Michigan boasts a plethora of natural parks: five national parks and 74 state parks (nearly one per every county), each with its own natural beauty and outdoor activities to enjoy.
One of the most popular sites for tourists in Michigan is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore northeast of Munising on the Upper Peninsula. Along the 42-miles stretch of shoreline, you can see the weather-sculpted cliffside after which the national park is named. “Pictured Rocks” comes from the streaks of colorful mineral stains caused by groundwater seeping through cracks in the minerals and trickling down the rock face. The most common minerals (and resulting colors) include iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), and limonite (white).
The most recommended way to experience Pictured Rocks’ scenery is by boat, whether by a 2.5 hour narrated boat tour or, if you’re feeling adventurous, by kayak, where you have free reign to explore. If you would rather stay on solid ground, the national park also offers hiking trails like the 10.4 mile Chapel Loop full of waterfalls and wildflowers and the half-mile turtle-spotting Marsh Trail, which is wheelchair accessible.
Other hiking trails in the state include The Ledges in Grand Ledge outside of Lansing. The hike poses little difficulty, and the reward is breathtaking: sandstone formations said to be about 3 million years old.
Stradling the Michigan-Wisconsin Border sits the Menominee River recreation area, another recommended destination for sightseeing and adventure. The recreation area is an hour north of Green Bay on the Upper Peninsula, 9,767 acres, and contains a 17-mile leg of undeveloped river. The park frequently hosts whitewater rafting trips and is known for its rocky gorges, perfect for hiking and mountain biking. The 2.5 mile Piers Gorge Trail is remarkably beautiful, and birdwatchers will be happy to know that ospreys and bald eagles can be seen from the recreation area.
Michigan is also home to the second-least visited park in the country: Isle Royale National Park, a 400-island archipelago in Lake Superior. Its position as second-least visited is partly because it’s only accessible by ferry or seaplane, open from mid-April to the end of October, no wheeled vehicles are allowed in the park, and visitors must travel through the park via kayak, canoe, or on foot. Regardless, the park has so much to offer. Parkgoers who stay overnight can set up camp or reserve a lakeside cabin or cottage offered by Rock Harbor Lodge, and hikers of all experience levels can traverse the park’s trails. For backpackers who want a challenge, the 32.1 mile Minong Ridge Trail will provide with its steep headlands and ever-changing trail conditions. For more casual hikers, the first 6.7 miles from McCargoe Cove to Todd Harbor is recommended most.
With all of its scenic landscapes and natural features, it is no wonder why Michigan and its parks are national treasures.