When the best states for stargazing come to mind, is Michigan on your list? Probably not – though it turns out that Michigan actually has great stargazing prospects. This is in part because of its nickname: the Great Lakes State. Unlike the Pacific Coast, which is plagued by clouds, or the East Coast with its huge light-polluted population centers, Michigan has over 3,200 miles of coastline and neither of those concerns.
I’ve been lucky to visit Michigan many times in my life, in part because some of my family hails from the Upper Peninsula (also called the U.P.). While Yoopers lay claim to having some of the best stargazing in Michigan, there are some great places throughout the Lower Peninsula too.
In this post, you’ll learn about all the best places for stargazing in Michigan, both on the Mitten and in the U.P. Each one showcases incredible starry skies at night and Michigan’s natural beauty during the day. So whether you consider yourself a Michigander, a Yooper, or someone looking for an unconventional but phenomenal destination for your next stargazing trip, look no further than these Michigan stargazing spots.
(If you aren’t sold, don’t forget that Michigan is also one of the best places to see the northern lights in the contiguous U.S.!)
1. Addison Oaks County Park
If stargazing and camping go hand in hand, you’ll love Addison Oaks County Park. A 1,140-acre natural oasis, Addison Oaks County Park offers visitors lovely scenery day and night. The park itself has low light pollution, and the skyglow from nearby urban areas doesn’t affect its night sky either.
The park closes at 9 p.m. during camping season. However, you’ll find plenty of camping sites (individual and group) to spend the night. The campsites are fantastic, with available showers, electricity, and water. There’s even a lake with a ramp for boating and kayaking!
2. Beaver Island
Stargazing in Michigan never looked as good as on Beaver Island. The tiny island sits alone in the middle of Lake Michigan. So, the stargazing prospects here seem to be quite promising. Most visitors go to Beaver Island looking for an escape from city life. It’s no wonder, though. The lovely island is nature at its finest, with a serene atmosphere, gorgeous landscapes, exotic wildlife, and starry nights.
The locals are also part of the island’s magic, whose laidback attitude matches the peacefulness of the surroundings. The island has only one town, St. James, which produces minimal light pollution. You’ll find plenty of fantastic backroads and beaches where you can view the night sky.
3. Copper Harbor
Copper Harbor is one of the best Michigan stargazing spots. Once you see where it sits on the map, you’ll understand why. Copper Harbor is Michigan’s northernmost town. It sits in the stunning Upper Peninsula at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula – yep, you can see the Northern Lights from here!
Surrounded by Lake Superior, Copper Harbor is a dream for outdoor lovers. You won’t find much outside gorgeous nature everywhere and the 85 people who call home this tiny town. The town has many campgrounds where you can pitch a tent and set up your telescope. The top of Brockway Mountain, Hunter’s Point, Lake Manganese, and Horseshoe Harbor are popular options for sunset and stars viewing sessions.
4. Dr. T.K. Lawless Park
Not long ago, Dr. T.K. Lawless Park was only famous for its seven miles of groomed cross-country ski trails that cater to fierce skiers.
Today, Dr. T.K. Lawless Park is one of the latest (and best) Michigan stargazing locations. The 820-acre nature park is one of only two International Dark Sky Parks located in Michigan. Its Dark Park designation is relatively new (2020), yet stargazers from all over the state already flock there to see the millions of stars at night. Besides its seclusion, the park has gone to great lengths to protect the night sky, eliminating all artificial outdoor light and replacing it with fully shielded LED 3,000k lights.
While Dr. T.K. Lawless Park closes at night; they have allotted certain nights for visitors to spend the night. You can find their stargazing schedule on the park’s FB page pinned towards the top.
5. Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Continuing with the dark sky park theme, Headlands was Michigan’s first park to earn international dark sky status. With two miles of undeveloped shoreline and 600 acres of forest, the park has everything to guarantee a fantastic dark sky experience. It is home to its observatory, which features a 20-inch PlaneWave telescope, an 18-foot dome, and an event center devoted to astrophotography.
The Headlands are a favorite spot for stargazing in Michigan, so expect the company of fellow stargazers. You can check all their stargazing events on the park’s website, plus information on what cosmic phenomena you can catch depending on the season you visit.
6. Isle Royale National Park
I think you’ll have a hard time finding a more pristine area for stargazing in Michigan than Isle Royale National Park. A haven for backpackers, Isle Royale National Park, is one of the most unique wilderness areas in the U.S. It sits amid a vast span of water and is home to a host of different flora, fauna, and dazzling stars.
Make sure you bring your hiking boots and your telescope, for you must traverse this park on foot or you’ll regret it. There are plenty of easy hikes in the area and long ones if you plan for overnight camping. No areas are off-limits, so you can roam around the park freely and find a decent stargazing spot. However, beware that some areas are very remote and, the further you get from the boat dock, the denser the forest gets.
7. Lake Hudson Recreation Area
If you’re in the southern portion of the state, Lake Hudson Recreation Area is a good option for where to go stargazing in Michigan. The park is perfect for a weekend getaway, with a wonderful beach, boat access, camping sites, and black velvet skies.
There’s a designated Dark Sky Preserve within the recreation area and features a campground for those who want to spend the night. You’re free to choose your own stargazing spot along the expansive grassy fields, but picnic and beach parking areas are some of your best bets. The park also offers hunting, fishing, and geocaching activities if you want to spend the day here.
8. Les Cheneaux Islands
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux Islands are a fantastic spot for water sport enthusiasts. A group of 36 islands makes up the Les Cheneaux Islands.
Most are inhabited and have preserved their natural surroundings in perfect conditions. Their remoteness makes them ideal for spotting twinkling dots along the sky, and there are tons of stargazing campouts scattered around the area.
You’ll also find other outdoor adventures around every corner. Put on your swimsuit and go swimming in Lake Huron or kayaking and boating on one of the bays.
9. Manistee National Forest
Sprawling over 540,187 acres, Manistee National Forest is far enough from Michigan’s polluted cities but close enough to make a quick getaway. It stretches between the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The area comprises around forty miles of vast forests and has tons of hiking trails that traverse different parts.
Manistee National Forest offers many cabins and campgrounds for overnight stays. The park also allows dispersed and primitive tent camping almost anywhere if you’re feeling adventurous. Their website has a section devoted to all the campgrounds you can find in the area, which can help you find the best campground for your stargazing experience.
10. Negwegon State Park
Negwegon State Park is a wilderness exploration waiting to happen. An undeveloped public recreation area, the park is home to several miles of trails that go deep into a forest brimming with pine and birch trees. There is plenty of beachfront to explore and dispersed campsites for people who want to get away for a weekend in the deep woods.
Since 2016, Negwegon State Park has been a Designated Dark Sky Preserve, boasting prime starry sky views. While you can find many places for stargazing, I suggest finding a spot near Lake Huron. You’ll love watching the stars against the backdrop of the water.
The DNR warns visitors they might need a four-wheel drive to access the park since the road can get very sandy and soft in some parts, especially during wet seasons.
11. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
When you Google Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photographs of Lake Superior’s turquoise water take the spotlight, however, this park offers a lot more to do and see than swimming or boating. It all depends on what kind of traveler you are. Explore the amazing network of hiking trails leading to every nook and cranny if adventure is your thing. Those looking for a relaxing day can head to the shoreline and enjoy sunbathing.
As for stargazers, there’s plenty of room in the campgrounds or trails to set up your telescope. If you’re chasing the best angle to capture the Milky Way, head to the Lake Superior shoreline, a prime spot for night sky photography. The park is also pet-friendly, so you can share a stargazing session in the company of your furry friend.
12. Port Crescent State Park
Like most astronomy buffs, you’ll initially choose to go to Port Crescent State Park for the dark sky preserve, but you’ll immediately fall in love with everything about this place as soon as you step in.
Despite only being 640 acres, the park has beaches and dunes and miles of forests– quite a variety of ecosystems. It is a perfect place to picnic or walk if you like quiet and the sound of waves and wind; plus, the stargazing is fantastic. You’ll rarely see any cars there, let alone flashing lights. If you visit during October, there are high chances you’ll have the beaches to yourselves for a magical stargazing experience.
13. Rockport State Recreation Area
One of Michigan’s newest parks, Rockport State Recreation Area, is famous for offering fossil hunting. The park is home to a gigantic limestone rock pile where you can dig your own fossils and take them with you!
In 2016, Rockport State Recreation Area became a dark sky preserve, providing stargazers with some of the best night skies in the area. The preserve has over 4200 acres where you can bring out your telescope and view the cosmos. Given it sits along Lake Huron shores, the park also offers fishing, kayaking, and caring opportunities. There is a sinkhole pond where you can swim, too!
14. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Beloved by locals and tourists alike, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-stop for stargazing in Michigan. As the name suggests, the park is home to massive sand dunes (some of the largest in the Eastern U.S.) and the infamous “Dune Climb.” You’ll find many spots to gaze at the stars, but the overlooks are your safest choice.
If you’re up for a drive, head to Pierce Stocking scenic drive, which passes by several overlooks, and kill two birds with one shot. The park rangers also offer weekly and monthly dark sky programs. Their website also provides useful tips to help you with your stargazing session at the park.
15. Tahquamenon Falls State Park
With over 52,000 acres, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is Michigan’s second-largest state park. It comprises mostly undeveloped woodland, and its main attraction is its waterfalls, which sit right in the park’s heart. The park offers recreational activities year-round. Summer activities include hiking, fishing, and canoeing. During the winter, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, cross country, and skiing.
While the falls are the main attraction, Tahquamenon Falls State Park has a reputation for being a top spot for astrophotography. The park also runs stargazing events. This year they hosted the “Meteors and S’mores” party to experience The Perseid meteor shower.
16. Tawas Point State Park
Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Tawas Point State Park is a public recreation area located on Lake Huron in Northern Michigan. The park is popular for being a stopover site for hundreds of migrating birds. As such, birdwatching is the most important activity here.
It offers breathtaking views of Lake Huron and the stars above. You can find a spot to stargaze along the large grassland, which has trails right through the tall grasses, so you don’t get lost. There’s also a campground. While there are usually big crowds here, you can find silent spots to carry on your astral hobby. When you’re here, remember to visit the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse.
17. Thompson’s Harbor State Park
You better have your eyes ready when you visit Thompson’s Harbor State Park, for this park takes the art of gazing –in all its ways– to another level. Let’s begin with stargazing. The park covers 5,109 acres of undeveloped land, including 7.5 miles of Great Lake shoreline. All you have to do is find a place that suits your stargazing needs.
Once you’ve taken in the beauty of the cosmos, head on a hike and look down. The park is wildflower heaven, with Yellow Lady Slippers, Red Columbine, Dwarf Lake Iris flowers everywhere. Keep your eyes peeled for the butterflies, too! Monarchs, Slippers, and Swallowtails are popular residents of the park. Then, put your binocular to good use again and engage in a birdwatching session.
18. Wilderness State Park
As the name suggests, Wilderness State Park is an outdoor haven. There’s kayaking, swimming, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, you name it. With well over 10,000 acres of rich forest, you’re sure to find an escape from the modern world and plenty of space to explore the wonders of our universe.
Wilderness State Park is a fantastic place to camp if you have kids. The campground is excellent, featuring many remodeled sites and a newer bathhouse. There’s also a lovely dog beach, lots of trails to hike through, and an excellent camp store close by that has all the staples; fresh donuts, pizza, ice cream, ice, and wood.
Know of any other great spots for stargazing in Michigan – or have questions about these places? Let me know in the comments!