5 Michigan outdoor adventures for an unforgettable summer

In 2024, some of Michigan’s most beloved state parks are getting long-awaited upgrades, leading to temporary closures of campgrounds, trails, and recreation areas. If your favorite spots are affected, don’t worry! Here are some alternative destinations to explore Michigan’s great outdoors and maybe even discover new favorites.

Explore Michigan’s National Forests

Michigan’s three National Forests—Huron-Manistee, Ottawa, and Hiawatha—cover nearly 3 million acres across the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. These forests offer endless opportunities for camping, hiking, paddling, fishing, wildlife viewing, and exploring historical sites.

  • Huron-Manistee National Forest: Hike along the AuSable River and visit the Lumberman’s Monument in Oscoda.
  • Ottawa National Forest: Camp and chase waterfalls in this scenic and wild area.
  • Hiawatha National Forest: Climb the historic Point Iroquois Lighthouse and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Learn more at fs.usda.gov.

Hike a Section of the North Country Trail

The 4,800-mile North Country National Scenic Trail winds through 11 states, with Michigan boasting the longest segment at over 1,100 miles. Local chapters can guide you on shorter or longer hikes, showcasing Michigan’s diverse landscapes, from southern dune landscapes to western Upper Peninsula boreal forests.

Find local chapters and trail suggestions at northcountrytrail.org.

See Northern Lights and Starry Nights at a Dark Sky Park

Thanks to the current “solar maximum,” this year has seen incredible Northern Lights displays, increasing interest in aurora borealis and other celestial events. Michigan’s dark-sky parks and preserves offer excellent stargazing and respite from light pollution.

  • Dark Sky Parks: Beaver Island, Headlands near Mackinaw City, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor, Dr. Lawless Park in Vandalia.
  • Dark Sky Preserves: Lake Hudson, Negwegon, Port Crescent, Rockport, Thompson’s Harbor, and Wilderness State Park.

More information at darkskymichigan.org.

Soak Up the Beauty of Legacy Lands

Michigan’s outdoor spaces are preserved by over two dozen nonprofit nature conservancies and land trusts. Discover these enchanting properties on your next vacation.

  • Offield Family Viewlands: This 280-acre former golf course in Harbor Springs, reopened as a preserve by Little Traverse Conservancy, offers stunning overlooks, hiking and mountain biking trails, a reflection labyrinth, and excellent night-sky viewing.

Find more at landtrustalliance.org.

Paddle a Water Trail

Michigan boasts over 3,000 miles of water trails perfect for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, or other non-motorized watercraft. These trails feature multiple access points, points of interest, and amenities like restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds.

  • Paddle Antrim’s Chain of Lakes: A family-friendly trail covering over 100 miles of pristine scenery and quaint towns.
  • Isle Royale National Park: Join Keweenaw Adventure Company for a rugged paddling adventure.

Discover more trails at michiganwatertrails.org.

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