Nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park is a spectacular natural wonder for outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning over 1600 acres, this state park near Sawyer, Michigan is known for its massive sand dunes, beautiful beaches, and scenic hiking trails. Founded in 1919, Warren Dunes preserves a unique landscape that draws over one million visitors annually. The centerpiece is its massive beach and scenic sand dunes that tower up to 240 feet over Lake Michigan. Six hiking trails ranging from 1-3 miles let you explore the ever-changing dunes and traverse wooded forests,
Whether you’re planning a day trip or weekend camping getaway, Warren Dunes State Park has something for everyone. Here is a detailed guide on everything you need to know to plan your Michigan adventure.
Getting to Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park is located just 10 miles from the Michigan-Indiana border, making it an easy drive from several major cities:
- From Chicago: 1.5 hours, 95 miles
- From Grand Rapids: 3 hours, 150 miles
- From Detroit: 4 hours, 270 miles
The Park address is: 12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer, MI 49125.
Driving directions: Take I-94 to Exit 16. Head south on Red Arrow Highway for 1.5 miles until you reach the park entrance on the right.
Parking is available at the beach lots, campground, and trailheads throughout Warren Dunes. Be sure to display your Recreation Passport.
Warren Dunes Park Hours & Fees
Warren Dunes State Park is open year-round, with varying hours by season:
Park Office Hours
- Summer: 8am – 10pm daily
- Spring & Fall: 10am – 4pm Thurs-Mon
- Winter: Fri-Sun only
Day Use Area Hours
The beach concessions, restrooms, and gift shop are open daily during summer. After Labor Day, facilities start closing down for the winter.
Check-in: 3pm | Check-out: 1pm
|Daily Vehicle Permit
|Annual Recreation Passport
|$31 – $37/night
|$100 – $120/night
The Recreation Passport provides access to all 100+ Michigan state parks and recreation areas. Daily and annual passes can be purchased at the park office or online here.
Warren Dunes Beach & Swimming
The star attraction at Warren Dunes is its legendary beachfront along Lake Michigan. Three beach lots provide easy access to the golden sand dunes and refreshing lake waters.
Stretching over two miles, the main beach features convenient parking, restrooms, picnic tables, concessions and a gift shop. Lifeguards are on duty daily throughout summer.
North and south beach lots offer a more secluded beach experience. The scenic dune climb trail starts from the north lot.
Swimming is allowed only in designated areas marked by buoys. Be sure to pay attention to water conditions and warning flags. Swimming is prohibited outside of buoyed areas due to strong currents.
With four hiking trails ranging 1-3 miles, Warren Dunes State Park is a top spot for hiking and viewing the spectacular sand dunes along Lake Michigan.
Dune Climb Trail – 1 mile loop from north beach lot up and over the dunes. Moderate difficulty.
Beech-Maple Trail – 1.5 miles through beech-maple forest. Easy hiking, connects campground to beach.
Cottonwood Trail – 2 miles into the dune wilderness, crosses over several streams. Moderate difficulty.
Red Trail – 3 miles, the park’s longest trail with diverse landscapes. Difficult due to sand and hills.
Dogs are permitted on Red Trail and north of 3rd beach lot. Always keep pets leashed and clean up after them.
Hiking trails close at dusk. Take sun protection, water, and wear sturdy shoes on sandy paths.
Warren Dunes Camping
Warren Dunes State Park offers an excellent campground situated right along Lake Michigan. With 147 sites, it can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs up to 45 feet long.
The campground is open year-round, with partial closure in winter. Sites range from grassy to sandy and are scattered amongst trees.
Modern restrooms, showers, and a playground make camping convenient. Firewood and ice are sold on-site.
Sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance through the DNR reservation system or by calling 1-800-44-PARKS. Unreserved sites are available on a first-come basis.
Camping fees are $31-37 per night, with a 2-night stay required on summer weekends. Campers are limited to 15 consecutive nights.
Warren Dunes Rentals
In addition to campsites, Warren Dunes has yurts and Mini-Cabins available to rent year-round. These are a great option for those without an RV or tent.
Yurts – Circular tent-like structures equipped with bunk beds, furniture, electricity and heat. $80/night.
Mini-Cabins – Cozy bare-bones cabins with bunk beds. No running water or bathroom. communal restrooms/showers nearby. $100-120/night.
Rentals like yurts and cabins can booked up to a year in advance. Pets are not permitted.
Warren Dunes Activities
Beyond swimming and hiking, Warren Dunes offers a variety of activities:
- Birdwatching – Over 260 species spotted in the park. Spring migration is best.
- Fishing – Steelhead and salmon fishing access from beach lots. License required.
- Hunting – 200 acres open to hunting certain seasons. Regulations apply.
- Biking – Miles of paved roads through Warren Dunes are ideal for cycling.
- Cross-country Skiing – 10 miles of trails open in winter. Rentals nearby offsite.
- Metal Detecting – Allowed on beaches with hand tools only. Digging limits apply.
- Kayaking – Launch kayaks from beach lots. Guided tours available locally.
- Stargazing – Phenomenal dark sky viewing opportunities.
Warren Dunes Park Rules & Regulations
To ensure an enjoyable and safe visit, be sure to note the park rules and regulations:
- Display Recreation Passport on vehicle dash
- No alcohol or marijuana use permitted
- Park closes at 10pm, vacant by dusk
- Pets must be leashed at all times
- Fires only in grills or designated rings
- No fireworks allowed
- Glass and grills prohibited on beach
- Obey lifeguard instructions in buoyed swim areas
See full rules posted at the office and at Michigan DNR.
Trip Planning Tips
To make the most of your Warren Dunes trip, keep these tips in mind:
- Visit on a weekday to avoid crowds
- Reserve campsites early, especially for summer weekends
- Bring water shoes for hiking sandy trails
- Sun protection is a must
- South beach lot is less busy than main beach
- Stop for snacks & supplies in nearby Sawyer
- Offseason visits offer solitude and lower rates
Experience the soaring sand dunes and refreshing lake waters by planning a memorable trip to Warren Dunes State Park. With miles of pristine beachfront, scenic hiking trails, and excellent facilities, it’s one of Michigan’s prized natural treasures.