I have visited more than 70 of the 107 state parks in Michigan during the course of my lifetime. Enjoy this little “photo tour,” which includes at least 1-2 photos of each park I’ve visited, and a brief description.
Aloha State Park (Cheboygan, MI)
Aloha State Park is located in the Northeast portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and was a pleasant place to stop on a day when we were trying to see as many “big” lakes in one day as possible. I hear there is a nice little store that sells doughnuts nearby that is probably popular with campers in the campground!
Bay city State Park (bay city, MI)
Bay City State Park is located in Bay City, MI and is a springboard point for visiting parks in the “Thumb” region. It’s also a good place to see freighters! There is modern camping available as well as a sizeable day-use area with picnic tables.
Belle isle State Park (detroit, MI)
Belle Isle State Park is located in Detroit, MI and recently a “sky slide” was added to the list of attractions, which I hear is wildly popular. We visited the island park mainly because of the octopus named “Sir Ringo Woodward.” Whom was unnamed when we visited in August, 2022. Sadly we were unable to get a photo of Sir Ringo since octopuses are nocturnal and are skilled at hiding, so the next best thing was taking a photo of the curator’s phone displaying a photo of the octopus! Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!
Bewabic State Park (Crystal Falls, MI)
Bewabic State Park is located in the Southwest portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In addition to bringing your own tent or camper, you can also stay the night in a tipi! My only complaint was that the door was too low. Bewabic is located on Fortune Lake. We stayed in the tipi with our niece on an overnight trip, and Mike ALMOST got a speeding ticket driving out here! Yes, Mr. Grandpa driver was giving the accelerator a bit too much love!
Brighton Recreation Area (Brighton, MI)
Brighton Recreation Area is located in Southeast MI and is one of our favorite “local” haunts. So many memories! There are three campgrounds (one modern, two rustic), hiking/biking trails. a swimming beach and cabins available to rent. This is the cabin called Windigo, which means “cannibal monster.” There are a few lakes located in Brighton Recreation Area, including Bishop Lake, Appleton Lakes (little and big) and Murray Lake. Little Appleton Lake is pictured above.
Brimley State Park (Brimley, MI)
Like to ogle freighters? Brimley is a “boatnerd paradise!” Brimley State Park is just a stone’s throw from Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s in an ideal location for great sunset views – and for seeing freighters! There is a modern campground for tent/camper camping, and also a mini cabin available to rent. Like to gamble? There is a casino not too far away!
Burt lake State Park (indian river, MI)
Burt Lake State Park is located near the Mackinac Bridge in Northern Michigan’s lower peninsula. It’s a lake big enough to have waves, as evidenced by this photo! The water gets deep enough to be interesting for adults. There is a modern campground for tent and RV campers as well as two mini cabins available for rental. This park is on my list of parks I would like to revisit and explore a bit more!
Cheboygan State Park (Cheboygan, MI)
Cheboygan State Park has become one of our favorite Michigan state parks. It’s located about a half hour east of Mackinaw City near the tip of Michigan’s “mitten.” The city of Cheboygan has a craft brewery, one of those old timey “downtown” movie theaters, and an Alice’s Restaurant! You can get anything you want there (excepting Alice – some of you baby boomers and older Gen Xers with hippie folks will get this pop culture reference). The park boasts a modern campground, tipi rentals, and also rents three rustic cabins – all of which have nice beach access. The cabin interior above is 14 Foot Shoals cabin, named for the nearby shoal light.
Clear lake State Park (atlanta, MI)
Clear Lake State Park is located in Atlanta, MI which is nowhere near as bustling of a town as that city in Georgia! It’s located in Northeast MI about 25 miles or so northeast of Gaylord. It’s really out in the middle of nowhere, so this is a great park if you’re into solitude! It’s a popular spot for ORV users, so you’re likely to see as many “toy trailers” as camping trailers in the modern campground. There is a mini cabin and a “tiny house” available for rental, a camper’s only beach and a day use area.
Fayette State Park (Garden, MI)
Fayette State Park is located in the Upper Peninsula – west of the Mackinac Bridge on the Lake Michigan side. The park is the site of a historic village which had a coke furnace, among other factory type buildings. There is a semi-modern campground (no electricity, but has running water).
Fisherman’s Island State Park (Charlevoix, MI)
Fisherman’s Island State Park is not very accurately named, as the “island” is no longer a free-standing island and is part of a peninsula! Or is it an island again? Honestly, I can’t keep up! 🙂 It’s still a great place for Lake Michigan views, and has nice sandy beaches. There is a rustic campground (in two sections) featuring vault toilets and pump water. You will find the cheapest “accommodations” you’re going to get on Lake Michigan in this campground! My most recent visit was in August, 2018. The bugs were pretty much a no-show on this trip, which was a pleasant surprise!
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park (Copper Harbor, MI)
You’re not going to be farther north in Michigan without going to Isle Royale National Park if you’re in Copper Harbor, MI! This small town is home to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, which is the site of a fort established so that soldiers could help restore order if any problems arose with local copper miners or Native peoples. The fort later proved to be unnecessary, since the copper miners were well behaved as were the Native people! The fort was briefly used for soldiers following the U.S. Civil War completing their enlistments. In addition to the historic buildings, there is also a modern campground and a mini-cabin available to rent.
Grand Haven State Park (Grand Haven, MI)
Grand Haven State Park is located on the Southwest shores of Lake Michigan, south of Holland. We made a quick stop here on a winter trip in January, 2016 and enjoyed some winter scenery! Other than this brief stop, I can’t comment too much about this state park – but I’ll bet it gets more crowded in the summer months!
Harrisville State Park (Harrisville, MI)
Harrisville State Park is located on Lake Huron about halfway up the eastern coast of Michigan. We visited in October, 2018 when the park – and the town – were putting on a big Halloween party! Some of the sites were rented by local sponsors, who created their own creepy Halloween scenes. We stayed in the mini cabin (pictured above).
Hoeft State Park (Rogers City, MI)
Hoeft State Park is located just a bit north of Rogers City, MI on Lake Huron’s northern coast in the Lower Peninsula. In addition to a couple of miles of sandy Lake Huron shoreline, there is a modern campground with a mini-cabin for rental as well as a “lodge” for rental for larger groups (used to be a ranger residence). The building seen above was – like many buildings in Michigan State Parks – built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Interlochen State Park (Interlochen, MI)
As its name interpreted in German suggests, Interlochen (meaning between the lakes) State Park is located between Duck and Green Lakes south of Traverse City. There is also an internationally acclaimed music camp nearby. Interlochen boasts a modern campground as well as rustic camp sites along Green Lake. Campers may rent a camper cabin which includes a refrigerator/heat/microwave or rental tent. This is the only state park in MI that I know of offering the rental tent, which is a framed/screened structure with vinyl waterproof material covering the whole thing. I would not recommend renting this in anything but weather on the side of cool, though not too cold. It got pretty warm inside when the sun hit it, and there was not much ventilation to moderate temperatures. It was still fun to stay in a different kind of “lodging,” and it made me kind of reminisce about Girl Scout camp, where I stayed in similar tent structures! The covered awning outside the sleeping area was particularly nice!
Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park (Traverse City, MI)
Traverse City can be a madhouse to visit during the summer months, but can be quite the beauty in the off seasons! In February, 2013 we rented one of the mini cabins and had a camp fire outside. The lighthouse is not located in the state park, but on the tip of the “Mission Peninsula,” about 20 miles or so north of Traverse City. The peninsula is dotted with big-ticket real estate, astounding views of both “arms” of Traverse Bay and vineyards.
Lake hudson State Park (clayton, MI)
Lake Hudson Recreation Area is located in Southeast, MI not far from the Ohio border in Lenawee County, MI. It’s definitely a “get away from it all” kind of place offering a day-use area with a swimming beach, boat launch, semi-modern campground (which in this case means electricity but no modern restrooms or running water). A small cabin is available for rent, but it’s a pretty spartan structure that only accommodates three people. I’ve heard it’s a good idea to bring a long extension cord if you plan to camp here!
Ludington State Park (Ludington, MI)
Ludington State Park is one of Michigan’s most popular state parks and can be difficult to book camp sites – even through the online reservation system! I remember having to be put on a waiting list – at about 5 in the morning – when I was camping there with my mom in the early 1980s! Ludington is in a prime spot near the center of the Lower Peninsula’s western Lake Michigan coast. Its white sand beach tends to fill up during the summer months, but the Sable River (seen above) also offers some nice scenery! The Big Sable Lighthouse is pictured above. There are three modern campgrounds at Ludington, and a “hike in” rustic campground for campers – as well as mini cabins for rental.
Leelanau State Park (Northport, MI)
Northwest of Traverse City, Leelanau State Park is a nature lover’s mecca – with rustic campsites and pristine views such as this one. Be sure to pay a visit to the charming little town of Northport! There’s just something about it! And once you’re in Northport, you will have to check out Petersen Park. Great place to hunt for Petoskey stones and to see freighters (can you totally tell I LOVE checking out freighters)?
Mackinac Island State Park
Mackinac Island – what can I say? No cars are allowed! And history, history, history! Also accessible only by ferry or sea plane, unless you’re a super intrepid swimmer. Lots and lots of historic sites, lots of horse poop (watch your step) and lots of places to take your money! If you’re into scenery, you will want to check out Arch Rock (seen above), and if you’re into outdoor patio bars, you’ll want to check out the Pink Pony, where you will be treated to scenery similar to this! You’ll most likely be put on a waiting list, but believe me…it is WORTH the wait!
Mclain State Park (Hancock, MI)
McLain State Park may have a Hancock, MI mailing address but is actually also very close to Calumet, MI in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Specifically, it’s in the “Keweenaw Peninsula,” which is like a pinky extending northeast of the bigger peninsula. McLain has undergone lots of changes over the years thanks to erosion, and the above photo is from a camping book and shows rustic sites in a wooded area that have since been reclaimed by nature. Though some sites have been lost to the eroding sands, there is a modern campground for campers as well as mini cabins and one rustic cabin for rent. The sunsets really are hard to beat here! If you’re into copper mining history, look no further than nearby Calumet, which still has some old buildings from the former mining industry boom in use.
Mears State Park (Pentwater, MI)
Mears State Park is in Pentwater, on Michigan’s western coast. We visited this park for the first time in June, 2014 when we were staying in the campground while attending a friend’s nearby wedding. The beach views were quite…stunning! We also enjoyed being able to just stroll into town to buy our booze!
newaygo State Park (Newaygo, MI)
Newaygo State Park has some of the most spacious rustic camp sites in a reservable campground I’ve ever seen! It’s located in Central MI, about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids. There isn’t a swimming beach, though there is a boat launch for Hardy Dam pond available. Camping accommodations are rustic, with vault toilets and hand-pumped water.
north higgins Lake State Park (Roscommon, MI)
North Higgins Lake State Park is located roughly smack in the center of Michigan’s “mitten.” This spring-fed lake is a popular summer destination! Modern camping is available, along with mini-cabin rentals. A CCC historic site is also located near the park and is good for soaking up a bit of history. Or sneaking off into the woods for a quickie (ahem)! Not that I’ve ever done that…The top photo is from the mid 1990s.
Orchard Beach State Park (manistee, MI)
Orchard Beach State Park is located on Lake Michigan north of Ludington, south of Traverse City. We had a chance to visit in September, 2020 and were among the last campers to see the historic stone beach building before it was moved from the bluff overlooking lake Michigan to a more secure spot inland because of fears the building might crumble into the lake. There is a modern campground, some sites with full hook-ups, a mini-cabin and a bigger camper cabin available to rent. Across the street are a series of nice wooded hiking trails. There is no longer a beach in this park because of erosion, but there is a nice city-owned beach in town a few miles away.
Otsego Lake State Park (Waters, MI)
Otsego Lake State Park is conveniently located not too far from I-75, so it’s a good stopping point if you’re heading “Up North.” Since it’s only a bit south of Gaylord, it also makes a good ending point if you’re driving from Southeast Michigan. We stayed in the modern campground for one overnight and were treated to some delightful sunset views! A mini-cabin is also available to rent.
Petoskey State Park (Petoskey, MI)
Petoskey is almost at the tip of the mitten on Michigan’s western coast. Its beach on Little Traverse Bay can get a bit crowded on a nice summer day! The modern campgrounds offer mini cabin rentals.
Pinckney recreation Area (Gregory, MI)
Pinckney Recreation Area is a great getaway for anyone living in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan. It only takes about 40 minutes or so to get to a sprawling recreation area boasting modern camping, hike-in rustic camping, walk-up camping, cabin rentals and yurt rentals. It’s a popular camping area located along the Waterloo-Pinckney hiking trail. The photos above are from the Bruin Lake modern campground, which also offers a rental yurt, walk-up sites and a camper cabin.
Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon, MI)
The “Porkies” are in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and are a haven for backpackers and others who like getting away from civilization. There are numerous hike-in cabins available for rent, and some that are close enough to bring your car to visit. There is also a modern campground if you’re more into, you know, actual flush toilets, running water and other “luxuries!” Pictured is the Lake Superior cabin, which we rented for two nights in August, 2012 and brought our 11-year-old niece.
Port Crescent State Park (Port Austin, MI)
There are multiple ways to get to this park if you live in Michigan – you can use any of the “tri cities” (Saginaw/Bay City/Midland) and come in from the expressway, or you can traverse the rural “Thumb” area to get here. Honestly, I would not recommend coming this way! Time seems to stand still as you drive through miles and miles and miles of flat, flat farmland, which means a 2.5 hour drive will seem more like eight by the time you’re done! I’m really not joking! However, this is a very pretty state park with views of Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron that are just absolutely stunning! There is a modern campground here with a variety of camping options, as well as rental cabins, including some of the newer ones that offer air conditioning.
rifle river recreation area (Lupton, MI)
Rifle River Recreation Area is located about 20 miles east of West Branch, MI and offers modern camping, rustic camping, rustic cabin rentals, boat launches and both lake/river accessibility.
Sanilac petroglyphs state park (Sanilac, MI)
Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park is a little roadside park located in the Thumb region near Cass City, MI. It’s a great way to kill about an hour or so and learn quite a lot about the history of the Thumb region of MI and about the peoples who dwelled here centuries ago.
Sleepy hollow state Park (laingsburg, MI)
Located less than a half hour northeast of Lansing, Sleepy Hollow State Park on Lake Ovid boasts modern camping, walk-up rustic camping and a couple of different cabin options, including a modern three- bedroom cabin with an indoor full bathroom/shower. We rented this cabin in the winter of 2022 and had a blast!
Sterling State Park (Monroe, MI)
Popular with birders, Sterling State Park near the Ohio border of Southeast Michigan offers some great water and nature views. You might even get lucky and see a freighter out on Lake Erie!
Straits State Park (St. Ignace, MI)
Like close-up views of the Mackinac Bridge and the ferries taking passengers to Mackinac Island? Fughgettabout it! Straits State Park, right across “Bic Mac” (aka the Mackinac Bridge) is a prime location for day visits to the U.P. (Tahquamenon Falls State Park or Sault Ste. Marie are not too far). There are modern campsites with electricity and non-electric sites located right on the water.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park (Newberry, MI)
Just cross the Mackinac Bridge and head north about an hour and a half or so…and you can visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park! This huge tract of land offers views of the lower and upper falls of the Tahqhamenon River, as well as its river mouth (top picture shows the river near the mouth, which empties into Lake Superior). Modern camping is available at the lower falls and rivermouth, and rustic camping is offered at the rivermouth unit. Want to have a cold craft beer after a hike? Visit the Tahqhamenon Falls Brewery at the upper falls! An enduring memory is of participating in a wake for a dead moose in 2010 when we were at the rivermouth campground. A young moose was stricken with mad cow disease and drowned in the river – and a ranger had to drag the sorry carcass out with chains. Even a young moose is still a heavy beast!
Tawas Point State Park (Tawas City, MI)
Nicknamed “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Tawas Point State Park, on the Lake Huron coast northwest of Bay City, serves up modern camping and several rental cabins. The coastal location is popular with birders, since this is a popular migratory spot. The Victorian style lighthouse is also a big draw for visitors, as is its white sandy beaches.
Warren Dunes State Park (Bridgman, MI)
Take a quick glance at the license plates on cars parked at Warren Dunes State Park, and you’ll notice that the Michigan plates are the ODD ones out! A majority of Warren Dunes’ visitors hail from Illinois and Indiana. A great “bucket list” item is to climb this huge sand dune. Well…after having already climbed one of these things at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore? Meh…been there done that! Dune climbing is strictly a spectator sport for me now! As for the beach, it’s one of the best swimming beaches I’ve experienced in Michigan (take that from me – I’m not as huge on swimming as my husband is – so if I saw the swimming is great…it’s great)! Careful, though – the undertow can really be treacherous!
Warren Woods State Park (Three Oaks, MI)
If you visit Warren Woods, you’ll have to navigate carefully! There is not a lot of fanfare about this place, and you’ll most likely miss the parking area the first time you drive by! My old college roommate John grew up in this area, and said he actually got lost in these woods before! The Galien River is pictured in the top photo. Fall is quite a lovely time to visit this place, even though the colors were fading by the time we managed to do so in early November, 2014.
Waterloo Recreation Area (Chelsea, MI)
Waterloo Recreation Area nestled between the Ann Arbor and Jackson area in Southeast MI has no shortage of outdoorsy offerings! Rustic cabin rentals, modern cabin rentals, yurt rentals, modern and rustic camping and hiking are just a few of the things you can do out here to enjoy the outdoors! The cabin interior pictured above is from the Mill Lake cabin complex, which offers 10-person cabins with heat and electricity (hand-pumped water and vault toilets).
Wilderness State Park (Mackinaw City, MI)
Wilderness State Park, located about 10 miles west of Mackinaw City, has just about everything an outdoors lover would want! Modern camping, rustic camping (added in the past couple of years), and full hook-up camping. There are also rustic cabins available. Pictured is Sturgeon Point cabin, which we rented in 2010. While out hiking on this trip, we got to see a SNAKE ORGY! And that is DEFINITELY a “pictures or it didn’t happen” kind of thing! And to close out this blog, I’m going to show you the snake orgy- and a nice ice-encrusted bottle of beer! On that note…Cheers! Happy travels, wherever the roads in Michigan take you, lads and lasses!
2 thoughts on “(REVISED April 14, 2023) Michigan State Parks – A Photo Tour!”
You have some great posts on Michigan. Mind if I reblog a few? We should swap some content.
Reblogged this on Michigan's Upper Thumb and commented:
Great post offering an quick highlight or two on Many of Michigan’s state parks