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Welcome to America’s most amazing and beautiful lake shorelines!

 

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. michigan travel blog

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. great lakes national parks. michigan travel blog

 

A “national lakeshore” is a type of national park, but not quite the full on official “national park.” National lakeshores are a part of the U.S. national park system, managed by the National Park Service (NPS).

All of the national lakeshores are located on the shores of the Great Lakes in the midwest of the US.

Up until a couple of years ago, there were 4 national lakeshores in the United States, as designated by the National Park Service:

  • 2 national lakeshores in Michigan
  • 1 national lakeshore in Wisconsin
  • 1 national lakeshore in Indiana

The national lakeshore in Indiana was previously the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. A trip to the Indiana Dunes means a trip to Lake Michigan. But now, the national lakeshore in Indiana has become an official “national park.” The official name went from being Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park.

So currently, there are 2 states with national lakeshores: Michigan and Wisconsin.

The national lakeshore in Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. A trip to the Apostle Islands means a trip to Lake Superior. There are 21 islands that are a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

 

 

The national lakeshore parks in Michigan

In Michigan, there are 2 national lakeshores:

There is the Sleeping Bears Dunes National Lakeshore in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. A trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes means a trip to Lake Michigan.

And then there is also the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A trip to Pictured Rocks means a trip to Lake Superior.

The highlights of each of the Michigan national lakeshore parks is below!

 

 

Lake Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

If you do just one thing in Sleeping Bear Dunes, then make it a hike along the Empire Bluff Trail. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. empire bluff trail. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. empire bluff trail. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

If you do just 2 things in Sleeping Bear Dunes, then make your second thing a drive along Pierce Scenic Stocking Drive, and more specifically make a stop at the Lake Michigan overlook. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore scenic drives: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. pierce stocking scneic drive. lake michigan overlook. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore scenic drives: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. pierce stocking scneic drive. lake michigan overlook. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

And then another thing you may put at the top of your list of things to do in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the “Dune Climb.” You can stay close to the parking lot and hike the first hill of sand only, or you can continue hiking across hills of sand dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hiking trails: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. dune climb trail to lake michigan beach. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hiking trails: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. dune climb trail to lake michigan beach. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hiking trails: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. dune climb trail to lake michigan beach. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hiking trails: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. dune climb trail to lake michigan beach. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hiking trails: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. dune climb trail to lake michigan beach. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

The Sleeping Bear Point dune loop trail will also offer you sweeping views of sand dunes. 👇 Dune grass is considered to be fragile and an important part of the coastal ecosystem so try not to step on any grass when you are walking across the sand dunes!

 

Best US national lakeshore hikes: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. sleeping bear point trail. midwest michigan travel blog

Best US national lakeshore hikes: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. sleeping bear point trail. midwest michigan travel blog

Best US national lakeshore hikes: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. sleeping bear point trail. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

And then another thing you may want to do is go be directly along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. You can take your pick from the many Lake Michigan beaches along the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, including beaches like Esch Beach. 👇 Swimming in Lake Michigan is a thing.

 

Best US national lakeshore beaches: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. lake michigan beach, esch beach. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

But note that no beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes have lifeguards. Also note that in many ways, as a big body of open water, Lake Michigan can act like an ocean. Take care!

And finally, experience more of this lakeshore through camping! There are 2 regular Sleeping Bear Dunes campgrounds that you can drive up to. At the DH Day campground, it’s almost like campers have their own private beach! There’s a beach trail directly from the campground to Lake Michigan. 👇 Tent camping and RV camping is available.

 

Best US national lakeshore camping: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. camping near lake michigan beach, dh day campground. midwest michigan travel blog

Best US national lakeshore camping: Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore park in michigan. camping near lake michigan beach, dh day campground. midwest michigan travel blog

 

 

 

There’s one backcountry campground in the main area of Sleeping Bear Dunes if you want to make it an overnight backpacking trip. That would be the White Pine backcountry campground which is about a 10 minute hike to Lake Michigan. This is also almost like having your own private beach.

And, there are also islands that are a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The islands of Sleeping Bear Dunes are the Manitou Islands. There’s the North Manitou Island and the South Manitou Island. Backpacking the Manitou Islands would be the ultimate backpacking trip in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

You’ll take a ferry from Leland MI to get to the Manitou Islands. If you’re an experienced kayaker, then it is also possible to paddle your way across the open waters of Lake Michigan. Once again, it’s important to note that the Great Lakes can be not so kind, which is why it’s best to be an experienced paddler. There are such things that have been called “rogue waves” on Lake Michigan. The term of rogue wave is more commonly associated with oceans! I tend to say don’t underestimate the power of the ocean, and in this case don’t underestimate the power of the Great Lakes!!

Detroit to Sleeping Bear Dunes is around a 4.5 hour drive.

Chicago to Sleeping Bear Dunes is around a 5.5 hour drive.

Aside from the Sleeping Bear Dunes campgrounds, many people stay in Traverse City or the Leelanau Peninsula for a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes. There’s also a state park campground near the Lake Michigan lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula

 

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: See more about planning a trip to this Michigan national lakeshore park

 

 

Michigan national lakeshore park road trip: Driving from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks

From Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks is around a 4.5 hour drive.

Driving from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks means that you’ll be driving from the lower peninsula to the upper peninsula. And THAT means that you’ll be driving across the iconic Mackinac Bridge! The Mackinac Bridge is said to be the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere and the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world.

 

Driving to national parks in Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks. Mackinac Bridge. michigan national parks road trip. midwest michigan travel blog

Driving to national parks in Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks. Mackinac Bridge. michigan national parks road trip. midwest michigan travel blog

 

If you want to spend a few days getting from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Pictured Rocks as a part of your Michigan road trip, you can find things to do in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula. You can also make Pictured Rocks a part of a bigger circle the Upper Peninsula road trip.

 

 

Lake Superior: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Now, for Pictured Rocks, it’s a bit harder to say to do just “one” thing. If you’re making the trip here, there are basically 2 areas of the park that you need to see for a well-rounded Pictured Rocks experience!

There’s the cliffs of Pictured Rocks, and the unique rock formations along the shoreline is what makes Pictured Rocks the most famous. So I guess this would be the ONE thing to do if you are truly limited on time.

There are many ways to experience the Pictured Rocks cliffs. The one lookout you can drive to is the Miners Castle Point 👇 but this is really just an introduction to the unique rock formations you can see along the Pictured Rocks shoreline.

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore overlooks: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. miners castle point. midwest michigan travel blog

 

To really experience the cliffs, you can see them by boat, by kayak, or by foot! Each will offer a different experience so take your pick!

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. pictured rocks cliffs hike. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore activities: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. pictured rocks cliffs cruise. midwest michigan travel blog

 

The other side of Pictured Rocks is the sand dunes. So try to visit this side too! To experience the Pictured Rocks sand dunes, be sure to go to the Log Slide overlook. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore sand dunes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. grand sable dunes, log slide overlook. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore sand dunes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. grand sable dunes, log slide overlook. midwest michigan travel blog

 

You can also hike the Grand Sable Dunes loop trail. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. grand sable dunes loop trail. midwest michigan travel blog

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. grand sable dunes loop trail. midwest michigan travel blog

 

And then another thing you may want to do is go be directly along the shoreline of Lake Superior. There are a number of Lake Superior beaches in Pictured Rocks to choose from.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has some sandy beaches, and it also has one of the more unique beaches that you may want to stop by (more like hike to).  Sable Beach is a beach with colorful rocks that Lake Superior is known for. 👇

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore beaches: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. lake superior beach, sable beach. midwest michigan travel blog

 

Only look and don’t take, though! Being a part of the national park system, this is a protected area.

Side note: If you want to find rocks to take home with you, there are other beaches outside the park that don’t have restrictions, to my knowledge, including Crisp Point and Vermilion Point.

Hiking to Chapel Beach will give you a well-rounded Pictured Rocks experience because you will see waterfalls, a unique rock formation 👇, the Lake Superior shoreline from above, see a river flowing into Lake Superior… and then you’ll end up at the beach! And then you can opt to hike further to see the Pictured Rocks cliffs including hiking to Grand Portal Point. (You can remember this hike as the Chapel Loop Trail.)

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore hikes: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. chapel rock hike. midwest michigan travel blog

 

Once again, note that no beaches in Pictured Rocks have lifeguards. And once again, in many ways, as a big body of open water, Lake Superior can also act like an ocean. Lake Superior tends to feel cold to most people even in summer, but people do go swimming in Lake Superior.

There’s a reason that the shores of Lake Superior are called shipwreck coast, and the shores of Lake Superior have even been called the graveyard of the Great Lakes. You can find the Au Sable Point Lighthouse along the shores of Pictured Rocks. This is one of the many Lake Superior lighthouses in Michigan.

There are also a number of waterfalls to see in Pictured Rocks.

And, you can also experience more of this lakeshore through camping! There are 3 regular Pictured Rocks campgrounds that you can drive up to. At the Twelvemile Beach campground 👇 you can have views of Lake Superior right from your campsite! And there’s access to the beach directly from the campground. Tent camping and RV camping is available.

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore camping: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. camping near lake superior beach. twelvemile beach campground. midwest michigan travel blog

 

And if you’re looking for an epic backpacking experience along the shoreline, a Pictured Rocks backpacking trip is one to consider. The North Country Trail runs through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, much of it as a trail that’s along the shoreline. There are a number of backcountry campsites along the way, just a few steps away from Lake Superior views. It’s possible to hike sections of the North Country Trail as day hikes too.

 

Michigan national parks. Best US national lakeshore backpacking trip: pictured rocks national lakeshore park in michigan. backpacking the north country trail. day hikes. midwest michigan travel blog

 

Detroit to Pictured Rocks is around a 6.5 to 7 hour drive.

Chicago to Pictured Rocks is around a 7.5 hour drive (through Wisconsin).

Aside from the Pictured Rocks campgrounds, many people stay in Munising (more common) or Grand Marais (smaller town).

 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: See more about planning a trip to this Michigan national lakeshore park

 

 

And those are ideas for visiting the Michigan national lakeshore parks!

 

More for your Michigan road trip:

 

HAPPY SEEING THE BEST OF AMERICA’S NATIONAL LAKESHORES!

 

Best Michigan national parks. Best national parks in the midwest US. Michigan national lakeshore. Amazing beautiful places in the midwest USA America. great lakes national parks. michigan travel blog

 

 

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Things to pack for your Michigan vacation!

The ultimate beach towel for travel?!
Turkish towels are considered to be more lightweight than your average beach towel while still being absorbent. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
How to be a little bit more eco-friendly during your road trip!
Instead of using plastic silverware, try out bamboo silverware like this set!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phone
You can beach-proof your phone with a simple waterproof phone case like this.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!
Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're swimming in Lake Michigan or Lake Superior! Less sunscreen also means less chemicals from that sunscreen will enter our precious Great Lakes!
Get your travel bags more organized!
Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.