The breathtaking lakeshores and mountains of Michigan can be experienced all across the state through multiple national parks. Many of the parks offer a glimpse into the region’s history and wild expanses of forest. Many large predators call this area home, and the lakeshores are teeming with small mammals and fish species.
The entire state of Michigan is home to six national parks in total, and each one offers a unique view of the state. Each has opportunities to hike, camp, kayak, or otherwise enjoy nature.
1. Keweenaw National Historical Park
|Keweenaw National Historical Park|
|Animal to see||Brown bat|
|Attraction to see||Heritage sites|
This historic site in Michigan was the site of Keweenaw copper mining for around 7,000 years. Native Americans once used it to create tools and weapons, and the mineral rush of the 1800s saw the introduction of several robust mining communities. While the mines are out of service now, visitors to Keweenaw National Park can still tour these historical landmarks. There are 21 heritage sites to explore and a park store full of unique souvenirs.
The sites offer a great way to immerse yourself in the area’s rich history. The mines have become a perfect habitat for bats, and the nearby woodlands are home to flying squirrels, pigeons, crows, and skunks. The park covers 59,000 acres of land and has plenty of hiking, camping, and canoeing opportunities.
2. Isle Royale National Park
|Isle Royale National Park|
|Animal to see||Moose|
|Attraction to see||Rock Harbor Light|
Houghton, Michigan, is home to the isolated island park of Isle Royale. The rugged landscape is secluded, far from any civilization, and surrounded by Lake Superior. Beautiful scenic views can be found all around the island, and there are plenty of opportunities to go kayaking, canoeing, and scuba diving. There’s also plenty of adventure to be found backpacking and hiking. The main island is nine miles wide and 45 miles long, and four-fifths of the park is underwater. The wilderness of Isle Royale is teeming with moose and wolves.
It’s a car-free landscape that can only be reached by seaplane or ferry. Multiple services are in place to make it easy for visitors to reach the park. Isle Royale is home to three different lighthouses: Passage Island Light, Menagerie Island Light, and Rock Harbor Light. A trail stretches across the island, connecting Rock Harbor to Windigo Harbor.
3. North Country National Scenic Trail
|North Country National Scenic Trail|
|Animal to see||Cougars|
|Attraction to see||Little Presque Isle Point|
The North Country National Scenic Trail runs through eight states, from Vermont to North Dakota. Historical landmarks along the trail showcase an early look into the lives of American settlers. Sections can be visited in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The trail runs through valleys, hills, lakeshores, and prairies. It’s over 4,000 miles long, and Michigan is home to more of the scenic trail than any other state.
Around 550 miles in the Upper Peninsula, before it cuts through the Mackinac Bridge, it extends another 600 miles to Ohio. When you traverse the North County Trail in Michigan, it will take you along the shore of Lake Superior and past numerous waterfalls and streams. You might run into turtles, cougars, and river otters during your adventure.
4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
|Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore|
|Animal to see||Black bear|
|Attraction to see||Whitefish Point Lighthouse|
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan is full of gorgeous dunes, waterfalls, cliffs, and shorelines. The vast forests of this national park are home to various animal species, including deer, songbirds, moose, and black bears. Lakeshore habitats are full of various fish species, crustaceans, and mussels. Sight-seeing and outdoor exploring can be done any time of the year, as the park has something unique to offer each season.
There are endless opportunities for hiking and camping adventures in Pictured Rocks. The park is 42 miles long, with 15 miles of the cliffside. The natural beauty is unforgettable, but the Upper Peninsula also offers attractions like the Whitefish Point Lighthouse and the Bear Trap Inn.
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
|Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore|
|Animal to see||Snow hare|
|Attraction to see||Point Betsie Lighthouse|
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore stretches above Lake Michigan and offers a hundred miles of hiking trails along the shoreline. The natural landscape of Michigan is full of lakes, forests, and various wildlife species. It offers unique scenic views and an island lighthouse. Coastal farmsteads and villages showcase the agricultural history of the community. The Sleeping Bear Dunes cover 111 square miles of land and run for 35 miles along the eastern coast of Michigan. Visitors to the park can also experience the Point Betsie Lighthouse and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Animals found in Sleeping Bear are representative of wildlife across the entire state. You can expect to see snow hares, red foxes, and porcupines. The lakes are home to beavers, otters, salmon, snakes, and turtles.
6. River Raisin National Battlefield Park
|River Raisin National Battlefield Park|
|Animal to see||Mink|
|Attraction to see||Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial|
River Raisin National Battlefield is the site of several battles that took place during the War of 1812. It commemorates the battle in January of 1813, the Battle of Frenchtown. It covers more than 40 acres of land in southeast Michigan and is the only national commemoration to mark the War of 1812. The American loss of the battle created the phrase, “remember the raisin,” because of how bloody the casualties were.
The area’s native beavers played an important role in the Michigan fur trade of the 1800s and can still be found around the lakeshores today. River Raisin is also home to minks, otters, foxes, and raccoons. In a 1980s attempt to restore wildlife habitats of concern in the Great Lakes, many of the mammals hunted for their fur were able to restore their populations. According to the Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, the effort began by restoring polluted waterfronts to bring back wildlife and boost tourism.
Summary of 6 Best National Parks to Visit in Michigan
Here’s a recap of six top national parks in Michigan that we took a look at.
|Number||National Park||Size||Animal to See||Attraction to See|
|1||Keweenaw National Historical Park||59,000 acres||Brown bat||Heritage sites|
|2||Isle Royale National Park||571,000 acres||Moose||Rock Harbor Light|
|3||North Country National Scenic Trail||21,400 acres||Cougar||Little Presque Isle Point|
|4||Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore||73,236 acres||Black bear||Whitefish Point Lighthouse|
|5||Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore||71,119 acres||Snow hare||Point Betsie Lighthouse|
|6||River Raisin National Battlefield Park||42 acres||Mink||Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial|
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