Michigan holds some of the United States’ most beautiful scenery and views. Along with its natural beauty comes it cultural and natural history as well. Like many of the states in the U.S., Michigan has devoted many acres of land to preserve its beautiful ecosystems. Many state parks also double as natural history, or living history museums, which teach visitors about the life that inhabits their own back yards. State parks generally have a parking or admittance fee, but there are some state parks in Michigan that are free to visit. However, those planning on visiting a park should remember to bring good shoes to walk in, sunscreen, bug repellant and water to stay hydrated as these parks are often quite large. Various parks offer visitors opportunities for additional activities besides just hiking or interpretive programs. Michigan state parks are also well-known for their horseback riding, zip lining, kayaking, rock climbing, swimming, hunting and fishing opportunities. The following sections offer information on some of the best parks to visit in Michigan.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
There exist few other parks like the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Michigan. This beautiful park is home to many sculptural masterpieces created by famous sculptors the world over including Carrier-Belluese, Rodin and Degas. There are also contemporary pieces that are placed throughout the park, but the permanent collection is from more renowned artists from the 19th century. Throughout the gardens are sculptures that have been called “H.P Lovecraftian in essence” which refers to several tendril-like glass sculptures on the park grounds. On the manicured grounds of the park lies a large botanical display in the tropical observatory. The park holds many exotic species from all over the world, like the bread fruit, which has made this park a worldwide travel destination.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
A park that looks as if it were straight out of a painting is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This park shows off some amazing multi-colored and hued sandstone cliffs that are simply breathtaking. It also features beautiful beaches spanning for miles down the park’s coastline on Lake Superior. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of only four national lakeshores in America. This park has hundreds of miles of trails to explore which lead to different habitats including bogs and rivers. There is camping allowed in the designated areas, and the park is open year-round.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Established in 1970 by the Establishment act, the Sleeping Bear Dunes State park is a very old park whose formation dates back to around the last glacial thaw. The name comes from the large and vast dunes that sit nearly five hundred feet above the Lake Superior shoreline. This park is very water oriented in that there is nearly 65 miles of shoreline and many streams to explore and discover. Even though this park is very long and very wide it is home to dense forests and pristine natural land formations made by the glacial thaw process. This park is truly a spectacle for nature lovers of both the land and water.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Those park enthusiasts who want a taste of unclaimed wilderness need look no further than Tahquamenon Falls State Park. This expansive park, nearly 65,000 acres, is mainly undeveloped forests with little to no road access for cars. The very reason this park was created lies near the center of the park, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park falls. These picturesque falls have captivated visitors since its founding. The falls are nearly fifty feet tall and almost two hundred feet across at the widest. The falls can be viewed from many angles including a river walk and by canoe. Park officials issue a warning to those in canoes to stay a safe distance from the falls. This park also boasts its interesting history from Native American settlements along its banks to the lumber lords of the 1800s. This park is large and has something in it for everyone.
The gardens were established in 1899 by nature lover Herbert H. Dow. He planted and built the gardens for his family and friends but then eventually made it public. Now the gardens inspire awe in thousands of visitors from all over the world. The entire garden takes roughly half an hour to walk through so good walking shoes are advised for those coming to visit. On the premises is a greenhouse, which houses some of the collection’s fussier plants and non-native plants like orchids and banana trees. During the winter, a massive poinsettia tree is brought in and during the summer and spring seasons the green house is filled with many migrating butterflies stopping in for food, breeding and metamorphosing right before parks visitors very eyes.
Mackinac Island’s Butterfly House and Park
This Butterfly House and State Park were one of the nation’s first premier butterfly exhibits. The exhibit takes up nearly 1800 square feet split into several gardens with butterflies from all over the world. The park just added a new addition to their site called Insect World and have recently added into it the world largest species of walking stick and hundreds of new beetles for visitors to gawk at. For insect lovers, this is a park worth visiting.