The Best State Parks in Michigan

If there’s any time to go adventure in Michigan, it has to be in the summer. The question always becomes though, where in Michigan do we go? Michigan’s State Parks might be the perfect answer as they show off all of Michigan’s natural features. Here is our list of the best state parks in Michigan.

 

1. Mackinac Island State Park

grand arch mackinac island

Photo Credit: Roadtrippers.com 

 

Mackinac Island State Park was the first ever state park in Michigan. It covers 80 percent of the island, so if you have been to Mackinac Island before, you might not even have known that you were also in a state park. There are plenty of great views all over the island and if you love to hike, the view from the famous Arch Rock is quite remarkable. As we mentioned in a previous post, Mackinac Island fudge can be quite the treat after an adventure on the island.


If you had to pick one activity to though, bike riding on Mackinac Island has to be the one activity you must do. It’s a pretty easy bike ride and you can see all of what the island has to offer just from a bike. Pack a lunch and you can adventure all day with stops all over the island.


For even more fun facts or information on Mackinac Island, check out this short article on VacationMadeEasy.com

 

2. Tahquamenon Falls State Park

pure michigan tahquamenon falls state park

Photo Credit: Pure Michigan

 

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the 2nd largest state park in Michigan. If you’re traveling in Michigan in the Fall, Tahquamenon Falls is can be one of the most picturesque spots in the entire state. As mentioned in the “Falls” part of the state park’s name, the Tahquamenon Falls are a 50 foot drop and are over 200 feet long. They are the largest falls east of the Mississippi River besides the Niagara Falls.


If you love to hike and kayak, this is a great place for you. You can kayak to the lower part of the Tahquamenon Falls and there are over 40 miles of trails to hike within the park. If you’re ever at the park in the winter, there are great cross-country ski trails that are groomed regularly too.


According to Kevin Dennis, the Park Supervisor, the staff does daily programs that change daily. It’s great way to be introduced to the park.


Check out the blog post by MyNorth for even more information on Tahquamenon Falls State Park. 

 

3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

pictured rocks state park

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation

 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore might be the best place in Michigan to kayak. However, if you decide to kayak, we highly recommend using a sea kayak, not a recreational kayak there for safety purposes.


Similar to the Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks are limestone cliffs that are on the coast of Lake Superior. They are 15 miles long and if you read our last post, they’re not very far away from one of the shipwrecks we mentioned.


If you don’t love to kayak, there’s still plenty to do. There are over 100 miles of hiking trails available, along with guided tours on land and sea. If there’s one spot to hike in this park, we highly recommend hiking up to the Au Sable Light Station.


For more information on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, check out this blog post by Back Road Ramblers!

 

4. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Photo Credit: Parkcamper.com

 

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has a little bit of everything that Michigan has to offer. It’s Michigan’s largest State Park with over 60,000 acres of land and 63 different campsites available. There are over 90 miles of trails to hike within the park, an 18-hole disc golf course, and skiing during the winter is available.


This park might be the best park to hike in all of Michigan due to all the possibilities of what you can see. There’s plenty of waterfalls, wildlife, and the coast of Lake Superior can be quite magnificent. Especially if you are there in the fall with the leaves changing. You can even preview some of the views on the DNR’s website.


For more in-depth information on Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, check out this blog post by David Drees.

 

5. Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Photo Credit: John Haberstroh

 

Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a great balance of beach and dunes. To get to the beach, it’s a two-thirds mile hike. It sounds much worse than it is though and is completely worth it. There are four different trails within the park with them ranging from 2 to 6 miles long.


This park is perfect for those who love being in the woods and like their beachtime too. You can hike in the woods for an hour or two, take a break at the beach, and then go back to the woods. It’s definitely one of the smallest state parks on this list, but still has a lot to offer.


If you’re lucky enough to be there late at night, the views of the night sky are incredible. On a very clear nights, you can see the lights of Chicago and Milwaukee in the distant too.


For more information on Saugatuck Dunes State Park, check out this post by Erin Klema!

 

6. Straits State Park

Straits State Park Mackinac Bridge

Photo Credit: RVPoints.com

 

Straits State Park is located in St. Ignace and has the best views of the Mackinac Bridge. This park is mainly for the views of the Mighty Mac. There is a small beach area, but it’s not a sandy beach like one you would find in West Michigan. There are a few campgrounds which would allow you to see the Mackinac Bridge at night which can be quite remarkable.


Within the park is the Father Jacques Marquette Memorial which is to tell the history between the meeting of the French and Native Americans in the 17th century. If you don’t know anything about Michigan history, these two cultures meeting was quite significant as both engaged in fur trading on the Great Lakes.


For more information on Straits State Park, check out the Michigan DNR’s website.

 

7. Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Photo Credit: Headlands International Dark Sky Park

 

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park isn’t a state park, but it’s such a cool park that we had to include it in our list of best state parks to go to. Unlike many of the state parks though, you unfortunately cannot camp here.


It’s worth camping nearby though to take in the breathtaking views of the night sky. Depending on when you go, you potentially might see the Northern Lights, or more of the Milky Way Galaxy. This park is open 24/7/365, and due to the natural motions of the universe, the views can change every time you go.


It is known for being a great place to go at night, however, there are things to do if you’re there during the day time. There is a 1-mile paved trail that explains the history between humanity’s relationship to the night sky and how that has changed over the centuries.


For a preview of what you could potentially see at night, check out the photography of Jason R Woods.

 

8. Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park

Photo Credit: Heather Higham

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes was recently named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America. There views are absolutely stunning and to top it off, there are plenty of activities for the family here.


Of course, you have to hike up the dunes, that’s a given. There is a beautiful 7 mile drive on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive that is must do too. If you have the time, the rangers put on programs and some of them are even free. This is a great way to learn more about the park and make sure you get the most out of your visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Additionally, if you love to bike, there are some biking trails to take in the views too.


For some more photos and information, check out the Fit Mitten Kitchen’s post on Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Traverse City area.

 

9. Tawas Point State Park

Tawas State Park Lighthouse

Photo Credit: State of Michigan

 

Tawas Point State Park is a little different than most of the parks in this post due to it being on Lake Huron. If you’re in the Detroit area, this can be a nice getaway as it’s only 3 hours away from downtown Detroit.


It has a nice little beach area and the water is shallow, so the water is usually quite warm. If you love to bird watch, this state park has been called a paradise at times since over 300 different species of birds have been identified here. It’s importance for birds has been so important that it’s even been recognized by the National Audubon Society.


Tawas Point State Park is also the home of the Tawas Point Lighthouse. It’s an old lighthouse and if you hike up to it, it can provide for some great sightseeing.


For beautiful photography of the park and more in-depth information on Tawas Point State Park, check out this post by Heather at TakeThatExit.com.

 

10. Belle Isle State Park

Belle Isle State Park

Photo Credit: elATLBoy

 

Last, but definitely not least, Belle Isle State Park might be the most unique state park in Michigan due to it being right next to downtown Detroit and Canada. Belle Isle is on a small island between Michigan and Canada on the Detroit River.


Belle Isle has seen a lot of changes in the past decade due to the State of Michigan taking control of it in 2013, and a lot of these changes have been exciting. Belle Isle has been a big part of Detroit’s rebirth.


Belle Isle has its own aquarium and conversatory in addition to all of it’s open spaces for recreation. If you’re visiting Detroit, this can be a great spot to relax for a day. In some ways, Belle Isle is the “Central Park” for Detroit.


Nearby Belle Isle, you can kayak in the Detroit canals too. This is a great way to learn about Detroit’s history and see Detroit in a whole new way.


For a much more in-depth look at Belle Isle State Park, check out the Detroit Moms Blog's post about Belle Isle! 



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