention my mom. My excuse was there were adults walking there too. We didn’t know them, but….
A small amount of water is flowing over sand as it meets the beach and then Lake Michigan. Seagulls stand on the banks looking at the camera
The water in the inlet actually has a little bit of current. I don’t know exactly what those gulls were watching, but they were beginning to make me nervous. There is only one of me and hundreds of them…
A long stretch of sand crosses the top of a large series of sand dunes.  Off in the distance is the woods, where you can see the tops of a lot of trees.
So if you turn to your left, you can continue to walk the Dunes after climbing Tower Hill. You can see the impressive amount of forests as well. If you strain your eyes, you can see a tiny person walking the Dunes in the background. The scale of these piles of sand are really phenomenal, and a bit deceiving.

The Dunes and woods are beautiful. There are actually a lot of paths you can walk on that will help keep the natural park more pristine than going off path. There is even a backway to hike into the park through the acres of woods, where you can see some local wildlife. My sister and I hiked it when I was about 19, and we ran across a rattlesnake sunbathing in a patch of sand. I wanted to get close enough to touch it, since I didn’t believe there were real rattle snakes in Michigan ( so logically it had to be fake?). Lucky for me that my wiser sister refused to go near it, and we took an alternate path. Turns out there is only one venomous snake in Michigan, the Massasauga. And it is a rattle snake. But they are pretty rare, so there’s not much chance in meeting them often.  

A glorious sunset sets over Lake Michigan.
Stay for the sunset. It’s like the finale to a perfect day.

There’s a lot more to do at the beach, like swim and play volleyball and check out the boys… it’s a beach first and foremost, so it’s definitely worth the stop. And once you have swam, and hiked and ran down the Dunes and sun bathed, the last thing before leaving is to stay for the sunset. It sets right over the water, so it’s the perfect way to end a day.

Outdoor rinsing stations are a couple of walls with old tiles out in the open air. You can see the beach behind and some concrete pillars.  A red bucket is in the shower missing it's owner.
These are some out door rinsing stations. They look a little like ancient ruins, but actually they still work and function well. They might actually be kind of old.
A beach spreads out with a very calm lake.  A couple of beach umbrellas are propped up in the left corner with some people watching the lake.
Some beach goers sit and admire the water under umbrellas. There are so few people because it was off season when all the kiss were in school. It’s my favorite time to go.


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