Only in South Haven

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Climbing South Haven's Van Buren Dune for a View and a Thrill

Published: 12/29/2018 by Nancy Backas

Those of us who grew up near the Michigan side of Lake Michigan might very well know the thrill and excitement of dune climbing. Remember that first time you saw the impossibly tall dune and couldn’t wait to get to the top, only to discover on a hot, summer day that it wasn’t just any old hill to climb?


Sand gave way as each footstep sank in and burned your feet, and it was really, really difficult. But it was a worthy endeavor at any cost because once you reached the top, the very top, you could see for miles. There was that triumphant feeling of great accomplishment. And then...and then… you got to run down, each footfall sinking into the dune sand. You felt like you were flying.  And then you climbed right back up again.


The dune at Van Buren State Park provides spectacular views for visitors


Fast forward, more years than you care to think about. Can you still climb that dune and run back down? There’s a dune in South Haven, inside of Van Buren State Park, where you can test your mettle. It may not be the biggest dune you’ve ever climbed, but the view is just as spectacular. And you can prove to yourself that you still have a kid inside that can relive the thrill of the dune run.


There are several ways to get to the top of the dune. One can start just behind the restroom facilities at the accessible entrance to the beach where a path through the woods leads almost straight up. The advantage is that you can use branches to help pull yourself up. Then there’s a path directly from the parking lot which is less wooded and a bit less steep. Or, climb up the old fashioned way from the beach. There you can see the ultimate goal the entire way up.


There is still a kid inside!


Of course if you’re still on the younger side, dune climbing probably doesn’t pose any kind of challenge, existential or otherwise. Then you might want to try your luck at sandboarding. And if you are on the older side and have never experienced climbing a dune, well the Van Buren Dune is a good place to start. This sixty-something writer wasn’t sure she could still do the climb, but I could and the thrill wasn’t gone.



About the Author


Nancy Backas has been writing, mostly about food, for more than 30 years. South Haven is a favorite place, and she and her husband Terry visit as often as they can. The rich food and art culture, along with opportunities to explore South Haven's magical natural surroundings is what draws she and her husband to SoHa. She looks forward to sharing her South Haven discoveries. And, while they currently live in Chicago, with moving plans in the works, South Haven will soon be their new home.


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South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau
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South Haven, MI 49090
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