Undoubtedly among the most beautiful spots in the state, the sandy dunes of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are a hive of activity in the summer months and remain breathtaking throughout the year. Climbing up and down the giant dunes provides not only wonderful vistas but a physical challenge as well.
On the coast of Lake Michigan, the twin towns of Saugatuck and Douglas have a reputation as some of the state’s most picturesque tourists towns. Ride the only hand-cranked chain ferry in the country across the Kalamazoo River and discover Oval Beach. Also, eat in some fantastic restaurants, and enjoy browsing in many shops and art galleries.
In the southwest corner of Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park is just under 2,000 acres in size, with three miles (4.8 kilometers) of coastline and over six miles (9.6 kilometers) of trails. Its main attraction is its dune formation that rises 260 feet (79.2 meters) above the lake, which provides spectacular views and recreational opportunities. There are three campgrounds in the state park.
Moving inland, the Roscommon State Forest area has many scenic features to offer, such as a number of lakes, including the state’s largest inland lake, Houghton Lake, and many miles of hiking trails. There’s also plenty of wildlife to check out and a large number of camping opportunities.
Sticking with national forests, the Huron-Manistee National Forest covers a large part of the western side of the Lower Peninsula, being nearly one million acres in size. Obviously, such a large area contains a lot of ecological features, including prairie remnants, coastal marshlands and dunes, and many options for camping.
Moving to the Upper Peninsula now and the Newberry State Forest Area, which has over 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) of coastline on Lake Superior and two small state parks within its boundaries. It’s also the designated “Moose Capital of Michigan,” and there are many options for fishing, hiking and winter recreation due to its large snowfall each year. There are 18 state forest campgrounds from which to choose.
Staying in the Upper Peninsula, if waterfalls are your thing, then the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great choice. The Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, is nearly 50 feet (15.2 meters) high and more than 200 feet (60.9 meters) across. It’s the centerpiece of almost 50,000 acres stretching over 13 miles (20.9 kilometers).
On the western side of the Upper Peninsula lies the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan’s largest state park and one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest. Largely untouched by humanity, alongside the many popular natural attractions, there’s even an 18-hole disc golf course and skiing.
Wilderness State Park sits on the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, offering 26 miles (41.8 kilometers) of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, as well as a variety of year-round recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, and mountain biking. There are two campsites and even several rustic cabins in which to stay.
If sandy beaches and scenic sand dunes sound like your kind of camping, then yet another option on the west coast of Michigan is Ludington State Park. Sitting between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, the park features a number of hiking trails and even a four-mile (6.4-kilometer) canoe trail, as well as the popular Big Sable Point Lighthouse. The park is home to three modern campgrounds.
On the shore of Lake Superior, the main attraction of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is its dramatic, multi-colored sandstone cliffs, which reach up to 200 feet (60.7 meters) above the lake and account for 15 of the 42 miles (40.2 kilometers) of shoreline within the park. That’s not all though; there are also more than 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) of beautiful beaches and nearly five miles (eight kilometers) of huge sand dunes to check out.
Mixing the historic with the more beautiful Lake Michigan coastline, Fayette Historic State Park features more than 20 restored buildings on the site of a historic community, centered around Snail Shell Harbor. There’s a lot to do, from learning about life in a 19th-century industrial town to hiking along the coast or getting out onto the water.
Near one of Michigan’s favorite tourist towns, the Traverse City State Park is a great place to camp for access to both nature and the city. The small park is just two miles (3.2 kilometers) from downtown Traverse City and features a quarter-mile-long beautiful beach, while the nearby Traverse City State Forest offers plenty of rugged outdoors.
There are a number of campsites in the Pigeon River Country State Forest area, and the Pigeon River and its surrounding trails offer many recreational opportunities, from fishing and wildlife-watching (it’s in the heart of Michigan’s elk range) to hiking, biking, and horse riding.
Only an hour west of Detroit and near the famous town of Hell, Michigan, the Waterloo State Recreation Area is a good option for a quick weekend away from the city. It features a number of modern campsites, multiple trails for nature and hiking, swimming beaches, and a discovery center.