National Parks In Michigan – What to See
Surrounded by lakes on nearly every side, Michigan has over 150 lighthouses–the most of any state. This is the place to go if you want a mix of hiking, paddling, and island camping adventure.
From the scuba diving the shipwrecks of Pictured Rocks, to exploring innovation of Detroit’s MotorCity, the National Park Service offers a little bit of something for everyone.
What National Parks Are In Michigan?
There is one National Park in Michigan and two National Lakeshores. In addition, there are historic parks, heritage areas, and National Scenic Trails maintained by the National Park Service.
- Isle Royal National Park
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- River Raisin National Battlefield Park
- Keweenaw National Historical Park
- Motor Cities National Heritage Area
- North Country National Scenic Trail
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park, encompasses a cluster of islands located in the far northwestern corner of Michigan. These islands provide a great chance to enjoy outdoor activities on land and in the water.
Surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior, the park offers outstanding views of nature.
Visitors can reach Isle Royale by using their own boat or taking a ferry from Houghton, Copper Harbor, or Grand Portage. Seaplane transportation is also available during summer.
While on the island, visitors can set up camp at one of 36 campgrounds, and go hiking on roughly 165 miles of trails. Windigo and Rock Harbor both offer several areas to explore on foot where you can look for local wildlife species, including otters, beavers, hawks, and lynxes.
Several water activities are also available, including kayaking and boat tours. Visitors can even head deep into Lake Superior for scuba diving.
36 campgrounds are scattered throughout the islands, but they are only accessible via boats and by foot. So this is not the park to visit in an RV!
Campers who are looking for an even more rugged experience, can try their hand at cross-country camping which involves spending the night outside of designated campgrounds. It’s a popular option for heavily experienced backpackers or paddlers.
When To Visit
The park’s remote location means that it’s only open during part of the year for safety reasons. Visitors can head to the park from mid-April through the end of October, but it’s closed the rest of the year.
Visitors should note that Isle Royale National Park does not allow any pets, which is done in order to protect the islands’ delicate ecosystem. However, service dogs are allowed on the islands with a permit and paperwork.
Things to do in Isle Royale National Park:
- Hiking and backpacking
- Kayaking and canoeing
- Guided boat tours
- Scuba diving
Things To Do Near Isle Royale National Park:
- Baraga State Forest (1.5 to 2 hours south)
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (2.5 hours south)
- Lake Gogebic (2.5 to 3 hours south)
- Northern Highland-American Legion State Park (3 to 3.5 hours south)
- Chequamegon National Forest (4 hours southwest)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in the Upper Peninsula in northwestern Michigan and offers stunning views of Lake Superior.
The lakeshore features multicolored cliffs, sandstone formations, lighthouses, shipwrecks, and many other things to see and explore.
Visitors can reach Pictured Rocks via M-94 and M-28 to Munising or M-77 to Grand Marais.
Hikers can explore more than 100 miles of trails throughout Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. These trails wind through hardwood forests, beaches, and other areas where you can enjoy white pines, marshes, beaver ponds, and formations such as Chapel Rock and Miners Castle.
Aside from the trails, explorers can also take motorized boats on Lake Superior, or glide through the waters of Beaver Lake and other local waterways in canoes or kayaks.
Backcountry camping at one of the parks 14 designated sites are also available throughout the year.
When To Visit
Although the lakeshore is open all year round, keep in mind that many roads end up being closed due to heavy snow in winter.
During the winter months, the lakeshore offers multiple activities to enjoy, including ice climbing and cross-country skiing.
Pets are allowed in certain areas of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, including Miners Castle, but they need to be kept on a leash.
A few places that are closed to pets include all of the lakeshore’s backcountry campsites, all trails in Beaver Basin Wilderness, and all North Country Scenic Trail or Lakeshore Trail segments.
Things To Do At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:
- Backcountry camping
- Day hiking
- Cross-country skiing
- Ice climbing
- Winter camping
- Guided tours
Things To Do Near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:
- Hiawatha National Forest (20 minutes south)
- Escanaba River State Forest (1 hour southwest)
- Newberry State Forest Area (1 to 1.5 hours east)
- Gwinn State Forest Area (1.5 hours southwest)
- Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area (1.5 to 2 hours southeast)
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in the Lower Peninsula and provides opportunities to explore eastern the shores of Lake Michigan.
Visitors can get to the lakeshore a few ways, including taking M-72 to Empire Village.
This National Park features impressive dunes, forests, a historic village, and more. Keep an eye out for remnants of old logging villages while exploring the park.
Those who come here for a few hours can drive along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which stretches for 7 miles, hike up the dunes, or visit the Maritime Museum. During longer stays, tourists can hike along Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, which offers a chance to visit a historic logging village with a general store and blacksmith shop.
When To Visit
There are several activities to do at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore including scuba diving, fishing, and swimming in summer. While some areas are open all year round, such as the Dune Climb, certain buildings and campgrounds are only open on a seasonal basis.
During winter, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling become popular activities. There are also guided snowshoe hiking tours are available on a weekly basis.
Pets are allowed in many parts of the lakeshore, as long as they remain on leashes. Some of the areas that do not allow pets include the Dune Climb, Maritime Museum, North and South Manitou Islands, and the backcountry campsites at Valley View and White Pine.
Things to do in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
- Climbing dunes
- Scuba diving
- Guided tours
- Cross-country skiing
- Ice fishing
Things To Do Near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:
- Huron-Manistee National Forests (1 hour south)
- Roscommon State Forest Area (2 hours southeast)
- Gaylord State Forest Area (2 to 2.5 hours northeast)
- Atlanta State Forest Area (3 hours east)
River Raisin National Battlefield Park
River Raisin National Battlefield Park, located in Monroe in southeastern Michigan, gives visitors a chance to learn more about the War of 1812. It includes battlegrounds that were part of the war, which visitors can explore while also enjoying picturesque views.
The park can be reached via I-75 and Dixie Highway.
Those who come here can hike the River Raisin Heritage Trail, which offers 8 miles of footpaths connecting historic sites, park grounds, and more. A driving tour that runs through Michigan and Ohio, as well as parts of Ontario, is also available.
The park includes a wood chip trail that goes through the battlefield grounds, as well as paved trails with historical markers. While hiking or biking along the trails, visitors might catch a glimpse of local wildlife, such as deer, muskrats, and foxes.
Monuments and cannons can also be seen throughout the park. The park’s Education Center features artifacts and exhibits, along with educational presentations about the battles.
When To Visit
River Raisin National Battlefield Park is open from sunrise to sunset all year round. The visitor center is also open on a daily basis. Visitors are allowed to bring pets to the park, but they should be kept on a leash at all times. Pets are not allowed inside the visitor center.
Things To Do At River Raisin National Battlefield Park:
- In-line skating
- 1812 Michigan Driving Tour
Things To Do Near River Raisin National Battlefield Park:
- River Raisin Marina and Campground (5 minutes east)
- William C. Sterling State Park (5 minutes east)
- Maumee Bay State Park (1 hour south)
- Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area (1 hour south)
- Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (1 hour south)
Keweenaw National Historical Park
Keweenaw National Historical Park, located in the Upper Peninsula in northwestern Michigan, provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while also learning more about the history and culture of the area.
Visitors can get to the park by taking Highway 41 toward Calumet.
Several heritage sites are located throughout the area, including A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, Chassell Heritage Center, Coppertown Mining Museum, and Delaware Copper Mine, which is one of the oldest copper mines in the peninsula.
Visitors can see lighthouses in certain areas of the park, such as the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and the Ontonagon Lighthouse. Several trails are also available for hiking and exploring, including Adventure Mining Company’s trails.
For those who want a closer view of the copper mines, guided underground tours are available.
The Union Building Visitor Center provides information about the park’s history. At the Central Mine, explorers can wander through historic miners’ homes for a glimpse of life in the past during the area’s mining years.
Keweenaw also offers geocaching along a historic GeoTrail which is a fun activity to do with the kids.
When To Visit
Some of the park’s services and buildings, such as the visitor center, are open on a seasonal basis. Pets are allowed in outdoor areas of the park, but no pets are allowed inside the visitor center or other buildings. Pets must be kept on a leash.
Things To Do In Keweenaw National Historical Park:
- Mining tours
- Museum and heritage center tours
Things To Do Near Keweenaw National Historical Park:
- George Gipp Recreation Area and Ice Arena (5 minutes east)
- Swedetown Nordic Ski Trails (5 minutes west)
- Lake Linden Campground (10 minutes south)
- Hancock Recreation Area (15 minutes southwest)
- Nara Nature Park (30 minutes south)
MotorCities National Heritage Area
MotorCities National Heritage Area is a sprawling site featuring things to do and places to visit in parts of 16 counties throughout southern Michigan. The heritage area was set up to commemorate the auto industry in the Greater Detroit area.
Visitors to any of the destinations and sites included in the heritage area can learn more about how the auto industry developed and how it changed the world.
Places to visit range from museums filled with automobiles to factories, historic homes, and roadside attractions.
For those who want to see as much as possible, a Passport Stamp Program is available. Visitors can keep track of all sites they go to by purchasing one of these passports.
Some of the most notable places to visit in MotorCities National Heritage Area include Edsel and Eleanor Ford Home, Automotive Hall of Fame, Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Detroit Historical Museum, and Gilmore Car Museum.
There are also several parks and other outdoor attractions to enjoy, including the Detroit Riverwalk and Belle Isle State Park, which features a nature zoo, wooded trails, lakes, and aquarium. Biking, snow sports, water activities, and other outdoor activities are also available at Belle Isle State Park.
Pet policies and hours vary based on each site that is part of MotorCities National Heritage Area. In general, pets are allowed in many outdoor areas if they’re on a leash, but most indoor sites do not allow pets.
Things to do in MotorsCities National Heritage Area:
- Automotive Hall of Fame
- Sharon Mills County Park
- Hidden Lake Gardens
- Belle Isle State Park
- Boston Edison Historic District
- Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad
- Durant Park
- Detroit Riverwalk
Things To Do Near MotorsCities National Heritage Area:
- William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor (5 minutes east)
- Island Lake Recreation Area (30 to 45 minutes west)
- Maybury State Park (30 minutes west)
- Brighton Recreation Area (1 hour west)
- Pinckney Recreation Area (1 hour west)
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