The Top 5 National Parks in Michigan

Pictured Rocks Michigan

Kenneth Keifer / Getty Images

With its abundance of national parks, lakeshores and scenic trails, Michigan didn’t earn its tourism moniker “Pure Michigan” without merit. Blessed with forests, lakes, beaches and more, the state’s national parks provide year-round outdoor recreation, whether it’s kayaking in July or cross-country skiing in January. It’s also bordered by all but one of the Great Lakes (Lake Ontario), which means beaches galore.

01 of 05

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Westhoff / Getty Images

Address
Michigan, USA
Phone +1 906-482-0984

A national park since 1940, this island in Lake Superior is among the least-visited, due to its remoteness and short season (April 15 to November 1).  Arrivals are only possible via ferry (from Houghton, Michigan, aboard Ranger III; Copper Harbor, Michigan, aboard Isle Royale Queen IV; or Grand Portage, Minnesota, via Voyageur II or Sea Hunter III), seaplane (through Grand Marais, Minnesota, with Isle Royale Seaplanes) or private boat. Cars are not allowed, which might make unseasoned campers a bit nervous, but it’s also because there are no paved roads. Some visitors stay at Rock Harbor Lodge (features two restaurants) or Windigo Camper Cabins (rustic one-room cabins with an outdoor grill). For a deeper immersion, there’s backpack camping, utilizing lean-to shelters and bringing in your own food. Kayakers and canoers find bliss here, although waters can be rough (and cold). Moose sightings are frequent.

02 of 05

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Ali Majdfar / Getty Images

Address
N8391 Sand Point Rd, Munising, MI 49862, USA
Phone +1 906-387-3700

Just like the park name suggests, this Lake Superior shoreline is rimmed with colorful, unique cliffs born out of sandstone formations, such as Chapel Rock and Miners Castle. Year-round activities include camping (there are three drive-in campgrounds) and hiking, as well as—come winter—snowshoeing, ice climbing and cross-country skiing. There’s also a lighthouse (Au Sable Light Station, dating back to the 19th Century) open to visitors, including a climb to the tower for an amazing view; and a small exhibit in the Munising U.S. Coast Guard Station (summer only). During the warmer months, Shipwreck Tours takes guests out on glass-bottom boats for a two-hour tour to see shipwreck remains.

03 of 05

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Adrienne Elliot / Getty Images

Address
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Maple City, MI 49664, USA

Hosting the world’s largest collection of sand dunes on fresh water, including 450-foot-tall bluffs, this national park—just shy of 33,000 acres—hugs 35 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline (open for swimming: bring a suit!) and also includes North and South Manitou Islands. Camping is available on the islands as well as three campgrounds on the Lower Peninsula mainland, and winter camping is offered at Platte River Campground. While hiking the bluffs is the park's most popular activity, you can also visit an 1871 lighthouse on South Manitou Island and a historic farm district called Port Oneida. Twenty miles of hiking trails provide plenty of room to roam and explore. During the winter months, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (particularly on groomed sections of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail) —as well as sledding on snow-covered dunes—draw people to the park.

04 of 05

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Courtesy of NPS/River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Address
333 N Dixie Hwy, Monroe, MI 48162, USA
Phone +1 734-243-7136

Commemorating the War of 1812’s January 1813 battles, which took place in this area of southeastern Michigan just 35 miles south of downtown Detroit, this park features cannons and monuments that help tell the story of the River Raisin Battle, where Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation declared victory. The park is among the most visited monuments in Springwells, and was once home to indigenous settlements and burials. A visit to the park includes educational learning but can also fold in outdoor recreation, such as a hike or bicycle ride on the trails. There is no camping at the park although several campgrounds are nearby, including River Raisin Marina & Campground, just one mile away.

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Keweenaw National Historic Park

Keweenaw National Historic Park

ehrlif / Getty Images

Address
25970 Red Jacket Rd, Calumet, MI 49913, USA
Phone +1 906-337-3168

Established in 1992, this Upper Peninsula park within the Keweenaw Peninsula celebrates two historical significances: the only place in the U.S. where aboriginal copper mining occurred (until the 1900s), and where the world’s largest lava flow resides. The park’s 21 historical sites tell the story of this rich cultural heritage and why copper mining thrived here. For visitors who adore culture as much as they do natural resources, this park combines both with sites open for self-guided tours that include the Calumet Theatre (an opera house dating back to the early 1900s that still hosts theatrical and musical performances today), the Finnish American Heritage Center & Historical Archive (exhibits about the region’s Finnish immigrants), Laurium Manor Mansion (a 45-room mansion built in 1908), Hanka Homestead Museum (a 1920s Finnish farm once owned by a former miner) and Delaware Copper Mine (among the world’s oldest copper mines). To further step back in time, guided tours of Old Victoria’s four restored log cabins are offered, emulating what life was like for copper miners.

Back to List

The Top 5 National Parks in Michigan