Editor’s note: I have visited 63 of the 107 state parks in Michigan over the course of my lifetime. I’m about to take you on a little “photo tour!” Please note I am only doing write-ups about parks I’ve visited and photographed. This might be part of a series of blogs about Michigan State Parks, in honor of the 100th birthday of the parks system. Pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words, but these will make their best efforts to tell the story!
Also, entries for Warren Dunes and Warren Woods state parks have been added…
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!
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.
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! 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!