Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder

Ed Forteau's picture

With soft dunes, clear waters, gorgeous beaches, trails, and swirls of the Northern Lights in abundance, there’s no other state quite like Michigan. It is filled with natural wonders and outdoor adventures that will make any trip here spectacular.

Here are some of the most incredible places you should bookmark for your next visit to Michigan.

Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder

Onekama photo: Wandering Educators

The Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula region is huge, covering over a quarter of the state. Despite the large area, it is sparsely populated and filled with rugged terrain. If you're looking for a phone signal, you may be trying for a while, but for those yearning for a true escape from modern technologies that the built-up city brings, this is the perfect location. There is plenty of wildlife residing in this area of the state, so it is essential to be respectful and aware for your own safety.

Although they can be seen at any time of the year, the best time to catch the Northern lights is through fall and winter, with no need to travel to Scandinavia to see them. With its high altitude and pitch-black skies, the south shore of Lake Superior is one of the best places to see the aurora borealis. There are no designated dark sky areas in the Upper Peninsula, but with the remote landscape, there is next to no light pollution. Whether you’re flying here via private jet charter or driving in, both offer the mesmerizing beauty of the Upper Peninsula.

MIghty Mac bridge and Northern lights. From Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder
Mighty Mac Bridge and northern lights. Jason Gillman via Pixabay

Western Michigan

Adventure on the Dunes

There are coastal dunes as high as 200 feet in Saugatuck Dunes State Park and a pristine shoreline. Take a 40-minute tour with Saugatuck Dune Rides for a relaxing way to explore the park. Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are welcome at Silver Lake Sand Dunes at Silver Lake State Park if you're ready to get your heart pumping. People come from all over to ride around these 2,000 acres of dunes that are the only ones east of the Mississippi open to ORVs.

Lakeside Wonders

You can choose from a variety of beautiful beaches in Western Michigan (here's our guide to the ten best). Located along Lake Michigan's shoreline, Silver Lake State Park offers extensive, swimmable beaches for families. A second inland lake, Silver Lake, is found in the park, and it has warmer, calmer waters that make swimming or kayaking a perfect activity. Among Michigan's beaches, Grand Haven State Park is perhaps the most majestic. The pier boasts stunning lighthouses, and the waves crash around them so dramatically that you'll think they're paid actors. Jokes aside, this space is family-friendly, and there are so many aspects of the local ecosystem to learn about. Our favorite beach on Michigan's Sunset Coast is Oval Beach, in Saugatuck. Named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it's definitely worth a visit.

A Cross-Country Trail

Lowell, Massachusetts, is the headquarters for the North Country National Scenic Trail, once again an excellent place for hiking and backpacking. This route is 4800 miles long and runs through a combined total of seven states, making it the longest national scenic trail in all of the United States. The great thing is that Michigan holds the majority of these trail miles, so take your time, take in the valleys, crystal clear waters, and the prairies, and immerse yourself in nature.

Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder
Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Northern Michigan

Test Your Endurance

Offering crystal clear waters running north to south just outside of Grand Traverse Bay are the Caribbean-like visions of Torch Lake. Known for being the largest lake in Michigan by volume, this place is home to the legendary sandbars. And it’s the perfect place for catching sunsets in the evening. Another must-see location and possibly the most beautiful place in America is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a 460-foot dune along Lake Michigan. Here, you can test your endurance on the steep 3.5-mile Dune Climb or explore the 20-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder
Near Sleeping Bear Dunes. Srikanth Peetha via Unsplash

Under the Canopy

For an adventure inland, the M-119 State Highway, North of Harbor Springs, twists and turns for a 20-mile stretch known as the Tunnel of Trees. The surrounding floor is carpeted with wildflowers through the Spring months, while the trees blaze with Autumn colors in the fall. No matter the time of year you choose to go, this fairytale-like canopy is a spectacle to behold. As the sun sets, stargazers should head towards Headlands International Dark Sky Park, one of three internationally designed dark sky preserves across the state. The park is open all year, meaning you can plan your visit any time.

Harbor Springs. From Your Memorable Visit to Michigan: A Natural World Wonder
Harbor Springs. Aaron Burdon via Unsplash

Island Hop 

Through the North of Michigan, you will find opportunities to go island hopping, with one of the best being Manitou Islands, located several miles offshore of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. From the mainland, it is accessible by ferry and is home to thousands of acres of wilderness simply ready for you to explore. One great example is the Valley of Giants, where old-growth white cedars are over 500 years old — imagine how awe-inspiring this visit would be!

Michigan is ready to take your breath away. The natural wonders of this unique place bring a sense of adrenaline, perfect for adventures all year round. The only problem with visiting Michigan is you’ll struggle to fit everything into one trip, but you can always go back — and we don’t doubt you’ll want to.