The Biggest State Parks in Michigan Are Breathtakingly Beautiful
State Parks in Michigan provide plenty of natural experiences and outdoor exploration. If you’re trying to decide where you want to visit next, the biggest state parks in Michigan are breathtaking and provide plenty of things for everyone.
From rustic camping to modern amenities, you can always find somewhere to stay. Plus, each state park offers various activities, including sunbathing, swimming, hiking, and much more. Here are the biggest state parks in Michigan:
1. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the largest in Michigan, with 59,020 acres in Ontonagon. You can find an old-growth forest, waterfalls, rivers, and streams. Plus, this state park has more than 90 miles of hiking trails, has various camping options, and provides beautiful views of the Lake Superior shoreline.
Many people venture to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park for fishing or mountain biking. The area also provides scenic drives if you only have a chance to drive through and no time to get out of the car and explore.
While Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is popular for visitors in the summer, it’s also great for snowmobiling in the winter. Visitors also enjoy downhill skiing and snowmobiling. You can also visit the Porkies Winter Sports Complex.
Some of the popular natural attractions at this park include Lake of the Clouds and the Presque Isle River corridor. There’s also a Summit Peak observation tower, fall chairlift rides, a disc golf course, and so much more.
2. Tahquamenon Falls
Coming in at 46,179 acres, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the second largest in Michigan. It’s in Paradise, MI, and boasts beautiful waterfalls and overlooks.
The Upper Falls is 200 feet across and drops almost 50 feet, making it one of the biggest waterfalls on the east side of the Mississippi River. It has amber-colored water because of tannins that come from the trees in the swamps that drain into the river. The churning of the soft water in the river makes it famous for having lots of foam on the surface.
On the other hand, the Lower Falls include five smaller waterfalls that go around an island. To visit the Lower Falls, you’ll take a rowboat that you can rent from the concession stand. You can also see them from the riverbank or visit them by taking the Ronald A. Olson Island Bridge.
You can camp at Tahquamenon Falls State Park or choose other lodging in the area. There are more than 35 miles of trails throughout the park, with various overlooks for different views.
3. Wilderness State Park
Wilderness State Park is in Carp Lake, MI, near Mackinaw City, and boasts 10,512 acres of land. The park has 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, more than 20 miles of extensive trails, and camping options. It also has a pet-friendly beach and a swimming area.
Visitors love to swim, fish, or boat in Wilderness State Park and spend time exploring the forests, wetlands, and ponds. Different areas of the park provide various sights of landmarks, including the Waugoshance Lighthouse from the west and the Mackinac Bridge from the east.
Wilderness State Park is also a designated dark sky preserve, allowing visitors spectacular views of the night sky. There’s limited light pollution so you can enjoy a stargazing experience free of artificial light.
4. Hartwick Pines State Park
Hartwick Pines State Park covers 9,672 acres in Grayling, MI, with 49 acres being an old-growth pine forest. The park has around 21 miles of trails and various camping options.
Many people visit this state park for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, paddling, bird watching, and snowshoeing. You can also visit the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum for insight into the 19th-century logging era. The museum features a recreated logging camp and equipment used during that time.
While you’re in Hartwick Pines State Park, you can see the East Branch of the AuSable River. It also provides views of four small lakes and one of the nation’s oldest old-growth forests.
5. Craig Lake
Craig Lake State Park is 8,459 acres in Champion, MI, and is the most remote in Michigan. You’ll want to take a vehicle with high-ground clearance and four-wheel drive to navigate the rocky road conditions. Craig Lake is 374 acres with six islands and beautiful granite bluffs.
You can choose between various camping options, including yurts, rustic cabins, and backcountry campsites. This park has many trails, six lakes, and tons of Michigan wildlife for an extensive nature experience.
It’s a popular fishing location because the inland lakes have a large population of muskellunge, walleye, and bass. Visitors also enjoy hunting, paddling, and winter sports at Craig Lake State Park.
Craig Lake State Park also has the Peshekee Headwaters Nature Preserve, including Indian Lake. This area has freshwater and clean fish, providing safe drinking water and food. It’s also a safe space for recreational activities.
Ludington State Park boasts 5,300 acres of land with sandy beaches, three campgrounds, and sand dunes. You can also visit the Big Sable Point Lighthouse and explore the forests, marshlands, and wetlands. Reaching the lighthouse requires hiking a 1.8-mile trail made of sand and gravel, but it’s well worth the trek.
This state park is between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, providing miles of unforgettable shoreline on both lakes. It has more than 21 miles of trails and one mile of the Big Sable River, allowing plenty of fishing, tubing, and paddling opportunities.
7. Thompson’s Harbor
Thompson’s Harbor State Park is 5,109 acres and spans more than seven miles of Lake Huron shoreline near Rogers City, MI. You can expect a rustic camping experience at this state park if you stay overnight because it is remote and mostly undeveloped.
There are six miles of trails to explore, beaches to enjoy, and deep sand dunes to splendor at. The area is known for having Michigan’s largest population of Dwarf Lake Iris, the state’s flower.
This state park is a Dark Sky Preserve, so it’s a great area for stargazing. Visitors also enjoy hiking, hunting, birding, and cross-country skiing. You can also camp at Thompson’s Harbor State Park, but the only options are two rustic cabins.
8. Silver Lake
Silver Lake State Park in Mears, MI, covers 2,936 acres of land, with nearly 2,000 acres being sand dunes. It has a campground, an area for day use, and a place to use an off-road vehicle (ORV). You can bring your own ORV, rent one, or join a tour with Mac Wood’s Dune Rides. Another option is to explore the dunes on horseback or with a fat-tire bike.
With 3 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, you can find a spot on the beach to relax or go swimming. Visitors also love to fish and boat in the Silver Lake area. There are also plenty of trails for hiking or biking, so you’ll never run out of things to do.
9. Fisherman’s Island
When you visit Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix, MI, you can enjoy over six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline within the 2,678 acres of parkland. While it’s typically an island, this state park sometimes becomes a peninsula when water levels drop. Visitors enjoy rustic camping, with some campsites in the dune area, hunting, water sports, and other outdoor activities.
10. Sleepy Hollow
Enjoying nature is easy at Sleepy Hollow State Park, where you can explore differing terrain and engage in many outdoor and water activities.
Laingsburg, MI, boasts Sleepy Hollow State Park, which is 2,678 acres of Michigan landscape. You’ll find the Little Maple River that travels through woods, fields, and trails. The river reaches the 410-acre Lake Ovid, which is in the center of the state park.
Visitors to Sleepy Hollow State Park often spend their time fishing, boating, swimming, and relaxing on the beach. You can camp in this park during summer and winter, with access to 16 miles of trails for biking and hiking. There are also 13 miles of trails for dogsledding and horses, ensuring an unforgettable experience of spending time in Michigan’s wilderness.
11. Bay City
Relaxing on the beach in Bay City State Park is easy on the shores of Saginaw Bay.
Bay City State Park is in Bay City along the shores of Saginaw Bay and boasts 2,389 acres of land. This land includes various landscapes and environments, including wetland woods, wet meadows, oak savannah prairies, and cattail marshlands. The environment in this area attracts migratory birds for staging.
One of the best parts of Bay City is that they have an accessible nature-inspired playground. The decorative and realistic-looking nature-inspired aspects provide the perfect place to play.
Bay City State Park also has Tobico Marsh, one of the Great Lakes’ largest freshwater coastal wetlands. This march is popular for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, nature study, birding, canoeing, photography, and so much more. You can also visit the sandy Lake Huron beach or walk through wildflowers in the state park.
12. Warren Dunes
You’ll find Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, MI, occupying 1,952 acres of land and three miles of shoreline. The dunes at this state park rise 260 feet above Lake Michigan. If you climb to the top, you’ll get rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Warran Dunes State Park has six miles of hiking trails and is a popular area for campers. Bird watchers also love this state park because it is on a bird migration route and has a diverse variety throughout the year.
Summary of the Biggest State Parks in Michigan
|Rank||State Park||Size||City It’s Closest To|
|1||Porcupine Mountains Wilderness||59,020 acres||Ontonagon|
|2||Tahquamenon Falls||46,179 acres||Paradise|
|3||Wilderness||10,512 acres||Carp Lake|
|4||Hartwick Pines||9,672 acres||Grayling|
|5||Craig Lake||8,459 acres||Champion|
|7||Thompson’s Harbor||5,109 acres||Rogers City|
|8||Silver Lake||2,936 acres||Mears|
|9||Fisherman’s Island||2,678 acres||Charlevoix|
|10||Sleepy Hollow||2,678 acres||Laingsburg|
|11||Bay City||2,389 acres||Bay City|
|12||Warren Dunes||1,952 acres||Sawyer|