The 15 Best State Parks in Michigan

Bond Falls
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The Wolverine State of Michigan is as famous for its record-breaking freshwater coastline as it is for its storied Motor City history. Luckily for adventurers, much of its natural beauty has been preserved as state park land. Though visitors frequently flock to sites like the state’s National Lakeshores—Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks—more than 100 state parks are ripe for exploration across the whole of Michigan. From the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsula in Copper Harbor to “downstate," here are the 15 best state parks in Michigan.

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​​Traverse City State Park

Traverse City State Park waterfront

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1132 US-31, Traverse City, MI 49686, USA

This 47-acre state park is near downtown Traverse City, an exceedingly popular Northern Michigan resort town known as “Cherry Capital USA." Located on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay, the park offers paved bike trail access right to the city center, a bustling 1/4-mile beach, ample parking, and a campground. Traverse City State Park is also a popular day trip destination, perfect for picnicking or just enjoying the ADA accessible sugar sand beach area; a beach wheelchair is also available to borrow. To best avoid the crowds, visit when the park opens at 8 a.m. for a quieter experience. Access all Michigan state parks and recreation areas with the annual Recreation Passport, or just a single park for the set daily rate.  

02 of 15

Warren Dunes State Park

Waves on the shore of Warren Dunes State Park
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12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125-9166, USA
Phone +1 269-426-4013

Though there are plenty of awesome state parks in southwest Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park stands out, according to Millicent Huminsky, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Tourism Council. With a bounty of Lake Michigan beachfront in its nearly 2,000 total acres, it’s easy to see why this park is almost always the most visited in the state. Most notably, Warren Dunes State Park contains the second highest dunes in all of Michigan, second only to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Located in Sawyer, Michigan, it is a popular hang gliding spot and offers pet-friendly beaches and 6 miles of trails, including three ADA-accessible walkways between the day-use sidewalk and the lake. Additionally, two beach wheelchairs are available to borrow from the nearby ranger station.

03 of 15

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

American flag blowing in Fort Wilkins State Park in Copper Harbor, Michigan
ehrlif / Getty Images
15223 US Hwy 41, Copper Harbor, MI 49918, USA
Phone +1 800-447-2757

Originally designed during the Upper Peninsula’s Copper Rush, this site has roots that date back to its building in 1844. Lighthouse lovers can find not one but two Copper Harbor lighthouses in Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, while history buffs are sure to enjoy the on-site Michigan History Center. Located in the northern Keweenaw Peninsula, visitors can partake in camping, hiking, picnicking, shopping at the camp store, biking, and exploring 15 ADA-accessible buildings. The entire area is also considered a cooperating site under the larger umbrella of the Keweenaw National Historic Park and boasts overnight accommodations, including mini cabins.

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Petoskey State Park

Beach Scene, Petoskey State Park, Michigan
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2475 M-119, Petoskey, MI 49770, USA
Phone +1 231-347-2311

This “tip of the mitt” highlight is ensconced between Petoskey and Harbor Springs in the northern region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Petoskey State Park is perhaps best known as a spot to hunt for the famed stones of the same name, which can only be found in this area of Lake Michigan. The paved Little Traverse Wheelway connects the park to the nearby resort towns, while a stairway to the top of Mount Baldy offers an additional form of exercise. Kayak rental is also available on the sandy beach. Plus, a beach wheelchair may be borrowed from the concession stand in the beach house, ideal for use on the ADA-accessible trail to the waterfront. For those who prefer to camp, two separate campgrounds have space available for trailers or tents. Additionally, the best time of day to visit Petoskey State Park has to be sunset, for this spot is known as “Michigan’s Sunset Coast,” known for its “Million Dollar Sunsets.”

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05 of 15

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

View of a lake and trees at Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park in Michigan

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33303 Headquarters Rd, Ontonagon, MI 49953, USA
Phone +1 906-885-5275

At about 60,000 acres, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is Michigan’s largest. Over half of that span comprises old-growth forest, while waterfalls, 90 miles of trails, and an 18 hole disc golf course are other highlights. A viewing area overlooks Lake of the Clouds making this wild and scenic Upper Peninsula gem welcoming to all. The Presque Isle River Corridor, Wilderness Visitors Center, Summit Peak Observation Tower, and Porcupine Mountain Ski Area are other popular spots. Notably, additional winter activities such as snowshoeing and Nordic (or cross-country) skiing make the park popular in the wintertime as well.

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Leelanau State Park

View of the coast and the water along Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan

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15310 N Lighthouse Point Rd, Northport, MI 49670-9682, USA
Phone +1 231-386-5422

A famous Michigan-ism is to explain geography using one’s hand since the Lower Peninsula is shaped as such. So, our next featured state park is located on the end of the Leelanau Peninsula—or "the tip of the pinky." With Lake Michigan to the west and Mud Lake to the east plus the Grand Traverse Lighthouse steeped in maritime history, Leelanau State Park is quite the draw. Overnight accommodations in this Northport area park include a rustic campground and multiple cabins, one of which is ADA accessible. Over eight miles of trails wind through 1,500 acres, prime for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Day-trippers can also enjoy a picnic area with a pavilion and can even hunt for Petoskey stones, Michigan's state stone, on the Great Lake’s shore.

07 of 15

Palms Book State Park

A view of trees reflecting on the Kitch-Iti-Kipi lake in Michigan

Roving Wanderer/ 500px/Getty Images

Thompson, Manistique, MI 49854, USA
Phone +1 906-341-2355

In the Upper Peninsula, just a few miles west of Manistique, lies Palms Book State Park. It is home to Kitch-iti-kipi, the so-called "Big Spring," the largest freshwater spring in all of Michigan. Measuring over 40 feet deep and more than 200 feet across, Kitch-iti-kipi can be best enjoyed by a self-propelled observation raft. This ferry has an open bottom that allows visitors to view the crystal clear water, teeming with trout and ancient trees. Both the raft and the trail leading to it are accessible, making this 300-acre park a must-visit for everyone who travels to the Upper Peninsula.

08 of 15

Belle Isle Park

An arial view of the Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

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99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
Phone +1 313-821-9844

This urban state park, located in Michigan's largest city of Detroit, is actually an island in the Detroit River that covers almost 1,000 acres. Some noteworthy attractions include an aquarium, observatory, swimming beach, lighthouse, tennis courts, giant slide, zoo, fountain, and a Great Lakes museum. Belle Isle Park is sometimes called “the jewel of Detroit,” and for a good reason, as nearly a third of the island is protected woodlands and lakes. A playground and picnic shelter are also on-site, as are first come, first serve electronic track chairs.

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09 of 15

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenom waterfall in the autumn

Tan Yilmaz / Getty Images

41382 W M-123, Paradise, MI 49768, USA
Phone +1 906-492-3415

As the name suggests, the centerpiece of this nearly 50,000-acre state park is its massive namesake waterfalls, the Upper being one of the largest east of the Mississippi River. Popular activities in Tahquamenon Falls State Park include hiking, especially on the North Country Trail, canoeing, horseback riding, swimming, and picnicking. Located near Paradise, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula, the park consists mostly of undeveloped, forested lands. Year-round camping is an option for overnight lodging. Plus, a track chair is available on site to increase ADA accessibility to this second largest of Michigan state parks.

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Craig Lake State Park

Craig Lake State Park

Ryangs / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Flickr

851 County Road Ake, Champion, MI 49841, USA
Phone +1 906-339-4461

According to state park rangers, this site is on the up-and-coming list, sure to attract more visitors as it becomes better known. Despite its remote nature (Craig Lake is the most remote state park in the system), its 8,400 acres are ripe for exploration. Numerous lakes boast varied wildlife, while two cabins and a yurt can be enjoyed for overnight accommodations year-round (hike-in). Paddling and fishing are common activities on the park’s waterways, and the nationally designated North Country Trail also traverses this part of the Upper Peninsula. Another rugged hike with scenic views is the 8-mile loop around Craig Lake, sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

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Ludington State Park

Big Sable Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan
Rudy Malmquist / Getty Images
8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431, USA
Phone +1 231-843-2423

Did you know the state of Michigan boasts more lighthouses than any other in the nation? One of these, Big Sable Point Lighthouse, can be located at the popular Ludington State Park, a picture-perfect protected area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Ludington State Park also contains a shoreline on Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake with an ADA-accessible fishing pier, playground, beach, and cabin (available for overnight rental). More than 20 miles of trails, 300-plus campsites, and dunes help fill the rest of the roughly 5,000 acres of parkland.

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Rockport State Recreation Area

Lake Huron Bay in Rockport State Park

Steven Depolo / CC BY 2.0 / flickr

Alpena, MI 49707, USA
Phone +1 989-734-2543

This Lake Huron area park was Michigan’s 100th state park and is an internationally designated Dark Sky Preserve, perfect for stargazing. North of Alpena on the east side of the Lower Peninsula, the Rockport State Recreation area contains over 4,000 rugged acres, including a deep-water harbor, multiple picnic areas, sinkholes, limestone quarry, and a historic ghost village. It’s also known for fossils galore, though it’s not ADA accessible. Activities like swimming, paddling, and hiking are popular in this spot.

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Grand Haven State Park

Sunset on the Grand Haven State Park
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Grand Haven State Park, 1001 S Harbor Dr, Grand Haven, MI 49417-1746, USA
Phone +1 616-847-1309

This small lakefront park still packs a punch, even with just 48 acres on the western Lower Peninsula. Grand Haven State Park sits right on Lake Michigan and offers views of the iconic town pier and lighthouse. Overnight accommodations include modern campsites and a rental lodge. Additionally, swimming and walking along the sandy beach are popular activities in this area, since the park consists entirely of beach. A playground, fishing pier, and metal detecting area are ADA accessible at Grand Haven State Park.

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Menominee River State Recreation Area

Menominee River in Michigan on a sunny day
Jamie Casper / Getty Images
N9012, Park Pl Dr, Wausaukee, WI 54177, USA
Phone +1 715-757-3979

This 10,000-acre site is actually jointly administered by the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s notable for 17 miles of undeveloped river, though it is not ADA accessible. The Menominee River State Recreation Area is a great spot for whitewater rafting, wildlife watching, camping, and paddling. Numerous waterfalls make for scenic backdrops, while winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing highlight this spot as a year-round destination for the intrepid traveler. Hunting and trapping are also allowed during the specific seasons set by each state in this border region.

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Agate Falls Scenic Site

Agate Waterfall In The Upper Peninsula Of Michigan
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M-28, Trout Creek, MI 49967, USA
Phone +1 906-353-6558

This Upper Peninsula favorite is the site of one of Michigan’s most beautiful waterfalls, Agate Falls. The railway bridge that frames the falls makes it all the more striking as the Ontonagon River winds through sandstone soil before cascading nearly 40 feet. For the best views, follow the short, ADA-accessible trail that leads to the scenic overlook. Visitors can expect such infrastructure as picnic tables and bathrooms at Agate Falls Scenic Site. Remember that this park is not open year-round, as its season is generally May through October.

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The 15 Best State Parks in Michigan