Discover the 6 Best National Parks to Visit in Michigan

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: May 28, 2022
Image Credit ehrlif/Shutterstock.com
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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
Keweenaw National Historical Park covers 59,000 acres of land and has plenty of hiking, camping, and canoeing opportunities.

ehrlif/Shutterstock.com

Keweenaw National Historical Park
Size59,000 acres
Animal to seeBrown bat
Attraction to seeHeritage 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
Isle Royale is home to three different lighthouses: Passage Island Light, Menagerie Island Light, and Rock Harbor Light.

Steven Schremp/Shutterstock.com

Isle Royale National Park
Size571,000 acres
Animal to seeMoose
Attraction to seeRock 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 9 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
The North Country National Scenic Trail runs through eight states, from Vermont to North Dakota.

ehrlif/Shutterstock.com

North Country National Scenic Trail
Size21,400 acres
Animal to seeCougars
Attraction to seeLittle 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 four thousand 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
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is full of gorgeous dunes, waterfalls, cliffs, and shorelines.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Size73,236 acres
Animal to seeBlack bear
Attraction to seeWhitefish 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
The Sleeping Bear Dunes cover 111 square miles of land and run for 35 miles along the eastern coast of Michigan.

Craig Sterken/Shutterstock.com

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Size71,119 acres
Animal to seeSnow hare
Attraction to seePoint 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
River Raisin National Battlefield Park is home to minks, otters, foxes, and raccoons.

Barbara Kalbfleisch/Shutterstock.com

River Raisin National Battlefield Park
Size42 acres
Animal to seeMink
Attraction to seePerry’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 over 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. 

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