Michigan National Parks You Have to Visit at Least Once

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Michigan hosts a plethora of national monuments, seashores, battlefields, and historical sites, all maintained by the National Park Service.

Whether you want to head to the UP (Upper Peninsula) or The Mitten (Lower Peninsula), you will have plenty of vacation attractions to keep the family engaged throughout the Great Lake State. You can visit all of Michigan’s national park properties.

Today, we’ll explore the best Michigan national parks you should visit at least once!

How Many National Parks Are in Michigan? 

Officially, Michigan has one national park, Isle Royale National Park, which lies in the middle of Lake Superior. But the National Park Service manages six other properties.

You will have your choice of visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores, the North Country Trail, and River Raisin National Battlefield.

Or visit MotorCities National Heritage Area or Keweenaw National Historical Park if you would like to cover all the national sites in your National Park Passport Book.

A map of Michigan showing the upper and lower peninsula and main cities

About Michigan National Treasures  

Michigan has bragging rights for the most and least visited parks in the Upper Midwest, with seven national sites. Here’s a little insight into each of these gems! 

Isle Royale National Park

The least-visited national park in the lower 48 and Michigan is also the country’s quietest. Isle Royale National Park is difficult to access. It closes for the winter, and the open season still requires a ferry boat or plane ride to this water-locked park amid Lake Superior. 

Because of its remote location, Isle Royale is home to wildlife in great numbers. In particular, the island’s moose and wolves have a running competition for the largest populations.

Kayak and canoe are the two most useful means of transportation here, with quiet ventures along calm shorelines. You can go backcountry camping or stay at the seasonal lodge with 60 rooms.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore brims with hidden coves, waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and forests that make it a favored getaway for many exploring Michigan.

The park is open year-round. Waterfall enthusiasts can enjoy the mist coming off the water or go ice climbing on them in the winter.

Paddlers can explore the 40 miles of lakeshore or go camping and hiking. It’s easy to see why Pictured Rocks has become one of the state’s biggest attractions.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 

Sleeping Bear Dunes lies on the northwest side of the Lower Peninsula, not far from Traverse City. While not a national park, this Michigan lakeshore proves that you don’t need an ocean to enjoy sand dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes can make a perfect coastal getaway between the beach-lined harbors and the towering cliff overlooks. Even the night skies put on a show, with darkness deep enough to showcase star-studded galaxies.

Visitors can bike along the Sleeping Dunes Heritage Trail, connecting several towns like Glen Arbor and Empire. Or spend an afternoon hiking the dunes and running down them.

Standing at the top of a dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore looking over Lake Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park 

Who knew that the northern tip of the Mitten was a central mining region for copper? Keweenaw National Historical Park in Michigan’s lower peninsula comprises 21 different copper sites starting more than 7,000 years ago.

The park covers the geologic makeup of the area and its cultural history. It documents the town of Calumet as one of the wealthiest towns in the country long before the Gold Rush.

Woman looking at the water at one of the Michigan national parks

MotorCities National Heritage Area

Detroit, also known as Motor City, is the home of automotive history. It hosts the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum, and Hickory Corners.

These three sites form the MotorCities National Heritage Area and showcase the automotive industry’s evolution. At center stage is Henry Ford, with sites dedicated to the Model T and the first factory of the Ford Motor Company.

Plus, it has numerous examples that support his reputation as the father of the road trip. The National Park Service in Michigan maintains this site as well.

Pro Tip: Save money while you’re in Michigan with these 10 free camping spots!

North Country National Scenic Trail

Michigan boasts 1,150 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail — the most of all seven states crossed by this challenging trail system.

The path through the state starts at the south-central border and traverses north up to the UP. It then goes across to the southern tip of Lake Superior.

t’s a backpacker’s delight, but portions of the trail allow other forms of non-motorized use, as well.

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Learn about the War of 1812 and how it played out in Michigan at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park near Monroe.

Skirmishes in this region occurred in 1813. The park commemorates them with a visitor center full of artifacts and exhibits.

Dioramas depict the wars of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames. Additionally, guests can see original military firearms and watch a fiber-optic map presentation of the battles.

An old canon at sunset at River Raisin National Battlefield Park

What Is the Least Visited National Park in Michigan? 

Isle Royale National Park is the least visited national property in Michigan, mainly because of its remote location. Moose and wolves are its year-round residents.

But when the spring thaw arrives, national park visitors come by boat or plane. They can indulge in the peaceful exploration of its quiet wilderness. This is not a park created for unusual attractions or big crowd-drawing sites. It’s a place of escape and tranquility.

Keep in Mind: Haven’t camped in Michigan before? No worries! Here’s everything you need to know about Michigan camping!

Michigan National Parks Are Worth the Trip 

You may only find wolverines in Ann Arbor, but you can visit many wild places within the state. Visitors could fill an entire summer with national park tours. Or the historic sites and museums within the National Park Service’s offerings may capture your spirit of innovation and adventure. Don’t miss any of these  Michigan national park treasures, or you may regret it.

Are any of these Michigan national park offerings on your bucket list?

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