Stretching along the shore of Lake Michigan for over a mile and comprising 400 acres, Van Buren State Park is the perfect camping spot for beach lovers and wood lovers alike. You can soak up the sun and go for a swim at the beach area or opt for the sandy forested dunes and other nature trails. You can’t leave Michigan without visiting Van Buren State Park, which offers 220 campsites that can accommodate your family’s RV.
During your stay at Van Buren State Park, you can enjoy all this park has to offer, including biking, boating, hiking, fishing, swimming, and nature watching. Pets are allowed, but they must be kept on a leash and are not permitted at the swimming beach. Still, feel free to bring your furry friend along with you, since they’ll definitely love the dog beach and exploring the trails with you.
The park is usually the busiest from mid-April through mid-October, while the water is nice and warm, and the weather is pleasant. You’ll likely catch more than a few photo-worthy views of Lake Michigan and see plenty of wildlife year-round while walking the miles of beautiful nature trails around the park. You can also reserve a boat and venture out onto Lake Michigan. No matter what you choose to do during your RV trip to Van Buren State Park, you get to explore 400 acres of pristine Michigan countryside.
RV Rentals in Van Buren State Park
Transportation in Van Buren State Park
Van Buren State Park can be easily accessed by RV or car since it’s just a few miles from South Haven, Michigan just off of Interstate 196. In fact, the park is sandwiched between Lake Michigan and the interstate. Less than an hour from Grand Rapids to the northwest, you can stop by this picturesque town and visit the art museum and sculpture park. You’re also only 29 miles south of Saugatuck Dunes State Park to the north
The interior roads are paved and in fair condition, so navigating them shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. However, depending on the size of your RV and the size of your campsite, it may be a tight squeeze. Some visitors find the campsites difficult to get around in a big RV, but the campsites are mostly level and the roads do not have any steep hills. The maximum RV length for campsites is 45 feet.
The paved roads inside the park are bike-friendly, so you may want to consider bringing bikes as secondary transportation. That way you don’t have to travel with your big rig every time you want to go somewhere while you are staying at the park. There is a fee for additional vehicles, but it may be worth towing a smaller vehicle for easier navigation throughout the park.
There are several parking areas located by the registration office, picnic areas, and trailheads. You can walk to the campground and hiking trails from some of these lots.
Campgrounds and parking in Van Buren State Park
Campsites in Van Buren State Park
Youth Group Campground
Van Buren State Park also offers a youth campground, just off the Van Buren Trail Spur about a quarter-mile from the registration office. This is only for official youth groups such as scouts or other groups that are recognized by the state of Michigan. Reservations are needed and you can reserve your spot up to six months in advance. You can get more information from the park office.
Covert / South Haven KOA
Stay at Covert / South Haven KOA and you’ll be only 10-15 minutes away from a wide array of sprawling Lake Michigan beaches. Within the area, there’s plenty of shopping, antiquing, and dining to be had, along with many other exciting activities. At Covert / South Haven KOA, there are endless games for the kids and yummy food available from the cafe. There’s also a swimming pool, pavilion, fishing spots, a dog park, cable TV, and Wi-Fi. Pull-through sites can accommodate rigs up to 105 feet long.
Coloma / St. Joseph KOA
Coloma / St. Joseph KOA is not only conveniently located just two miles from Lake Michigan but is also in the midst of Michigan’s fruit country. Visit and relax at the beach, take the kids fruit-picking at the orchards, or take a grown-up day to go wine tasting at the award-winning vineyards in the area. After a long adventurous day, come back to Coloma / St. Joseph KOA and enjoy the swimming pool, hot tub, dog park, mini-golf, cable tv, and Wi-Fi. Propane and firewood are available for purchase, and there’s a convenient snack bar on-site, too.
Van Buren State Park Campground
Van Buren State Park features 220 campsites available for tents, RVs, and trailers from April until November. The maximum RV or trailer length is 45 feet. Reservations for campsites can be made up to six months in advance, with each site offering electrical hookups. There are two bathrooms and a play area within the campgrounds, which is just a short walk from the beach.
Other amenities include an RV water and septic dump area, and easy to access water sources. Most sites are level, offering either a sunny view or full shade. Some campsites are paved, while others feature a quiet spot in the grass. Stays are limited to a maximum of 15 consecutive nights. Go ahead and bring your furbaby because pets are welcome here. However, make sure you supervise them and keep them secured during your stay at the park.
Twenty of the 220 campsites at Van Buren State Campground are for walk-ins only and are not available for reservation. This allows you to book a campsite on the spot if you didn’t make a reservation ahead of time. However, these sites are first-come, first-served and not guaranteed to be available, so it’s recommended to reserve your campsite ahead of time. You’ll still be close to all the campground’s amenities including restrooms, a play area, and easy access to the beach.
You can choose a quiet site shaded by the woodlands or an open sunny spot. Some sites are paved, but all of them offer electric hookups. Pets are just as welcome at these 20 sites as they are at the other 200, so you can bring Fluffy. Just be sure to bring a leash or kennel to keep them restrained while you are here.
Seasonal activities in Van Buren State Park
Attending Explorer Programs
Ranger-led wildlife explorer programs are offered weekly starting in the spring and offer fun and educational experiences for visitors of all ages. Explorer programs teach you about the wildlife in the park, including what trees are around, what insects you can find, and which birds are flying overhead. You’re never too old or too young to learn about your surroundings or gain a new appreciation for the fauna and flora that will be all around you during your RV trip to Van Buren State Park.
Lake Michigan offers seasonally warm waters, which are perfect for taking a dip. You can get the beach day experience without having to worry about unknown ocean critters swimming below you. Although it may be tempting to hop in at any point, swimming is only permitted in the buoyed-off section of the lake. Bring your water guns and beach balls in your camper and make some memories on the water at Van Buren State Park.
Have you ever wanted to find a hidden treasure? Of course, we all did when we were kids. Now you can with geocaching. All you need is a phone or other device with GPS so you can follow the coordinates that you will find on the geocaching website. The state of Michigan actually has their own geocaching program where you can get prizes for finding a certain number of geocaches in their parks. The hints online start you at the park’s headquarters and you can follow the GPS directions from there. Just remember to put the geocache back exactly where you found it so others can play too.
Visiting the Dog Beach
Van Buren State Park is a perfect destination for a pet-friendly RV vacation. Even if parts of the park are closed, you and your pooch can enjoy a day at the dog beach. With easy access from the parking lot, it's only a short walk to pup paradise. Your dog will love running up and down the shore and splashing in the water. Just be sure to be responsible and clean up after your furry friend.
The campgrounds and picnic areas are closed during the winter, but you can still take full advantage of the Van Buren State Park Trail, where snowmobiling is permitted. There isn’t as much wildlife out and about during this time of year, but that just gives you a chance to enjoy the peaceful forest as you careen down the trail through the snow-capped trees. The nearby, longer Kal-Haven Trail is also open in the winter and allows snowmobiling.
The 14.5-mile Van Buren State Park Trail offers unbeatable hiking opportunities, with an abundance of wildlife and easy access to the nearby town of South Haven where you can shop at local vendors. There are also several foot trails throughout the park, which have slightly more difficult terrain as they are unpaved and can feature steep sand dunes. The park map is a great resource to let you know what to expect once you park your camper and hit the trail.
Have you tried metal detecting? This used to be really popular in the old days before video games and cell phones, but it is coming back into popularity again. There are some really fantastic metal detectors on the market as well. In the old days, all they did was beep if they sensed metal of some kind. Nowadays, your metal detector has a video screen that can tell you what is down there and some even show you a picture of what it is. However, Van Buren State Park asks that you only use your metal detector in designated areas and make sure to get approval from someone on the park staff if you find anything that may be of historical significance. Happy hunting!
You can bike during the off-season just as easily as you can during the peak season, as long as the trails are not icy. You should always practice caution while biking in the off-season months, but as long as the trails are open you can bring your bike along. Since there is likely to be less traffic on the trails during the off-season, you can enjoy a slow, leisurely bike ride throughout the park. The paved portion of the Van Buren State Park Trail is especially good for biking, but you can bike along the unpaved portion or some of the foot trails for an added challenge.