Experience the Stars at Headlands Dark Sky Park

Experience the Stars at Headlands Dark Sky Park

As the end of summer approaches, I begin to slightly panic that my favorite Michigan season is quickly slipping by. It’s around this time that I put forth extra effort to cram in as many adventures as I can. There is only so much one can do in a day, but what if there was something to do in the middle of the night? You can imagine how excited I was to learn of The Headlands Dark Sky Park on the Straits of Mackinaw!

Dark Sky Milky Way. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Dark Sky Milky Way. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Headlands offers exceptional views of the night sky within its 550 acres of woodlands and two-mile stretch of shoreline along Lake Michigan. Right now the park is boasting exceptional views of the Scorpion and Sagittarius constellations, as well as the Milky Way, but come August, visitors will be wowed with numerous meteor showers and shooting stars.

Visitors are encouraged to visit throughout the darkest hours of the night for the best unaltered sights, but Headlands is open 24 hours a day, year-round. The park staff also recommends bringing blankets, chairs, drinks, and snacks, as well as warm clothing for the temperate Lake Michigan shore.

Northern Lights. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Northern Lights. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Although camping and overnight sleeping are not allowed at Headlands, downtown Mackinaw City is only two miles east of the park entrance and there are several campsites nearby. The site also features a Guest House that can hold up to 20 people, but reservations fill up fast!

Park guests can participate in scheduled programs and events, such as trivia nights and viewing parties, or follow the nearly five miles of marked trails for self-guided evenings. For early sleepers, the park is also open in the daylight and welcomes hikers, bicyclists, cross-county skiers and photographers. The park’s website notes that visitors may see native animals such as bald eagles, osprey, white tail deer, wild turkeys, coyotes and even black bears. And here’s the best part: admission is free!

Dark Sky at Twilight. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Dark Sky at Twilight. Photo courtesy of Headlands International Dark Sky Park

In 2011, Headlands became one of the first International Dark Sky Parks in the world after completing a rigorous application and review process. Due to this prestigious designation, the park will stay dark and protected forever. With only a few dozen of these areas in the world, we’ll have to thank our lucky stars one is right here in our backyard.

Have you been to a Dark Sky Park? Tell us what you thought in the comments!