Most of us are familiar with at least a few of this country’s National Parks. The state of Michigan, however, doesn’t contain any of them. Instead, they have two National Lakeshores. After all, Michigan is famous for being surrounded by Great Lakes. There’s Lake Huron to the east, Lake Michigan to the west, and Lake Superior to the north.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in the lower peninsula, in the town of Empire, on the Lake Michigan side. It’s a pretty diverse place to visit with 65 miles of land hugging the lakeshore. Activities include hiking sandy dune trails or wooded trails, boating, camping, fishing, skiing, swimming, hunting, and scenic driving. There’s also two separate islands you can take a ferry to and from.

D.H. Day Campground

Our stay involved lots of hiking and three nights of camping at the D.H. Day Campground, where we had a whole loop to ourselves. The sites included vault toilets, fire rings, tent pads, and picnic tables. During the days we hiked the Dune Climb Trail, Cottonwood Trail, Sleeping Bear Point Trail, Pyramid Point Trail, and my personal favorite, the Empire Bluffs Trail.

View of Lake Michigan from the end of the Empire Bluffs Trail

The views of Lake Michigan from the trails were unbelievably beautiful. The water went on for as far as the eye could see. The shorelines were stunning and reminded me of back home. Also, since it’s springtime there were flowers in bloom everywhere, including the native trillium. Although the weather was still too cold for any water activities, we had a blast.

Trillium in bloom

Another National Lakeshore is Pictured Rocks and it is located in the upper peninsula on the shores of Lake Superior. It gets its name from the colorful sandstone cliffs that jut above the water. Examples of this can best be seen by boat, but there are still plenty of opportunities for viewing the sights from land.

View from Miners Castle Overlook

There are several different trails that lead you to the cliffs and some amazing views. The Chapel Basin is said to be the best spot in the park for seeing the pictured rocks. I also enjoyed the Miners Castle Overlook which is a shorter trail. Or you can get a dramatic view of Lake Superior from the Log Slide Overlook.

View of Lake Superior from Log Slide Overlook

This is a great place to explore so if you’d like to spend a few days in the park there are 13 backcountry campgrounds and even one boat-in site. Or you can visit any of the three developed campgrounds. They have water, tables, grills, and toilets, but no showers. Other activities within the park include hunting, fishing, and private boat tours.

If you’ve had the chance to visit any National Parks and had a good time I would recommend checking out some National Lakeshores. Michigan probably has the country’s most spectacular views of lakes. After visiting both lakeshores I really enjoyed the difference in activities and scenery compared to the national parks. The lakes looked more like oceans than anything else.┬áNothing can compare to a Great Lake Experience!

The shore of Lake Superior


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