Best of Natural Michigan
Natural Michigan means clean freshwater lakes, endless streams and rivers, waterfalls, forests, and even towering sand dunes. The natural wonders of pure Michigan are endless, an ongoing outdoor adventure with endless opportunities for hiking camping, horseback riding or simply relaxing in Michigan’s natural communities.
From the upper peninsula to the lower peninsula, Michigan’s natural features inventory is endless.
Michigan’s Greatest Treasures: 12 Places to Connect with Nature in Michigan
Connecting with nature in Michigan is more than just good fun: it’s also good for your physical and mental health, too.
Are you looking for more places to connect with Michigan nature?
Well, Michigan is home to some of the most breathtaking lakes, rivers, and hiking trails in the United States. People from all across the world come to experience everything Natural Michigan offers.
Whether it’s kayaking along the scenic Big Manistee River or hiking to the top of Hogsback Mountain, Michigan has several must-see outdoor destinations. Be sure to stop by the visitor centers or nature center at these locations, where you’ll find information on Michigan species and Michigan’s rare natural features.
Read on for our top 12 places in Michigan to connect with nature.
Best of the Best Places to Connect with Nature in Michigan
Tahquamenon Falls is one of the state’s greatest treasures and a Michigander must-see destination. With nearly 50,000 acres of the river, the falls are the centerpiece of the Tahquamenon Falls. A 50-foot drop at the end of the upper falls makes Tahquamenon one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.
The Falls make a great place to watch the leaves change color in the fall while viewing one of Mother Nature’s most wondrous creations.
PRO-TIP: Michigan is home to more than 300 waterfalls. Be sure to check out our Guide to 31 Must-See Michigan Waterfalls to learn more about these Michigan natural wonders.
IF YOU GO: The Paradise Cottage with Lake and Trail Access Onsite is a perfect spot to stay anytime of the year. We’ve stayed their in summer, fall and winter, and have been very happy with this clean, comfortable and charming three-bedroom cottage. You’ll find a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and microwave, too. It’s really a prime location for exploring the Tahquamenon Falls area.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Like Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is another top Michigander must. The beautiful blue waters and the astounding colors of the eroded rock make this kayak/ boat tour worth every penny. These towering, colorful sandstone cliffs on the shores of Lake Superior are truly a natural work of art…and you have to SEE them to believe they’re real.
Located on a pristine stretch of Lake Superior coastline east of Munising, the Pictured Rocks are a Michigan must-see. Towering 50 to 200 feet above the lake, these dramatically beautiful cliffs are one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S, and with good reason, too.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a top destination that help makes the UP one of the most beautiful places in the United States.
IF YOU GO: The Pictured Rocks Inn and Suites is one of our favorite places to stay when visiting this amazing national park. Conveniently located just steps away from the Pictrue Rocks in downtown Munising, they are within walking distance to great shopping, restaurants, a brewpub, grocery, a fabulous beach and the Pictured Rocks Boat Tours. The AuTrain Island View Lodge is a really nice spot worth checking out, too. Roomy, clean accomodations offering a balcony with lake view. It’s exceptionally pretty in the fall, when the colorful fall foliage lights up the shoreline.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is more than just towering sand dunes – although they are pretty spectacular. You’ll find thick, verdant hardwood forests, stunning soft-sand beaches and even crystal-clear inland lakes, and an amazing collection of flora and fauna throughout the dramatic landscape.
The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes will allow you to access some of the most incredible views of Lake Michigan. Thousands of families flock to the dunes each year to experience everything they offer.
From dune jumping to being able to say you climbed a 450-foot dune, the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes will be a summer vacation you and your family will never forget.
IF YOU GO: Staying in the right spot is key to enjoying your visit to the dunes. This popular area can become crowded with tourists during the summer and fall, and you’ll want to plan your visit carefully to get the most out of yoru trip. The M22 Inn Empire is set right in the heart of the Sleeping bear Dunes national lakeshore and offers Victorian-style inn and mid-century motel accommodations. It’s clean and cozy, and located on the south shore of Little Glen Lake. The Empire Lakeshore Inn is right downtown in Empire and is exceptionally clean and comfortable. You’ll find rooms with balconies or patios, and each room has a refridgerator.
Warren Dunes State Park
12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125
With three miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, Warren Dunes is more than just one of the best beaches in west Michigan. With a towering dunes that rises almost 300 feet above Lake Michigan, you’ll find six miles of hiking trails at this park. That means there’s lots of space to explore in a tranquil setting, and in the fall, the entire area lights up with brilliant colors. Warren Dunes is located between New Buffalo and St. Joseph, both fun Michigan beachtowns you’ll want to check out.
IF YOU GO: If you stay in New Buffalo, you’ll want to stay at the New Buffalo Inn and Spa. It’s located in downtown New Buffalo and just a short walk to the beautiful Lake Michigan beach. It’s a cozy spot for couples and familes, and there’s a hot tub on premise. If you stay in St. Joseph, you’ll want to check in at the Inn at Harbor Shores Resort, my favorite spot to stay in the area. The Inn offers 92 luxury guest rooms, a selection of dining options, full service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and wedding venues for up to 300 guests.
More Places to Connect with Nature in Michigan
Cheboygan State Park in Cheboygan, MI is a sprawling natural area on the shores of Lake Huron. You’ll find miles of hiking trails through forests filled with rare wildflowers, and paths that lead to Lake Huron.
Stay: This Black Mountain Area Vacation Rental is a perfect spot for exploring nature in Cheboygan.
Ludington State Park in Ludington, MI offers endless opportunity to connect with nature in Michigan. Discover sand dunes with spectacular views, hardwood forests, marshlands, and nearly seven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.
Stay: Snyders Shoreline Inn on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Ludington.
Keweenaw Peninsula is the jumping off point for passage to Isle Royale, both spectacular places to commune with the stunning natureal beauty of Michigan.
Stay: Lake Fanny Hooe Resort in Copper Harbor is a stunning 2-bedroom, beachfront condo.
Porcupine Mountains are located in the beautiful western upper peninsula, and are home to the Lake in Clouds, one of the most picturesque spots in Michigan.
Natural Michigan: Best Hiking Trails in Michigan to Commune with Nature
Empire Bluff Trail
Empire Bluff Trail is considered part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and has one of the best Lake Michigan overlooks you will ever see. It’s a personal favorite and a hike to go back to each year.
The trail is a short 1.5-mile hike from the trailhead, making it a more leisurely hike for children and older hikers. It’s worth every step will have you filling up the storage on your phone with photos of this breathtaking view.
PRO-TIP: Take the 7.5-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Empire. The 12 stops along the drive feature some of the prettiest views in the entire country.
Hogback Mountain is a more difficult and strenuous hike, but the view from the top is entirely worth it. You will hike underneath beautiful trees that allow just the right amount of light to peer through on the way up. Before you reach the top, you will have to rock climb a bit, making sure you have proper footwear.
Once at the top, you will be able to overlook the town of the Marquette and the perfect view of Lake Superior.
IF YOU GO: The Hampton Inn Waterfront Marquette is located right on Lake Superior and offers amazing views. They’re known here for both their exceptional service and their very comfortable beds…including the pillows. The free hot breakfast is a delicous perk, too! We also like the Ramada Inn, which is dog-friendly, too. We almost always travel with our pup, so this is a favorite. It’s clean, comfortable, and they have large suites available for longer stays.
Crooked Lake Trail
The Crooked Lake Trail, part of the great Potawatomi Trail, spans 5.1 miles through hardwood forests, marshes, and beautiful hillsides. This trail makes for a pleasant walk or an enjoyable mountain bike ride.
You will enjoy views of three inland lakes and, again, a magnificent array of hardwood trees along the trail.
Best Michigan Rivers to Connect with Nature By Kayaks and SUP
The Huron River is 130 miles long, making it one of the longest rivers in the state. It starts in Springfield Township in Oakland County flows all the way to Lake Erie. The river also flows through several Metro and State Parks, including Kensington Metropark, making it very easy to access the river for kayaking, canoeing, or even stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
There are tons of beautiful trees, rapids, and wildlife to enjoy as you paddle along this river. The great thing about the Huron is that there are multiple entering and exiting points along the banks, meaning you can choose how long of a trip you want to make.
The Huron River becomes a hot spot for fishing during the fall, spring, and summer seasons, so be mindful of that if you are planning a trip down the river.
Big Manistee River
The Manistee River, also known as the Big Manistee River, is highly regarded as one of the best rivers in Michigan. Thousands of people organize day to multiple day canoe trips down the river each year. The Manistee is a broad and smooth river perfect for SUP beginners or paddlers looking for more easy-going terrain.
Like the Huron, Big Manistee is popular among fishers, and for a good reason. This river is home to multiple different types of salmon, trout, and bass, making it a fisherman’s dream river.
IF YOU GO: Just southeast of Mesick is the town of Cadillac, where you’ll find plenty of accomdations. I typically stay at this Holiday Inn Express, because they are dependably clean and have a terrific hot breakfast in the morning. I’ve also stayed at this Sun-Dappled Cadillac Gem with Kayaks and Grill, for a quieter experience. This large vacation home with a cedar interior is a perfect spot to relax and take in nature.
Au Sable River
The Au Sable River is a kayaker’s dream with an array of wildlife and water that flows as smooth as glass. It starts in Grayling and flows almost 140 miles to Oscoda, where it lets out into Lake Huron. The Au Sable is labeled National Wildlife and Scenic river, making it perfect for taking breathtaking photos of nature or camping alongside.
Like the Huron, one can take multiple routes/ entry points while exploring the river. In the fall, the beautiful hardwoods are ablaze with vibrant reds, yellows and orange-colored foliage. So Ifyou are planning a trip down the Au Sable River, you can go for a few hours or a few days, there’s enough a beautiful Michigan nature to explore endlessly here.
IF YOU GO: Oscoda Lakeside Hotel is located right on a gorgeous Lake Huron beach. It’s a very family-friendly spot, with playground and barbeque area for picnics. I also enjoy this private beachfront cottage that sleeps 12. It’s a cozy, knotty-pine cottage with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a firepit on the beach.
Connect with Natural Michigan at These Gorgeous Blue Water Lakes
Burt Lake is one of the best inland lakes in Michigan. Located in northern Michigan just outside Petoskey, it’s part of the Inland Waterway. This almost 40-mile waterway flows from Crooked Lake to Lake Huron, traveing rthough some of Michigan’s prettiest lakes and rivers, including Mullet Lake and Indian River. This is a particularly scenic area in autumn, when the crisp air turns the leaves in to a vibrant show of red and gold.
While out on the water, you can enjoy one of its many beautiful sandbars, enjoy the state park, or dive into the crystal blue water. The sand is soft and fluffy beneath one’s toes, and you rarely ever must worry about zebra mussels.
Burt Lake is perfect for family boat outings, kayaking, or paddleboarding. Every resident along the lake’s shoreline has nothing but amazing things to say about this lake. After a long day out on the boat, you will be able to enjoy gorgeous sunsets each night you are there.
IF YOU GO: The Crooked River Lodge in nearby Alanson is a perfect spot to stay while exploring Burt Lake and the Inland Waterway area. You’ll find big, comfortable and clean rooms and an indoor pool, too. The grounds are pretty, with Adirondack chairs along the river and fire pit, too. You can also try this Crooked Lake Luxury Home, featuring five bedrooms, five bathrooms and stunning lake views.
Glen Arbor, MI
With the bluest of water and white sandy beaches, it’s no wonder Michiganders make Glen Arbor a top Michigan destination.
This lake is fun for boaters, but it’s also an excellent place for kayakers to explore. It is smaller compared to other top lakes in Michigan, but don’t let that fool you. It’s still a must on the list of places to travel in Michigan and will have you thinking that you are in Florida.
IF YOU GO: Two of our favorite places to stay in all of Michigan are located here, in Glen Arbor. The Homestead Resort is a full-service year-round resorts with amazing accomodations and restaurants on-premise. The Sylvan Inn Bed and Breakfast is peaceful, clean and comfortable, with a wide front porch for sitting and taking in your pure Michigan surroundings.
Upper Peninsula, MI
Lake Gogebic is the perfect place for a rustic getaway while connecting with nature. The Lake is the largest inland lake in the UP and is home to several champion fish species. Lake Gogebic is highly regarded for its premier fishing with Walleye, Bass, and Pike.
Many cozy cabins are located on the lake, allowing kayakers and boaters easy access to the water. While hiking around the lake, you will enjoy the lovely views of the lake and the Bond Falls located in Lake Gogebic State Park.
Michigan’s Natural Areas in the Fall
While these are the top places to connect with nature in Michigan durign the sumemr and autumn month, there are several others. All these beautiful outdoor destinations help make Michigan one of the most significant states for travel and general. So, please, tell us in the comments, where is YOUR favorite place to connect with nature in Michigan?
Natural Michigan F.A.Q.
Michigan is home to amazing nature beauty, with a terrain that features everything from towering sand dunes overooking pristine lakes, to rolling hills and verdant forests. Michigan’s natural beauty is well-recognized: Michigan is home to two national lakeshores, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Discover More of Michigan’s Phenomenal Destinations
About the Author-
Emily Lance is a Content Creator for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the small town of Dexter, Michigan, just outside of Ann Arbor, and is currently attending Michigan State University. She majors in Journalism with a focus in Sports journalism and Media Relations and a minor in Media Photography. Emily loves writing and taking photographs/videos of her surroundings and travels. Emily likes to explore new places, kayak, ski, and go boating in her free time.