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7 Michigan Parks to Visit for Epic Outdoor Adventures

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon

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You'll love: the 60,000 acres of wilderness visible from the Summit Peak observation tower rising above the treetops. Trees thrive here in the Midwest's largest tract of old-growth hemlocks and hardwoods. (Add these picturesque national parks to your bucket list too.)

Play: Hike to the rocky escarpment of the iconic Lake of the Clouds scenic overlook. The Mirror Lake Trail descends into the heart of the park, part of a 90-mile trail network.

Stay: Book early for the rustic cabins hidden along the Lake Superior shore, accessible only by foot.

Photo: Aaron Peterson

Silver Lake State Park, Mears

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You'll love: the toys in this grown-up playground—the kind with roaring engines and balloon tires that spray sand.

Play: Thrill-seekers can bring or rent off-road vehicles to blast up the steep slopes and bounce over ridges in the 400 acres of sand dunes. Or sign up for a dune buggy adventure with Mac Wood's Dune Rides. During breaks, hunt for fulgurites—crusts of glass formed when lightning strikes dune sands.

Stay: Choose from more than 200 campsites along Silver Lake.

Photo: Jason Lindsey

Warren Dunes State Park, Sawyer

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You'll love: the beachy bliss that comes dressed in a crisp palette of denim blue and khaki. Lake Michigan laps onto a broad boulevard of sand backed by 235-foot-tall dunes.

Play: The gradual beach provides ample shallow waters for splashing and swimming. Trudge up sandy Tower Hill for views that stretch to the Chicago skyline (best seen at night with binoculars). Bring a skimboard for a wild ride down.

Stay: Choose from three mini cabins and more than 200 campsites.

Photo: Brian Confer

Palms Book State Park, Manistique

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You'll love: Kitch-iti-kipi, also called The Big Spring, the state's largest freshwater spring. At 300 feet across and 40 feet deep, the spring gushes more than 10,000 gallons per minute at a constant temperature of 45 degrees.

Play: Take a ride on a hand-cranked covered raft to see the spring's clear water bubbling up from the bottom, ancient tree trunks, and trout.

Stay: Though the park itself has no campgrounds, nearby resorts offer rental cabins and campsites along Indian Lake.

Photo: Per Breiehagen

Belle Isle State Park, Detroit

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You'll love: the flower-filled conservatory designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, along with other historic buildings and natural areas in this century-old island park.

Play: Rent a bike to cruise the flat, 5-mile drive that loops this island in the Detroit River. Check out the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, where you can peer from the pilothouse of a real Great Lakes freighter as maritime traffic churns past. (Also check out the best places to hike, bike, and paddle in Michigan.)

Stay: The old downtown firehouse is home to the Detroit Foundation Hotel, two blocks from the river.

Photo: Brad Ziegler

Tawas Point State Park, East Tawas

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You'll love: that there's something for everyone in the family: beach, water, a lighthouse and birds—100 species, including the rare Kirtland's warbler, flock by the millions to Tawas Point each spring.

Play: Swim and kiteboard in sun-warmed Lake Huron waters. On dry land, the Sandy Hook Nature Trail wanders through dune grasses and past the Tawas Point Light.

Stay: The park's campgrounds front Huron Bay.

Photo: Jason Lindsey

Isle Royale National Park, via Houghton and Copper Harbor

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You'll love: the solitude on this island marooned in the vast waters of Lake Superior. Free of cars, roads, and most modern conveniences, Isle Royale is wonderfully wild.

Play: Arrive by ferry or seaplane to backpack the island's 165 miles of trails, or kayak along its shoreline of rocky islands and secluded coves.

Stay: Permit camp in the backcountry, or settle in near the ferry dock at Rock Harbor. The town offers lodging, dining, access to trails, and park service boat excursions. (Also keep an eye out for local places to eat fresh Michigan produce.)

Photo: Aaron Peterson


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