Michigan Dark Sky Parks: Experience Michigan’s Dark Skies
If you’re looking for a Dark Sky Park in Michigan, you’ve probably heard there are some spectacular dark sky events coming up soon.
Whether its the Northern Lights, aka the Aurora Borealis; an amazing Perseid Meteor Shower or some amazing Milky Way sky viewing that you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.
Michigan ranks #7 for the number of Dark Sky Parks in the United States, and we are even home to three International Dark Sky Parks, including The Headlands in Mackinaw City. Michigan is home to nine designated dark sky areas, including six dark preserves and thee internationally-designated dark sky parks.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable outdoor adventure, read on to learn about Michigan’s Dark Sky Parks. you can also scroll to the bottom for an interactive map to help you plan your Michigan stargazing trip!
About Dark Sky Parks in Michigan
While most of Michigan’s beaches, parks, and trails are best experienced by looking forward, there are unique locations scattered across Michigan that are best experienced by looking up at the sky. Whether you’re looking for quiet spots for stargazing, a place to catch a glimpse of a meteor shower in the night sky or simply somewhere to wait for the stars, Michigan’s dark sky parks have you covered.
With nine dark sky parks in Michigan (five are located in MI State Parks), it’s easy to find pure Michigan natural beauty in the night. Need a place to watch a Perseid meteor shower or one of the other biggest astronomical events that dance across our Michigan skies?
We’ve got them.
From the Lake Michigan shoreline to Mackinaw City to the Lake Huron coast and beyond, we’re sharing the best Dark Sky Parks in Michigan. It’s meteor’s and smores time on a Great Lakes beach, so grab your camera and a blanket and read on to find the perfect spot to roast a marshmallow while you wait for the stars to appear.
Michigan Dark Sky Preserves
What Is a Michigan Dark Sky Preserve?
The opportunities for stargazing in Michigan are boundless, but the clearest skies you will encounter are located in Michigan’s Dark Sky Preserves.
A Dark Sky Preserve is a designated area free of light pollution, that is to say, without any artificial light to block your view of the stars.
Their setting can range from forests to trees, but they all have one thing in common: the beautiful sky above. There are other spots around the state – away from artificial light – that provide great views, too. Porcupine Mountains, Tahquamenon Falls, or even Mackinac Island, for instance, are great spots to watch the stars appear during the annual perseid meteor shower.
The best part? Stargazers can visit dark sky preserves in state parks 24 hours a day.
If you’re hoping to catch a spectacular show in the sky, though, the designated dark sky parks and preserves are that place you’ll want to go.
Visit These Dark Sky Preserves in Michigan
Lake Hudson Recreation Area
5505 Morey Hwy, Clayton, MI 49235; (517) 445-2265
Located on almost 3000 acres in Lenawee County, this park in on Lake Hudson became the first designated “dark sky preserve” in 1993, providing amazing viewing access to the night skies due to its low level of artificial light.
Located just outside of Ann Arbor and not far from metro Detroit, this park has become a favorite for photographers of all levels hoping to capture great pictures of the night sky. Camping is allowed here; there’s also a picnic area, boat launch and beach.
If you live in southeast Michigan, this is a great place to try and catch some stunning spectral activity when the time is right. You can follow the NASA Meteor Shower blog for more information on when to catch the action in the sky.
Negwegon State Park
Ossineke, MI 49766; (989) 724-5126
Located on the shores of Lake Huron, Negwegon State Park is the most remote state park in Michigan’s lower peninsula. Located in northeast Michigan just about a half-hour north of Oscoda, you’ll travel down a narrow, sandy, two-track path for about two miles to reach this pristine setting.
More wild and undeveloped when compared to other Michigan Dark Sky Preserves, Negwegon offers unique experience and gives its visitors a sense of the true nature of a dark sky park.
Inside Negwegon State Park, you get the unpolluted sky combined with the untamed wilds, truly bringing out the best in both and giving you a deeper connection to the earth.
Port Crescent State Park
1775 Port Austin Rd, Port Austin, MI 48467
With almost 700 acres of natural beauty along Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, Port Crescent has a stunning beach to watch the sunset. But the real show starts at night, when the starts light up the sky at this dark sky preserve. Located between Caseville and Port Austin, the park also offers a modern campground with waterfront views and a camper cabin, 5 miles of hiking and cross-country trail, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, birding, hunting, and a wooden boardwalk with scenic vistas of Saginaw Bay.
Rockport Recreation Area
Alpena, MI 49707; (989) 734-2543
Rockport State Park in Alpena is one of three designated dark sky parks in the Alpena area (the others are Negwegon and Thompsons Harbor).
Located on the shores of Lake Huron, this unique 4300-acre park is home to an old limestone quarry, in fact, the mining and loading dock is still there. It’s a unique spot during the day where you can find fossils throughout the park, and kayak in the clear blue water, too.
The property includes a deep-water protected harbor, an old limestone quarry, a series of sinkholes, a dedicated Natural Area, and a range of land types, vegetative cover, cultural resources and recreation opportunities. In the evening, this remote spot is almost enchanting as the entire night sky lights up with stars over the water. Don’t miss this spot.
Thompson’s Harbor State Park
Posen, MI 49776; (989) 734-2543
Farther north along the Lake Huron Coast near Presque Isle, you’ll find Thompson’s Harbor State Park.
Seven miles of Lake Huron stretch across the edges of Thompson’s Harbor State Park and public lands, and it’s an excellent place to view the stars. This park provides a rustic retreat for hikers, with six miles of trails to explore. The trails are open year-round for biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Wildlife viewing is also possible with binoculars.
Seeing the stars in a dark sky park on the beach is a unique experience. You’ll see the stars sitting on the soft sand, and you’ll get the bonus of the reflection off the water. Watch and you’ll see the unpolluted light of stars shimmer across the calm lake – its truly unforgettable.
Wilderness State Park
903 Wilderness Park Dr, Carp Lake, MI 49718; (231) 436-5381
Wilderness State Park is located in northwest Michigan, between Petoskey and Mackinaw City, along Sturgeon Bay.
Wilderness State Park offers many year-round recreational activities, including numerous trails as well as the designated dark sky preserve. There are also 26 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, a swimming beach, and a dog beach. Camping options include modern campsites, rustic cabins, and rustic bunkhouses.
Camping at Wilderness State Park
While spending a few hours star-gazing at one of Michigan’s dark sky parks is a breathtaking experience, you will get a greater understanding of just how amazing the stars are after spending a night or two camping underneath the stars inside a Dark Sky Preserve. Reservations at Wilderness State Park can be made on Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources website; this also has all the safety and scheduling information you need to plan your camping trip.
Michigan’s Internationally Designated Dark Sky Parks
Specially designated by the International Dark Sky Association, there are three International Dark Sky Parks in Michigan.
Headlands International Dark Sky Park
15675 Headlands Rd., Mackinaw City, MI 49701; (231) 348-1713
You’ll find almost 600-acres of old-growth forest located on more than two miles of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline. This undeveloped area in Emmet County is free from light pollution, and offers unparalled opportunities to view the exceptional night skies.
The Headlands is really cool spot: in addition to programs and events that give visitors a chance to get to know this special spot near Mackinaw City, there are opportunities to stay overnight.
The Guesthouse sleeps 22 and is located on the shores of Lake Michigan; you can also stay in a clean and cozy apartment that sleeps 4, and is next to the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. The Headlands Stargazing House sleeps eight and has a fre ring for bonfires under the stars.
Another cool feature of Headlands International Dark Sky Park is the Waterfront Event Center, where you’ll find a gorgeous building with both indoor and outdoor spaces for gathering.
The park is open 24/7 year round and is free to visitors.
Keweenaw Dark Sky Park (Keweenaw County
Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, 14252 US HWY 41, Copper Harbor, MI 49918
The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is located at the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, U.S. The park is open to the public and accessible year-round, 24-hours a day. It is surrounded by largely undeveloped wilderness and home to bald eagles, owls, woodpeckers, deer, wolves, bears, coyotes, and more. What better place to take in the night sky that at the top of Michigan?
Dr. T.K. Lawless Park
15122 Monkey Run Street, Jones, MI 49061
Dr. T. K. Lawless is an 820-acre nature park with over seven miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, biking and hiking trails, a disc golf course, and a volleyball court. The park also has a lake view, some scenic lookout points, fishing, picnicking, horseshoe pits, and inner tube sledding (tubes provided). It is located nine miles east of Cassopolis, off M-60 and Lewis Lake Road.
More Great Places to Take in Michigan’s Dark Skies at Night
Northern Lights Viewing: Upper Peninsula’s Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is undoubtedly one of the Upper Peninsula’s most well-known and well-traveled sites. Its stunning beaches and rock formations are known far and wide.
However, you may not know that it is also one of the places to see the some of the clearest skies, and one of the most beautiful spots to catch the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights reflect off the vast waters of Lake Superior, creating a stunning “lantern” effect, engulfing all in the green light.
Michigan Dark Sky Parks
Yes, there are two places where you can stay at Headlands International Dark Sky Park: the Guesthouse, which sleeps 22 and the Stargazing House, which sleeps 8.
The Guesthouse is the next best thing to camping, so if you are set on spending the night in Headlands International Dark Sky Park, you want to consider a night or two here.
The Guesthouse is a secluded three-floor house with multiple bedrooms near the Lake Michigan shoreline. A night at this guest house is a one of a kind experience that you should consider. The guesthouse is reservation only, so be prepared to plan ahead.
The Headlands is 550-acre county park sits on two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline near McGulpin Point Light in the Straits of Mackinac, and features five miles of trails through undeveloped land. Nearby, you’ll find forts and other historic markers to explore.
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About the Author-
Patrick Crowley is a Content Manager with My Michigan Beach. A graduate of Oakland University with a degree in Cinema Studies, he is currently finishing a second in creative writing. Two of his greatest passions are film and the outdoors. When he is not watching movies, you can find him exploring the outdoors. He is delighted to be writing about the great state of Michigan and its many natural wonders.