Stunning Upper Peninsula State Parks to Explore in Michigan

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From the majestic waterfalls to the breathtaking views of Lake Superior, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan offers some of the most stunning state parks in the country. Whether you’re looking for a scenic hike or a peaceful day of fishing, these picturesque parks are filled with beautiful spaces to explore.

From Tahquamenon Falls State Park to Fort Wilkins State Park, let’s explore some of the best Upper Peninsula state parks and find out where you’re going to explore next!

The Best Upper Peninsula State Parks

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is home to some of the most beautiful and scenic state parks in the country. From challenging hikes to peaceful days spent on the lake, these parks offer unique outdoor experiences that are sure to create lasting memories.

Whether you’re heading up to the Keweenaw Peninsula to catch a ride to backpack Isle Royale National Park or spending a few days exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you shouldn’t skip over some of these beautiful smaller state parks.

Enjoy birdwatching and photography at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where you can explore over 90,000 acres of old-growth forest and breathtaking views. Check out a few of the amazingly diverse Upper Peninsula waterfalls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

No matter what type of outdoor adventure you’re looking for, the Upper Peninsula offers plenty of options when it comes to state park exploration.

Don’t forget to purchase your Michigan State Parks pass before your visit so you can save money on admission fees!

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Upper Tahquamenon Falls and the Tahquamenon River are surrounded by forested land of Michigan's Upper Peninsula state parks.
Our view of Upper Tahquamenon Falls from the wooden viewing platform in mid-September

Take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and feast your eyes on the stunning Tahquamenon Falls State Park! While it is definitely a popular park and weekends will likely be buzzing with visitors, the views of the falls are worth the crowds.

Located near Paradise, Michigan, the park covers over 45,000 acres of land and includes a variety of trails for hiking, biking, camping, and more.

The main attractions of Tahquamenon Falls State Park are its namesake waterfalls – even one of the largest in the state and in the US east of the Mississippi.

The Upper Tahquamenon Falls (the second largest falls east of the Mississippi) are accessible via paved trails that wind through the forest leading up to the falls. This majestic waterfall spans 200 feet across and can be viewed from a number of different vantage points along the trail. There are plenty of steps you will have to navigate to reach the lowest viewpoints, so come prepared with appropriate footwear!

The Lower Tahquamenon Falls offer a more intimate experience with their smaller size but equally stunning views. There is boat access as well as a walking bridge to a small island in the middle of the river, so you can get even closer to these picturesque cascades.

Be sure to take some time to explore all the park has to offer! There are fun things to do at Tahquamenon Falls State Park whether you visit for a few hours or a few days.

Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island State Park offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Located just into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the middle of Lake Huron, this park covers and protects 80% of the island. The easiest way to access is by ferry or private boat.

Fun fact: Mackinac Island was a national park before it was handed over to the state. It was the country’s second national park, just behind Yellowstone.

The island is home to numerous attractions including Fort Mackinac, a former military outpost built in 1782. Visitors can explore these historic grounds or take a guided tour to learn more about its history.

Nature lovers will also appreciate all that Mackinac Island State Park has to offer. The park features over 70 miles of trails for hiking and biking, making it easy to explore the island’s natural beauty.

When you’re ready for some rest and relaxation, head to one of the many beaches along Mackinac Island’s shoreline. Whether you prefer lounging in the sun or getting out on a kayak, there are plenty of opportunities for fun in the sun at this beautiful state park. 

Stay at the iconic Grand Hotel while on Mackinac Island. With the historic charm and unique rooms, the experience is not like any other in the Midwest.

While on the island, enjoy the views of the Mackinac Bridge, which you probably used to access the upper peninsula. This engineering marvel is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere!

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

An overlook view of the glassy lake below surrounded by lush green forests with a rocky outcropping in the bottom right in Porcupine Mountains, one of Michigan's Upper Peninsula state parks.
overlook in Porcupine Mountains State Park

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a nature-lovers paradise located on the west side of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This stunning park is the largest in the state of Michigan and features absolutely stunning overlooks.

Spend your days exploring the rugged terrain and serene beauty of this natural wonderland by hiking, biking, swimming or simply enjoying the breathtaking views. There are also nearly 90 miles of trails to explore throughout “the Porkies”, making it ideal for overnight camping trips.

For those who want to take their journey even further, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers canoeing and kayaking opportunities as well as several educational programs that teach visitors about local wildlife, geology, and ecology.

In addition to its amazing outdoor activities, the park also features numerous historical sites. No matter what you choose to do here, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Presque Isle Park

Presque Isle Park, not to be confused with Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA, is an outdoor lover’s dream space. Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near the city of Marquette, this state park offers a variety of activities with beautiful views of mighty Lake Superior.

The shoreline of Presque Isle boasts rugged sandstone cliffs and black rock beaches with breathtaking views and adrenaline-pumping activities. Take a leisurely stroll along the shore or jump in the crystal-clear waters, diving in from the 10 or 15-foot tall rocky cliffs – whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience!

For those looking for more activity, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails throughout the park as well as boat launches for those who want to explore the lake by water.

Popular with locals, the park is often just referred to as “the island,” even though it sits on a peninsula. The road through the park does close to vehicles during the winter, but you can still access parts of the park on foot or other nonmotorized traffic.

Palms Book State Park

Palms Book State Park is a hidden gem in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula! This tranquil park is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The biggest draw for visitors road-tripping around the UP is to check out Kitch-iti-kipi—the largest freshwater spring in Michigan! Known as “The Big Spring”, this natural wonder features crystal blue water that is a constant 45 degrees all year, despite the variation of temperatures throughout Michigan’s summers and winters.

The raft at Kitch-iti-kipi follows a guide cable to take you to the center of the crystal clear waters in Palms Book, an Upper Peninsula state park in Michigan.
The raft is propelled by a hand-turned wheel and led by a guide wire across the spring.

When you visit Kitch-iti-kipi, there is a viewing area a short walk from the parking lot. You can also hop on the raft which wheels out into the center of the spring. Clear viewing platforms embedded in the floor of the raft allow visitors to see the large fish swimming around in the water.

While this is a park we’d recommend for a quick visit, the Kitch-iti-kipi experience at Palms Book State Park shouldn’t be missed!

Craig Lake State Park

Craig Lake State Park is the perfect spot for a peaceful getaway in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Located about an hour west of Marquette, this park offers an array of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Visitors can explore miles of trails that wind through pristine forests and wetlands in this 8,400-acre state park, or take advantage of one of the park’s six lakes for great fishing.

It is recommended that you come to this park with 4-wheel drive and high clearance. Some of the roads in the park are rocky and may become inaccessible to small cars at times. 

This is one of the most remote spots in the Upper Peninsula, so make sure you have everything that you need for your entire trip. There aren’t any camp stores or supply shops in the park.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day outdoors or an unforgettable camping experience, Craig Lake State Park provides both of these options. Come experience all that this hidden gem has to offer!

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is a beautiful and historically significant destination in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Located on the shores of Lake Fanny Hooe near Copper Harbor, this park offers visitors a glimpse into the copper mining industry of the past.

Explore the fort built in 1844 or take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque park grounds. Take a walk on the foot trails throughout the park and keep watch for wildlife as you stroll. The Keweenaw Peninsula is a hub for migratory birds!

In addition to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, Fort Wilkins State Park has plenty of educational offerings as well. Take part in one of their informational programs or join a guided tour to learn more about the history and culture of this special place.

No matter what brings you to this idyllic spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, come explore all that it has to offer and make lasting memories surrounded by natural beauty and historical significance.

Straits State Park

Straits State Park is the first one you’ll come across after driving the Mackinac Bridge to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Whether you’re looking for a camping trip, a beach getaway, or just a day of exploring, Straits State Park has fairly easy access.

The park is situated on a scenic shoreline with wide views of the Straits of Mackinac. Spend the day exploring the one-mile hiking trail and a short interpretive trail showcasing the history of Father Marquette

When you’re done exploring, end your day with some relaxation at the beach. With its crystal-clear waters on Lake Huron, Straits State Park is the perfect spot to get away for a weekend of fun without being too far from plenty of amenities and modern conveniences.

No matter what brings you to this beautiful spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’ll marvel at the views and enjoy your time at Straits State Park.

a view from the beach with the 5-mile-long Mackinac bridge in the distance on a cloudy day
Mackinac Bridge in the distance

Where to Buy a Michigan State Parks Pass

If you’re planning to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula state parks, then you’ll need to make sure that you have a valid park pass. A Michigan State Parks pass is required for access to all state parks, and it can be purchased online or at any of the state parks’ entrances throughout the region.

The cost of a pass varies depending on the type of vehicle that you’re driving and the number of days that you plan to stay in the park. If you’re a Michigan resident, an annual pass for one car costs $13, while a one-day pass for one car costs just $7. Purchase at the time of your license plate renewal and save a $5 convenience fee.

For non-residents, both daily and annual passes are available. Daily passes cost $11, and you can enter any state park for the day it is purchased. These passes also allow re-entry if you leave or if you want to try and visit multiple parks in one day.

Annual passes are $39 for non-residents. This will include a permanent sticker attached to the windshield of your vehicle.

There are separate fees for towed vehicles.

Purchase your annual passes online in advance from the Michigan DNR. There may be a few weeks of processing time. Otherwise, purchase in person at one of the parks in you need a pass sooner.

Whether you plan on spending just one day or several weeks exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula state parks, make sure that you have a valid park pass!

Check out the view of the fish below swimming in turquoise water through the center of the raft at Kitch-iti-kipi
We could see these fish below in the freshwater spring of Palms Book State Park.

FAQs: Upper Peninsula State Parks

Planning a visit to one of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula state parks? We’ve got you covered with some frequently asked questions.

How many state parks are in the Upper Peninsula Michigan?

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse state parks in the United States. With over 20 state parks scattered across the region, visitors are sure to find something that suits their style and interests.

What is the most beautiful state park in Michigan?

There is certainly some debate about this one! The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is home to some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring state parks in the United States. With its vast array of natural beauty, it can be difficult to pick just one.

That being said, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has earned the title of ‘Most Beautiful State Park’ in the US from places like Travel Lens in 2022. 

How many waterfalls are in the Upper Peninsula?

Waterfalls are one of nature’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring wonders. Fortunately for visitors to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there are plenty of breathtaking waterfalls to explore! In total, the UP is home to more than 300 spectacular waterfalls.

While some can be accessed by vehicle or a short hike, others require a bit more effort and may even involve a multi-day backpacking trip. From Tahquamenon Falls to the waterfalls of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and every single one in between, each waterfall in the region has its own unique character and beauty that makes it worth seeking out.

A view from the side of Lower Tahquamenon Falls in one of the most visited Upper Peninsula State parks.
Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula state parks is quite an adventure. From the stunning views of Lake Superior and the natural beauty of Tahquamenon Falls to the history preserved at Fort Wilkins, there are countless reasons to spend some time exploring this amazing area.

No matter what you’re looking for, chances are there’s a state park in the Upper Peninsula that can provide it. So pack up your tent and get ready for an unforgettable experience!