Pictured Rocks National Park

Michigan boasts 357,000 acres of state park land, open to various outdoor recreation activities.

According to Michigan.gov, those thousands of acres include 103 state parks and recreation areas, 140 state forest campgrounds, with 257,155 acres of that land open to hunting. All enjoyed by approximately 30 million visitors a year.

Each park had its own unique features, from cascading waterfalls, to towering sand dunes, or a quick family camp out, and even just a day at the beach. This beautiful Great Lakes state has many parks and activities, just waiting to be explored.

Of all of these beauties, Warren Dunes State Park in South Western Michigan, is the most visited of Michigan state parks, according to Trip Savvy. With the Luscious Lake Michigan beachfront, and nearly 2,000 total acres, this state park contains the second highest dunes in all of Michigan, second only to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It also is a popular hang gliding spot, with pet-friendly beaches, and six miles of trails.

According to michigan.gov, Interlochen State Park is Michigan’s first state park, transferred to the Michigan State Park Commission in 1920. Covering 187 acres, and located in Grand Traverse County, the land was purchased for $60,000. It was originally named Pine Park as it was created for the preservation of future generations of virgin pine stand. Today, it is one of the few easily reached places in Michigan where old-growth red pine can be found.

Michigan’s North Western tip of the Upper Peninsula hosts Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan’s largest state park. Known as a popular destination for hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more, it is also home to numerous waterfalls as well as abundant wildlife. It even made number 25 on the list of the 25 Best State Parks in the United States. There are over 6,600 state park sites in the United States, covering 14 million acres of land. Roads inside Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are closed seasonally, from December 1st through late spring each year.

Michiganders are fortunate to have many state parks open year-round, such as Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula. Covering 46,179 acres, this park spreads across two cities. Hugging Lake Superior, you’ll be awestruck by the sight of the Tahquamenon River cascading down the rocks in two massive waterfalls. You can also hike along its riverbank, and even take a paddle boat ride, taking in the tranquil beauty of the forest and wildlife. This is Michigan’s second largest state park.

Photo by Laura Fawaz

Back in the Lower Peninsula, Traverse City has a lot to offer, but nothing tops the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where you can climb up towering sand dunes, and watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. After you marvel at the breathtaking views from the top of the dunes, you can even stop for a swim in the crystal-clear waters of the lake, after feeling the warm sand beneath your feet. 

While almost all of these state parks are open year round, this month brings the unofficial opening, with seasonal events and camping sites available. For example, Maybury State Park, in Northville Township, Michigan, unofficially kicked off their season with their farm division of the park, hosting Maple Syrup Tours. Starting in mid- March, they are dedicating two weekends for these tours that include wagon rides, a food truck, Motor City Mobile Bar on Saturday, and fresh, dark Maple Syrup and Honey from their own beehives, available at their general store. 

Additionally, The Park Partnership Committee is again holding the annual Eggstravaganza at Maybury Farm. The festivities include egg hunts, face painting, activities, seed planting, coloring, food trucks, the Maybury Farm Animals, and the Easter Bunny. The event will be held on Saturday, April 15th, from 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM. (Rain date Sunday, April 16th), and costs $5.00 per person (cash only), and free for children under two. Maybury State Park contains 1,000 acres of gently rolling terrain, open meadow and mature forest, within the developed land. The park offers an extensive trail system for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing, youth organizational camping, fishing, educational programming and a working farm. Acquired in 1971, the state purchased the land from the city of Detroit, after the closure of the Maybury Sanatorium that once occupied the site.

Girl Scout Camp, Maybury MI - Photo by a camp volunteer

Many of these parks also have select seasonal dates for camping, which can be reserved up to six months in advance, or up to a year in advance for overnight lodging and shelter reservations. It is recommended to check each park’s website for their specific dates and rates.

Hart, MI - Photo by Laura Fawaz

Though these state parks are not free of entry, they can all be entered with one single pass. The recreation passport, which can be used to access all state parks and recreation areas, boating sites, state forest campgrounds, thousands of miles of trails, and more, all year long. According to michigan.gov, the funds derived from this passport go into maintaining and improving the outdoor spaces, as well as protecting natural resources. They are valid for one year, and can be purchased either at the entrance of any state park, or when you renew your license plate through the Secretary of State. Just check ‘yes’ for the recreation passport. They cannot be purchased online. When purchased at time of license plate registration renewal, the cost for each vehicle is $13, and $7 for motorcycles. There is an additional $5 convenience fee when the Recreation Passport is not purchased with the license plate registration renewal.