Van Buren State Park
Pure Michigan ads, campaigned by fellow Michigander and actor Tim Allen, don't cover all the greatness that Michigan has to offer. Some places may be mentioned but will hardly put a dent in making someone want to visit. The camping grounds in Van Buren State Park is one of those places that Pure Michigan needs to take a closer look at. Located in South Haven, Michigan, Van Buren State Park is the perfect destination for nature to be your playground.
Directly off the shore of Lake Michigan, this scenic place offers plenty to do whether you just want to play for a day or camp out on one of the 200+ camp sites. From volleyball to playgrounds to hiking, you won't want to miss out on the sand dunes or the beach, all less than 400 meters from the lake. Plus when a site costs between $15-25, depending on the time of year, it makes for a cheap vacation that the whole family will enjoy.
The cost is also a steal when you factor in that each site has electricity (hello lap tops and cell phone chargers for those who are technology-dependent) as well as buildings for restroom and shower use (hello not peeing in a bush). Each site also has a picnic table and a fire ring, perfect for telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows or grilling hot dogs on a stick.
The sand dunes are a must-do & see hike. The dunes are surrounded by a forest, making the hike interesting as you sometimes duck under branches and climb over trunks. You'll also walk on a lot of leaves and tall grass, but don't worry - there's plenty of soft sand for your feet as you manage your way through the trails which sprout in several directions, but never gets you lost on your adventure.
The scenery is its own adventure to look at. The park is open all year round, so you can enjoy the change of seasons. The greens on the trees are so vibrant in summer, and the red, yellows and oranges so striking in the Fall, you'll want to visit in different seasons just for the leaves. You'll also want to visit for Lake Michigan, which is the perfect summer cool down from a hot day. During the Spring and Fall it's a little chillier, but you can still dip your feet in for a few seconds. Otherwise in the Winter it's obviously frozen. At least it makes cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are possible at the park.
Also make sure to look out as you stand high above Lake Michigan and its beach. If you hike far enough to the west, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the actual town of South Haven and the historic red lighthouse, but as you near the East end, your view will be cut off by business plant.
After a hike that can leave you sweaty, make sure to run down the dunes and into the cool water - or at least check out the array of funky rocks that have washed upon shore. As you walk the beach you'll probably find many neat creations, such as sandcastles, tic-tac-toe outlines, or stick figurines made by fellow travelers. Make your own to leave a mark. The beach is perfect way to spend a lazy day, enjoying the crashing of the waves and the fun in the sun.
If hiking up and down the huge dunes isn't enough, the 13-mile Van Buren State Trail begins at the park, and runs from South Haven to Hartford; it’s perfect for a bike ride on the uneven trail.
From lounging on the beach, to hiking a sand dune, to recreational fun, Van Buren State Park offers a unique Lake Michigan experience. To start your adventure today, please visit: michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=502&type=SPRK or call (269) 637-2788.
All photos courtesy and copyright Brianna Krueger