As I was planning my a United States country-wide tour, I knew that I wanted to try visiting at least one of the national parks in each state.
This meant a lot of research to see what national parks are out there, what there is to do, how long you ideally need in each park, and what’s the best route from A to B to maximize time.
I started my research of the national parks in Michigan and I got really excited by everything you could do there.
Firstly, I didn’t even know Michigan had this many national parks. Here’s what I learned:
How Many National Parks Are in Michigan?
Technically, Michigan only has 5 national parks: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Keweenaw National Historic Park, and Isle Royale National Park. However, 2 are affiliate sites: Motor Cities National Heritage Area and North Country National Scenic Trail.
What National Parks Are in Michigan?
Here are the 5 national parks that you can visit in Michigan:
National Park 1: Isle Royale National Park
On 207 acres of land, Isle Royale National Park is actually an island that is located in the northwest of Lake Superior. You can only access this national park in summer via seaplane or boat from Copper Harbor.
It is a popular destination for paddlers, scuba divers (who like to explore the shipwrecks), and hikers.
You can also join the Moosewatch Expedition, which is the United States’ longest-running study of predator and prey: the wolves and the moose on the island.
To stay overnight, you need a permit, so planning ahead is a must (like I did). You can either camp or stay in Rock Harbor Lodge.
National Park 2: Keweenaw National Historic Park
Keweenaw National Historic Park can be found in the western U.P (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan. The place’s natural beauty lies in its lakes and mountains. But there is more!
Only open from mid-April to October, you can tour the large copper mines, like Quincy Mine and Delaware Copper Mine. Copper has been extracted from this area for more than 7,000 years.
There are also various museums that you can take the time to explore.
National Park 3: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The 70,000 acres Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is open all year round. You can enjoy various winter activities here, as well as kayaking, hiking, and boat tours.
With hiking, there are more than 100 miles of trails to explore and 7 waterfalls.
The Pictured Rocks themselves are quite something to behold and they are best seen by boat. The unusual sandstone cliff and rock formations are multicolored, thanks to the minerals (copper, iron, manganese, and limonite) that are present in the rock.
There are also caverns to explore, waterfalls to see, and rock archways to bewonder.
Don’t miss Miners Castle, Chapel Rock, Twelvemile Beach, and the remnants of shipwrecks you can spot along the shoreline.
National Park 4: River Raisin National Battlefield Park
River Raisin National Battlefield Park is in the southeast of the state and it’s also open all year round.
Start at the visitor center and then explore the interpretive walking trails to learn more about the War of 1812. This park’s the only national park dedicated to remembering this war.
National Park 5: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
In northwestern Michigan, you can visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is west of Traverse City for about 25 miles. Open the whole year, in this national park you can explore the largest moving sand dune in the world.
Take a scenic drive, go hiking, camping, or climb the 400-foot high dune. You can also ski here in winter.
Don’t forget to visit the maritime museum and the lighthouses.
National Park 6: Motor Cities National Heritage Area (Affiliate)
Visiting the Motor Cities National Heritage Area means taking a road trip to explore the evolution of the automobile industry.
With the NPS Passport Stamp Program, you can collect stamps as you visit the sites, comprising museums, gardens, historic homes, factory tours, cemeteries, and libraries, within this area.
Plan a visit to The Henry Ford complex (where you’ll find the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village), the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the Automotive Hall of Fame, Michigan Fire House Museum, and Hickory Corners.
National Park 7: North Country National Scenic Trail (Affiliate)
The North Country National Scenic Trail forms part of the North Country Trail (NCT), a 4,6000-mile trail that spans seven states. The start point of the trail is in New York, and it ends in North Dakota (the vice versa).
The part of the trail that is in Michigan spans 1,150 miles, the most miles in all the seven states.
There is a variety of fauna, flora, and terrain to see on the trail. You can opt for a short afternoon stroll to a more strenuous day hike, or even challenge yourself to do multi-day hiking and cover a large distance.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Many National Parks Are in Michigan
Where is Isle Royale located?
Isle Royale’s a national park that is an island in Lake Superior. It is located in northwestern Michigan and forms part of Keweenaw county.
Does anyone live on Isle Royale?
No one currently lives year-round on Isle Royale. In the summer, the national park is used for wilderness recreation. Visitors can stay overnight, but a permit is needed.
Michigan has a lot to offer in terms of the variety of national parks on offer.
If you love nature, then Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and the North Country National Scenic Trail that goes through the state of Michigan are must-sees.
If you are a history buff and would like to learn more about the War of 1812 and copper mining that predated the gold rush, then Keweenaw National Historic Park and River Raisin National Battlefield Park should be on your travel bucket list.
And why not add the Motor Cities National Heritage Area and learn about Henry Ford?
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