7 Michigan National Parks Sites You Need To Visit (+ Extras!)

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Michigan is home to a diverse landscape of national parks and recreational areas. Michigan boasts some of the most beautiful and underrated natural landscapes in the country, in our humble opinion.

From the shores of Lake Michigan to the vast forests of the Upper Peninsula, there are dozens of fantastic opportunities to explore the great outdoors in Michigan.

With natural sites and historic landmarks included in the mix, you won’t lack things to do when visiting any of these Michigan National Parks.

Included in this list are parks, historical sites, and national lakeshores. Each of these sites is managed by the National Park Service, so you don’t have to worry about missing a thing.

How many national parks are in Michigan?

While many people only gravitate towards the parks with the “national park” designation, they’re really missing out on some great experiences in the variety of other lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS). 

There is only one official National Park in Michigan, and that is Isle Royale National Park. There are, however, many other sites managed by the NPS, including Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshores.

There are over 30 different designations given to lands that the NPS manages. It can get confusing trying to figure them all out! But don’t worry! We’re here to help you figure out which Michigan National Parks you should visit next.

Michigan National Parks Map

Michigan National Parks

There is only one national park in Michigan, and it is one of the most difficult parks to reach in the lower 48 states. With that being said, a visit to this Michigan national park is 100% worth the effort!

Only accessible by ferry, seaplane, or private boat, you’ll want to plan your visit early, especially to secure your transportation.

Fall hiking among the changing leaves on Isle Royale, the only Michigan National Park
We loved backpacking on Isle Royale. Keep an eye out for the resident moose!

Isle Royale National Park

This is the land of moose and wolves! Because of the isolated nature of Isle Royale, it is known as one of the best studies anywhere of the predator and prey relationship between these two species.

While the wolves are quite elusive and rarely ever seen by humans, keep your eyes peeled for moose and other inhabitants of the park.


April 3, 1940

Closest City

None… It’s way out in Lake Superior!

When to Visit

Isle Royale National Park is only open seasonally, typically from mid-April through October. It closes down during the winter due to the unsafe conditions out in the middle of Lake Superior.

July and August are some of the most popular months to visit when the temperatures are likely to be the warmest. 

Visit in the spring or the fall, during the shoulder seasons, for fewer visitors, but Isle Royale is worth visiting any time it is safe.

Things to Do

The number one thing to do on Isle Royale is hike! Whether you are planning day hikes from the Rock Harbor Lodge or a multi-day adventure on the Greenstone Ridge Trail, you’ll want to get out and explore the trails.

Backpacking Isle Royale is the best way to see the beauty of the park.

Keep an eye out for the island’s resident moose while you’re out on the trails. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. We were able to watch one feeding near one of the inland lakes.

Boating and fishing are also popular things to do on Isle Royale, and there are some campsites that can only be accessed via boat.

There aren’t many facilities on the island, so come prepared for a more rustic experience.

Where to Stay

Your only option with running water and a bed to sleep in is the Rock Harbor Lodge or one of the few camper cabins, also managed by the Lodge. 

Book as early as you can. The rooms at the Rock Harbor Lodge sometimes fill up months ahead of time.

Otherwise, you’ll have to camp at one of the many campgrounds on the island, but you’ll have to hike to reach most of them. 

Fees and Passes

There is a $7 per day usage fee in Isle Royale National Park. The park is now cashless, so you’ll need to either plan ahead of time and purchase online or pay with a card upon arrival.

Make sure to bring your confirmation with you, as park rangers will check you in and confirm a general itinerary if you are backpacking the island.

National Lakeshores

While each of the national lakeshores in the US is pretty cool to visit, the two in Michigan are often at the top of the list. It’s easy to see why!

Chapel Beach Falls is best experienced and is one of the sights along the most beautiful Michigan hiking trail.
We loved hiking the Chapel Loop. There is so much to see along the way, including this view after reaching the beach.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The stunning cliffs and rock formations along the southern edge of Lake Superior are quite a gem in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is an outdoor lover’s paradise! 


October 15, 1966

Closest City


When to Visit

Pictured Rocks is an all-season destination, but there are certainly highlights for each season.

What are you looking to experience during your visit? That will determine which season is best for you to start planning for!

Spring will have all of the many waterfalls flowing at full force. Hiking in Pictured Rocks can be really fun during the spring. The water in Lake Superior will be freezing, so you probably won’t want to plan a spring beach day.

Summer brings the most visitors, but also the best temperatures. Plan a visit in the summer to enjoy the beautiful beaches and everything that Lake Superior has to offer.

Fall is for leaf peeping! While temperatures can get a little chilly along the shore, don’t let that keep you away. Just add an extra layer and enjoy.

Winter recreation includes ice climbing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Just be sure to bundle up!

Things to Do

There are plenty of things to do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, depending on the time of year in which you visit.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to one of the best hikes in all of Michigan, the Chapel Loop. With a few different spurs and places to shorten (or lengthen) this hike, the main loop trail to the beach covers 6.4 miles and can be extended to 10.2 miles to include additional waterfall views.

You can see multiple waterfalls along the way, spend some time at a beautiful beach, watch the Pictured Rocks cruise and kayak tours go by, and see some of the coolest spots along the way.

Definitely get out and see the cliffs and rock formations from Lake Superior, too. Whether you only have a couple of hours to enjoy the views from a Pictured Rocks cruise or want to get a little more adventurous on a kayak tour, some of the best views are from Lake Superior. 

If you haven’t had enough waterfalls after exploring Pictured Rocks, travel to Tahquamenon Falls to see more stunning and unique cascades.

Where to Stay

Stay in Munising, where you will be close to the cruises and have easy access to hikes and beaches.

There are also some great restaurants in town where you can refuel after a long day of exploring.

Stay at the Holiday Inn Express Munising, where you can enjoy lake views from private balconies atop the cliffs. It’s about 2.5 miles from town, but the views can’t be beaten.

Fees and Passes

There is a $20 fee for private vehicles to enter Pictured Rocks, which is valid for one week.

Motorcycles can enter the park for $15 per week. 

Walk, bike, or snowmobile into the lakeshore for $10 per week.

America the Beautiful passes and individual Pictured Rocks annual passes are also accepted here.

Sleeping Bear Dunes hiking includes covering exposed loose sandy stretches.
Hiking across the sandy dunes in Sleeping Bear Dunes is best done when temperatures are a little cooler.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located along the Lake Michigan coastline of Northern Michigan, is a popular summer getaway and a beautiful lakeside destination.

With towering sand dunes and spectacular lake views, it’s no wonder why this place is one of the state’s most beloved national park sites.


October 21, 1970

Closest City

Traverse City

When to Visit

Parts of Sleeping Bear Dunes are open all year round, but the best time to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.

If you’re visiting to take in the natural landscape, then spring and autumn are good times to go, as they provide mild temperatures that make trekking across the dunes easier to manage.

Summertime usually draws larger crowds but offers swimming opportunities at nearby beaches or coves—not to mention mesmerizing sunsets over Lake Michigan! Those dune sands get extremely hot during the heat of summer, though.

Wintertime provides unique opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Generally speaking, though, any time of year is a great time for exploring this stunning area!

Things to Do

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers an amazing array of fun activities, especially during the summer. From sunbathing on the pristine beaches to exploring miles of trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

One popular activity is hiking Sleeping Bear’s dunes. The park features about 100 miles of trails, taking you from shoreline dunes to the inland forests and lakeshore expanses. Explore the landscape and make sure not to miss out on the breathtaking views.

For history lovers, head over to Historic Port Oneida Rural Historic District. 

Other great things to do in Sleeping Bear Dunes include biking the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, exploring the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, or kayaking the Platte River.

Whether you come for a quick one-day getaway in Sleeping Bear Dunes or spend several days at this gorgeous park – you’ll definitely fall head-over-heels in love with this national lakeshore!

Where to Stay

You won’t find many chain hotels in this area of Michigan, but there are still great places to stay near Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Stay at the Hotel Frankfort, just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The hotel itself is just a short walk from a Lake Michigan beach itself and there are some great places to eat nearby, too.

Fees and Passes

Fee categories for entrance are similar to those at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. For private vehicles, a $25 fee covers a 7-day pass. You’ll need this to park in any of the trailhead parking lots, enter the scenic drive, and use the lakeshore facilities.

Motorcycle passes are $20 for a 7-day pass. 

Those entering on foot or on a bicycle should have the $15/person pass and carry it with them.

Annual Sleeping Bear Dunes and America the Beautiful passes are also available and accepted.

National Battlefield Parks

Serving as a reminder of the US’s past wartime periods, battlefields and conflict areas have been designated for the protection of this history. There are 4 national battlefield parks in the US, and one of them is in Michigan!

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Located in southeastern Michigan in the town of Monroe, this site preserves the history of some of the battles in the War of 1812. This was the location of great defeat for the US during the War of 1812.


October 22, 2010

Closest City

Monroe, Detroit

When to Visit

The River Raisin visitor center is open year-round, but hours do vary between summer and winter seasons.

You’ll get to explore more of the battlefield grounds easily in the summer months. If you want to see more of the historical exhibits and video content inside the visitor center, winter would be a fine time to visit.

Things to Do

In addition to the visitor center and battlefield, there are over 30 sites to explore along the River Raisin Heritage Trail. This was one of the most important areas in the War of 1812, with extensive conflict during January of 1813.

An 8-mile paved path connects many of the sites so you could walk or bike between them.

There is also a driving route connecting sites, where you can learn in-depth about history many people are oblivious to.

Where to Stay

The TownePlace Suites in Monroe is conveniently located less than 2 miles from the visitor center. 

The rooms are extremely clean, and the staff is friendly. What more could you ask for?

Fees and Passes

There are currently no fees for visiting River Raisin National Battlefield Park grounds or visitor centers.

Michigan’s National Historic Parks

National Historic Parks (NHP) are areas designated by the NPS to preserve a time period in US history. The Keweenaw Peninsula has a rich mining history, which is preserved by the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

Keweenaw National Historic Park

Keweenaw National Historic Park is a large national park located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Here, you can learn just about anything that you want to know about the copper mining industry that had the area booming into the 1900s.


October 27, 1992

Closest City

Hancock, Houghton

When to Visit

We just wouldn’t recommend visiting this one in winter. It’s not pleasant going in and out of the museums and heritage centers in the bitter cold.

Be sure to check the current operating hours for each site specifically. Hours are subject to change.

Things to Do

There are 21 different sites that all have some different input on the copper mining history, you’ll learn something different when visiting each one. 

Visit everything from historical mansions to a mineral museum. You can also take guided tours through some of the mines, although they aren’t in operation anymore.

Hike through mine ruins or check out some beautiful lighthouses that are a part of this NHP.

Where to Stay

When visiting the Keweenaw NHP, you’ll want to be conveniently located in the middle of it all. Houghton is a great place to be!
The Country Inn & Suites in town is clean, comfortable, and convenient.

You can also use this as a launch pad for a visit to Isle Royale National Park! Catch either the ferry or seaplane to the island from Houghton.

Fees and Passes

Checking out the visitor center and the national historic park can both be done free of charge! 

Some of the heritage sites that are managed independently of the NPS do have an entrance fee or ask for a donation. It is best to check with specific sites regarding fees and operational hours.

National Heritage Areas

National Heritage Areas (NHA) have been put into place by Congress to protect places that are important to the history and the heritage of the US. There are currently 55 NHAs in the US, and one of them is located in Michigan.

MotorCities National Heritage Area

The MotorCities National Heritage Area recognizes and preserves the breadth and importance of its automotive and labor history.

Established in 1998 to commemorate the significance of the automotive industry in Michigan, this heritage area is managed in cooperation with the NPS, Ford, GM, and other automotive companies.

The MotorCities NHA covers over 10,000 square miles in central and southeast Michigan. Here, you’ll learn the importance that the automotive industry in our nation’s history.


November 6, 1998

Closest City

Detroit, Lansing

When to Visit

You can plan a visit to MotorCities NHA anytime. Most of the sites are inside. You can visit historical industrial plants and museums throughout Detroit and the surrounding region.

Things to Do

There is so much history to learn at these heritage area sites!

The MotorCities National Heritage Area (MNHA) is a great place to explore while visiting Michigan’s national parks. Each year, visitors can take part in a variety of events, activities, and workshops all related to the area’s automotive heritage.

One popular activity is attending car shows or auto-themed events such as cruises and rallies. Visitors can see classic cars from different eras and generations put on display for public viewing. You can also attend a workshop to learn about the history of automobiles and how they were made in the past.

For those interested in seeing the cars themselves, there are several car museums throughout Michigan that feature collections of classic vehicles from different eras including vintage muscle cars. Visitors can get an up-close look at these pieces of history and may even get to ride in some of them!

Pick a road trip route through the area and explore some of the best places to learn about the automotive history of the US.

Where to Stay

While the main center is located right in the center of Detroit, some of the MNHA sites are scattered throughout, so you can stay outside the city. 

For an upscale experience like an automotive executive, stay at The Henry in Dearborn. The hotel is just a short distance from Ford’s headquarters and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Fees and Passes

Fees vary based on each individual site. Some are free, while others are by donation. Each individual site within the heritage area manages its own entrance fees.

National Scenic Trails

There are 11 national scenic trails in the US, and one of them travels extensively through Michigan. You can cover hundreds of 4,600+ miles of this trail within the state’s borders.

Hiking the North Country Scenic Trail is one of the best Pictured Rocks adventures.
The North Country Trail, passing through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

North Country National Scenic Trail

The North Country Trail (NCT, NCNST) is not quite officially complete, but when finished, will be over 4,600 miles long and travel through 8 states. Michigan is home to a significant portion of the NCT.


March 5, 1980

Closest City

Munising, Mackinaw City, Grand Rapids

When to Visit

Summertime is the best time to visit and traverse much of this trail. Camping most of the way, during this time of year, nighttime temperatures will be the most tolerable.

We wouldn’t recommend a winter long-distance hike on this Michigan trail unless you’re a seasoned winter backpacker. Conditions are certainly not always kind.

Things to Do

Whether you plan day hikes or a multi-day backpacking adventure, this is a great trail. You can travel through national forest lands, state parks, and even Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s UP!

Where to Stay

You’ll most likely be camping along the trail somewhere!

Fees and Passes

There is no fee specifically for hiking on the NCT. Check the fees for specific areas like state parks and other facilities, like the fees to enter Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Michigan’s National Forests

While the national forests are not managed by the NPS, but rather by the Department of Forestry, they are often lumped into similar categories. In Michigan, the lands are so close that you may want to visit them all while you’re in the area. 

We thought you might like to know about Michigan’s national forests as you travel through, too. You just might want to add these to your itinerary.

  • Huron-Manistee National Forests
  • Hiawatha National Forest
  • Ottawa National Forest

Camping in Michigan’s National Parks

Let me tell you, there are some absolutely fantastic campsites in these Michigan national parks. How would we know? Well, we’ve camped in and explored them all!

Camping in Michigan’s National Parks is a great way to experience the unique beauty of the state. No matter what kind of camping you’re looking for, from primitive camping spots to RV sites, there’s something for everyone!

The main highlight of camping at Michigan’s national parks is the breathtaking natural setting. You can explore the white sand beaches along Lake Michigan, explore the rock formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or just relax in a secluded campground tucked away in one of Michigan’s national forests.

Tent Site at Lane Cove Campground, Isle Royale National Park
Campsites are extremely beautiful in Isle Royale, just like this spot where we stayed on night #1.

Get out and backpack Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks, or the Manitou Islands at Sleeping Bear Dunes. You’ll love the seclusion offered when getting a little more off the beaten path.

Do you have to hop on a flight to reach these national parks sites? Learn the ins and outs of flying with backpacking gear before you go.

No visit to Michigan would be complete without seeing its incredible wildlife. Many of the park sites are home to rare and endangered species, so keep an eye out for bald eagles, wolves, and elk as you enjoy your stay!

Plus, some of the park areas even offer activities like canoeing, kayaking, biking trails, and stargazing. So pack up your camping gear and get ready for an unforgettable camping adventure in some of America’s most stunning national parks!

FAQs: National Parks in Michigan

How many national parks are in Michigan?

There are 7 sites in the state of Michigan that are managed by the National Park Service, but there is only one with the national park designation. There are 6 other sites, with various designations, within the state. We’ve covered them all, here!

Is Mackinac Island still a national park?

No, unfortunately, Mackinac Island is not a national park, even though it is an extremely popular destination in Michigan. It was considered a national park from 1875 to 1895, though! It was the second national park in the US, only preceded by Yellowstone. Much of the island is now protected as a state park, about 80% percent of the land!

Is Tahquamenon Falls a national park?

Unfortunately not! While Tahquamenon Falls is beautiful and a great spot for hiking in the UP not far from Pictured Rocks, it is a state park. It is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan’s national parks are some of the most underrated, beautiful, and interesting places in the US.

From the serenity of Isle Royale to the history and beautiful views of Sleeping Bear Dunes, there’s something for every kind of nature lover to explore.

So grab your backpack, strap on your hiking boots, and hit the trails; you won’t regret exploring Michigan’s national parks!

Want to visit other nearby national park sites? Check out the national parks in Ohio!