Michigan State Parks: Hidden Gems Across Michigan


Have you been to a Michigan state park lately? Most Detroit Mom readers don’t know they exist. We’re often familiar with the Huron Clinton Metroparks: think Stoney Creek, Wolcott Mill, and Kensington. But state parks are their own entity that deserve to be loved, recognized, and appreciated, too. As we roll into the summer months and look to take our kiddos outside more and more, knowing your state park options can really help you build adventures and variety!

The first thing you need to know about Michigan state parks is how to get in. You can purchase a Recreation Passport from the state whenever you renew your car’s license plate, and it only costs $12! If you weren’t savvy enough to to do this, don’t stress; you can still purchase a passport at the parks themselves for $17 if you are a Michigan resident.

Michigan state parks provide an endless variety of options for things to do. Is camping your thing? There are an array of options, from cabins and yurts to places for tents and RVs.  Reservations can be made online here, but know the most popular places can fill up fast for summer and fall weekends.

Here’s a list of MY family’s must-visit Michigan state parks:

Algonac State Park

This park is right on the St. Clair River in Marine City and has a number of amazing camping options. The best part? The view of industry AND nature . . . giant freighters traversing the channel are always an impressive sight for kids and grown-ups alike!

Bald Mountain Recreation Area

Do you love to mountain bike? Then this is the place for you . . . right in Lake Orion.  According to the Michigan state parks website, this place is home to some of the steepest hills and most rugged terrain in southeastern Michigan. Bring your helmet!

Island Lake Recreation Area

Near Brighton, this is a great park if you want to access opportunities to canoe and kayak on the Huron River. If you’re ready and willing to paddle, this is the place for you.

Lakeport State Park

This is our family’s personal favorite; we visit every year. On Lake Huron just north of Port Huron, my kids love the bridge that takes you from the parking lot over the road and into the day-use area. The pebble-covered beach is beautiful, quiet, and serene . . . but bring water shoes for tender feet! On an August weekday, the water is cool and calm; we almost always have the place to ourselves.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

One of Michigan’s quintessential “up-north” experiences is fully based in a Michigan state park. These falls are beautiful any time of year and are some of the largest in the country east of the Mississippi River. A must-do for any family!

BONUS: the Outdoor Adventure Center!

This is technically not a state park. But, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources runs it. This place is essential to any metro Detroit summer bucket list. Located on Atwater in downtown Detroit, the Outdoor Adventure Center is a great rainy-day activity. Inside the walls of this building are simulated versions of some of Michigan’s best outdoor activities, such as kayaking, snowmobiling, and fishing.

No matter what your family’s age or what they’re into, Michigan state parks have an adventure for you. If we’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that life is precious and time outdoors is some of the best time spent. Let’s make 2022 our best and most adventurous summer yet.

Looking for more summer fun for your family? Check out Jillian’s list of affordable family summer memberships!


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