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Michigan offers some of the most scenic landscapes and fun outdoor recreation in all of the Midwest. The state is home to well-known national parks, such as Isle Royale National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. But there are also many state parks here that have a lot to offer and make excellent weekend destinations for families and nature lovers. To help you get started exploring them, here’s a sampling of some of the best state parks in Michigan that are just waiting for you to discover them.
One of the most popular state parks is Warren Dunes State Park, which spans nearly 2,000 acres of sand and forest. It is only a couple hours from Chicago, making the dunes a great recreation site for city-dwellers. It’s fun to climb up the dunes to get some exercise and see lovely views of Lake Michigan. Dune-climbing is great exercise and tons of fun! The park’s rugged dune formations rise 260 feet above the lake and are an awesome place to visit in southwestern Michigan.
Mackinac Island State Park has been around since 1895 and was a national park even before that. More than 80 percent of the island is part of state park property today so that you can enjoy these natural landscapes. A year-round destination in Michigan, various sites in the park are accessible by horse, on foot, or by bike. There are over 70 miles of roads and trails here to explore and more than 50 interpretative panels in the park to learn more about the place. The park has a visitor’s center and a nature center. Pets are welcome in the park; however, camping is not allowed.
This is a unique Michigan state park because of its remoteness and opportunities for solitude. One of the best state parks in America, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a large park spanning around 59,020 acres and having over 90 miles of hiking trails. When you hike here, you can see untouched forests and hills for miles. It’s a popular place to explore throughout the year, especially among backpackers looking for peaceful scenery. There are 63 site-specific backcountry camping sites in this park. You can also stay in a lodge, cabin, or yurt here. Come to this Upper Peninsula destination for a wildness experience with opportunities for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, fishing, and camping. Lake of the Clouds is a lovely and often-photographed high-elevation lake.
Muskegon State Park offers sandy beaches, forested dunes, and a winter sports area with a luge run. The park is four miles from West Muskegon and features three miles of shoreline, picnic areas, multiple trails, and two campgrounds. In addition to the luge track, the winter sports complex also has a sledding hill, ice skating trail, and cross-country ski trails. Popular trails here are the Devil’s Kitchen, Dune Ridge, and Hearty Hiker Trails. There’s also a yurt that you can rent for overnight stays.
You’ll also love spending time in Tahquamenon Falls State Park because of its large waterfalls and other natural beauty. This park is home to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. The water of the falls is typically brown and foamy, described as resembling root beer by some visitors! You’ll find around 40 miles of hiking trails here that pass by streams, wildflowers, and forests. Camping here is popular in the summer, while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to spend a winter day in the park.
This is another beautiful state park in Michigan and one that’s located along Lake Huron. It is famous for its iconic lighthouse, which offers tours. You can also spend time on the beach, camp here, and hike on the nature trails. Sailing is a popular pastime among visitors in this part of Michigan. Spanning 183 acres, this park has been called the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The shoreline is pet-friendly, and the waters are warm and shallow for swimming. For overnight accommodations, there is a modern campground and a new camper cabin that sleeps six. Some of the fish that you can fish for here include perch, walleye, brown trout, lake trout, northern pike, bass, coho, and chinook salmon.
We also love Ludington State Park because of its Lake Michigan beach access and iconic lighthouse. This park is home to Hamlin Lake, hiking trails, and wooded campsites for your overnight stays. There are three campgrounds here with 360 total campsites and three mini cabins. There are also over 5,300 acres to explore on the 21 miles of marked hiking trails that pass through the dunes, wetlands, and forests. There are also some good backpacking opportunities in the park with 10 remote tent sites along a one-mile trail. Guided snowshoe hikes are offered in the winter.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park is another great place to experience the dunes of Michigan and really appreciate its beauty. There are hiking trails that go along the dunes near Saugatuck, and these are very popular in the winter for cross-country skiing. This state park spans about 1,000 acres of land in Allegan County is well-known for its swimming beach and birdwatching opportunities. It’s also fun to explore the art galleries and shops in the nearby city of Saugatuck and take a boat out onto the water here.
Maybury State Park is a Northville-area state park that has lots of recreational opportunities among the hardwood forest trees and rolling hills. Mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are popular activities here. You can also learn about local history from the working farm and interpreters onsite. This park spans nearly 1,000 acres and has a track chair program that helps disabled visitors access parts of the park that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible for traditional wheelchairs.
Come to Hartwick Pines State Park to see virgin white pine trees and to learn about what happened to much of the forests of Northern Michigan. There’s a logging museum here to learn about the forest, as well as opportunities for camping, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Hartwick Pines State Park has an area of around 9,672 acres and is one of the largest parks in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It’s in Crawford County just northeast of Grayling.
If you’re in the Traverse City area of Michigan, don’t miss out on visiting Leelanau State Park at the top of the Leelanau Peninsula. From here, you’ll enjoy lovely Lake Michigan views and get to see the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and Museum. Camping and beachcombing along the shore are popular activities at this state park. The park has more than 1,519 acres and 8.5 miles of hiking and skiing trails. There’s also a picnic area and opportunities to find Petoskey stones along the shoreline.
Detroit residents and visitors love spending time at this urban state park because of its easy access and city skyline views. Belle Isle State Park is near the city’s zoo, aquarium, conservatory, a museum, golf course, and beach. You can swim at Belle Isle Beach here to cool off on a hot day. It’s also fun to bike or walk on the trails or take a kayak or SUP out on the water. Belle Island State Park became the 102nd state park in Michigan in 2014 and spans 982 acres along the Detroit River between the U.S. and Canada. The park is open throughout the year and is a very accessible park that can be reached via DDOT bus service.
Another top state park in Michigan to add to your travel list is Palms Book State Park, which has a large freshwater spring called Kitch-iti-kipi. It has clear waters that are perfect for viewing fish down below. There are over 10,000 gallons of water that flow from the spring per minute. Take some time to learn about the legends of the spring when you come here to really get the full experience. This park is in the south-central part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and offers overnight camping. It is a smaller park that is about 388 acres in size. You can get here in about 15 minutes by car from US-2 at Thompson.
Visit Petoskey State Park near the resort community of Petoskey to experience the beautiful scenery of the Little Traverse Bay. You can camp overnight in the park and spend time on the sandy beach. This is a smaller park that’s about 303 acres in size and home to 100 campsites at the Tannery Creek Campground and 80 sites at the Dunes Campground. Camping has been a tradition here since 1970. Before it became a state park, this land was deeded to the Pay-Me-Gwau under a Native American treaty and part of the W.W. Rice Company.