Michigan Dark Sky Parks: Must-Visit Stargazing Spots
While most of Michigan’s parks, beaches, 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 eight dark sky parks in Michigan (six are located in 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.
It’s meteor’s and smores time on the 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 Park?
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. Dark Sky Parks in Michigan are also the perfect spot to view the Northern Lights.
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.
If you’re hoping to catch a spectacular show in the sky, though, the designated dark sky parks are that place you’ll want to go.
Visit these Dark Sky Parks in Michigan
15675 Headlands Rd., Mackinaw City, MI 49701
There are six Dark Sky Preserves in Michigan, but only one holds the International Dark Sky Park status. Likewise, there are only 11 International Dark Sky Park designations in the U.S.
This means that The International Dark-Sky Association has deemed it to possess an exceptional quality of sky for star-gazing.
This is the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County.
Located just outside Mackinac City, MI, Headlands International Dark Sky Park sits at the tip of the Lower Peninsula, just below the Mackinac Bridge.
The park is open 24/7 year round and is free to visitors.
There are so many opportunities in Headlands International Dark Sky Park to view the exceptional night skies.
Lake Huron Dark Sky Preserves
Posen, MI 49776
Ossineke, MI 49766
On the other side of the state, near the shores of Lake Huron, are Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Alpena and Negwegon State Park in Ossineke, Michigan.
Negwegon State Park’s view of the sky is just as excellent as the other Dark Sky Preserves in Michigan, but it offers a unique experience.
Negwegon State Park is more wild and undeveloped when compared to the rest of Michigan’s Dark Sky Preserves, which gives itsvisitors 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.
Farther north, just outside of Alpena, 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 we think that it’s an excellent place to view the stars from one of Michigan’s many beaches.
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.
But, to understand its beauty, you have to see the unpolluted light of stars shimmer across the calm lake – its truly unforgettable.
903 Wilderness Park Dr, Carp Lake, MI 49718
If we head back to the west side of the state, farther west than Headlands International Dark Sky Park, you’ll reach Wilderness State Park in Emmet County.
If you’ve been waiting (or skimming) for the section about camping, you’ve found it.
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.
[Image: dark sky parks in michigan]
5505 Morey Hwy, Clayton, MI 49235
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.
Alpena, MI 49707
Rockport State Park in Alpena is one of three designated dark sky parks in the Alpena area.
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.
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.
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 one of the places to see the U.P.s 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.
This is an absolute must when exploring Michigan’s Dark Sky Preserves.
Michigan Dark Sky Parks
We wish we could tell you that camping was permitted in the park, but unfortunately, it is not. We promise we will get to the best spot to camp in one of Michigan’s Dark Sky Preserves, but for now, we’ll tell you about the opportunities at Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
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.
However, if staying overnight is not your plan, we’ve got you covered. The Waterfront Event Center is just the spot for events at Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
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.
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.