Are you looking for a place to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan? Interested in camping in Michigan? Look no further than Wilderness State Park!
Wilderness State Park has quickly become one of our favorites in the Michigan State Park system. At 10,000 acres in size, there is plenty of room to explore for all outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you’re looking for a day hike, a visit to a more secluded part of lakeshore, or want to enjoy some truly dark skies without much light pollution, you’ll definitely want to give this park a look.
Here are 6 Things We Love about Wilderness State Park
1 – Lots of Hiking Trails
There are over 38 miles of hiking trails within the park. The North Country trail meanders through from the south side of the park to the north… and beyond.
There are a variety of trails for all fitness levels from short, flat hikes which are less than half a mile all the way up to backpacking trails which require an overnight stop at a walk-in campsite.
We really enjoyed driving to the end of Waugochance Point Road and heading as far as we could through the natural area which is sometimes dry and sometimes wet, depending on Lake Michigan water levels.
It was an adventure to pick a path and wander as far as we could before we reached a barrier we weren’t able to cross.
If you’d like to see more of our hiking adventure here, check out the video below!
2 – Beautiful Campgrounds
Wilderness State Park has several camping options to choose from. Right on Lake Michigan, they have their large Lakeshore campground.
They also have a small area with full hook-ups and some rustic tent sites meaning they don’t have any amenities such as power.
The Lakeshore campground fills up fast since it’s so close to the lake. The downside to this campground is that the sites are close together and aren’t as private. It’s also a lot harder to get into.
When we stayed in the park, we camped in the Pines campground. The sites are roomier and provide more privacy. This part of the park is also a lot easier to get into.
They also have 6 rustic cabins and 3 rustic bunkhouses that you can reserve if RV camping or tent camping isn’t your thing.
It’s a wonderful place to have a family vacation in Michigan!
3 – Lots of Lake Michigan Shoreline
With 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Wilderness State Park is the perfect place to enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan.
The Straits of Mackinac are notoriously windy and storms blow up all the time making it a fun place to visit if you like to watch the weather.
It’s also a popular place for birders with over 100 species of birds that either migrate through the area or nest there. You’ll see signs about the piping plover all over but we like to keep our eyes open for eagles when we’re in the area.
Be aware that most of the beaches in the park are rocky unlike the sandy beaches in lower Michigan.
4 – Close to Mackinaw City
When you visit the park, you’ll know right away that you’re in the wilderness. In fact, the only place to get provisions within the park is at the Cecil Bay Trading Post.
Fortunately, the north part of the park is only 11 miles west of Mackinaw City, which is a good place to get gas and other supplies.
Truthfully, the prices will still be higher there than what you would probably pay at home so your best bet when visiting the park is to bring food with you or to stock up in nearby Petoskey, Cheboygan, or another larger town near the highway before you arrive in the area.
Below is a video of some of the fun experiences you can have while you’re in Mackinaw City.
5 – Dark Sky Preserve
Headlands Dark Sky Park, which is located within Wilderness State Park, is one of only 3 internationally recognized dark sky parks in Michigan. It’s a treat to view stars and other astronomical objects under truly dark skies.
If you visit the park during a new moon, meaning it isn’t visible in the sky, it’s amazing how many more objects you’ll be able to see in the night sky.
Headlands is usually very busy during these times as well, however, so it’s nice to slip away to a less populated area of the park to view the stars on your own. We were able to see lots of stars when we drove to the end of Waugoshance Road.
Below is a video of a couple of different dark sky experiences we had when we were staying at this park.
6 – Lots of Privacy
With over 10,000 acres to explore, this is a wonderful park to visit if you want to have lots of space around you. The campgrounds will most likely be full but once you get out onto the hiking trails, the streams, the lakeshore, or into the natural areas, you’ll have lots of room to move without encountering too many people.
This is also a wonderful place to observe wildlife in Michigan. The park is home to many foxes, white-tailed deer, black bear, and beaver. Wolves have also been sighted in the park.
The nice thing is that even though these animals are in the park, they aren’t a nuisance in the campground. You will encounter plenty of chipmunks, squirrels, and birds around your site but the biggest animals you need to prepare for are foxes, meaning you don’t have to try to bear-proof your site.
A Few Things We Don’t Love About the Park
1 – Books up Fast
One of the most difficult aspects of this park, as well as several other Michigan State Parks, is that they book up fast. You can reserve your site 6 months in advance and if you want to stay in this park you need to be ready to make your reservation right away. Especially if you want to get a site in the Lakeshore campground.
Fortunately, it is easy to make reservations using Michigan’s DNR Reservation System. We recommend having several sites picked out in advance and hopping on right away at 8am the first day that you can reserve a site to give you the best chance of getting in.
2 – Some parts are Buggy
There are lots of natural areas in the park and some of the more enclosed spaces can get pretty buggy in the summer. With lots of Lake Michigan shoreline, there is a nice breeze in many parts of the park which helps to keep the bugs down in the more open areas.
You’ll definitely want to bring bug spray and citronella candles with you when you’re visiting, though, to have the best experience.
3 – Hard to get from the south part of the park to the north
There aren’t any direct road leading from within the north side of the park to the south side. This makes it time consuming to go from one side to the other.
For this reason, it’s important to plan accordingly when you are choosing hiking trails other other activities for the day. You’ll want to minimize how often you’re driving back and forth so that you don’t spend the majority of your time in the car.
Also, the south side of the park is farther from civilization than the north side so remember to have plenty of gas and to bring along water and snacks for your trip. You won’t mind anywhere to stock up while you’re down there.
The Wilderness State Park area is one of our favorites and we love spending time there. Our favorite time to visit are during the fall when the crowds have left and we have the park to ourselves.
No matter when you choose to go, be sure to bring along plenty of warm clothes and be prepared for cool temperatures. We love cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings. But you do need to have the right kind of gear with you to fully enjoy your trip!
Overall, we highly recommend Wilderness State Park as a must-see destination in Michigan.