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Explore 3 Michigan National Parks for FREE on September 23, 2023

In celebration of National Public Lands Day, you can visit three National Park Service (NPS) sites in Michigan for FREE on September 23, 2023!

Michigan is home to seven NPS sites: one national park, two national lakeshores, one national historic park, part of a national scenic trail, one national heritage area, and one national battlefield park are all located in Michigan. 

While some attractions are free to visit all year, others have a daily admission fee. Every year, the National Park Service announces “fee-free” days when visitors can explore these parks without paying an entrance fee.

Over 400 national parks across the U.S. are open to the public year-round. Entrance fee-free days are an excellent opportunity to cross one of these parks off your bucket list, especially one that typically charges an entrance fee. 

Note: The fee-free days do not include amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Take advantage of entrance fee-free days at Michigan’s most-popular National Park Service sites: Isle Royale National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Other NPS sites in Michigan include the North Country Scenic Trail, River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Keweenaw National Historic Park, and MotorCities National Heritage Area. While most sites within these areas are free to visit at any time, some may charge a private fee for admission or tours.

Isle Royale - Windigo
photo courtesy of @joriestrunk

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is an archipelago that consists of a large island and more than 200 smaller islands. The park can only be accessed by boat (ferry or private) or seaplane and is only open to the public half the year (April 16 – October 31).

Located 56 miles off the mainland of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, this remote park was established in 1940 and saw close to 3,200 visitors in its first year. In 2021, more than 25,000 individuals visited the park.

The 571,790-acre park offers a range of activities and unparalleled solitude. Since it’s a wilderness and protected land, the park has an array of wildlife and stunning scenery. Moose sightings are frequent, and haunting loon calls are common. Hiking, camping, kayaking, and canoeing are all popular activities on the island.

The solitude and isolation primarily attract experienced backpackers and paddlers who arrive prepared to navigate Isle Royale’s roadless backcountry and inland lake paddling route, Chain of Lakes.

Isle Royale National Park Visitor Centers:

  • Rock Harbor – NE end of Isle Royale National Park
  • Windigo – SW end of Isle Royale National Park
Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | photo via jeffhartzphoto

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is comprised of two zones along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that combine for a total of 114.5 square miles. Established in 1966, it was the first of the nation’s four national lakeshores and is 42.8 miles long.

One of the state’s most breathtaking geological wonders, this NPS site is one of the most popular destinations in the Upper Peninsula, with an average of 1.2 million annual visitors from 2020-2022. The 200-ft high cliffs rising from Lake Superior are stunning from any angle, and the 300-ft sand dunes are unparalleled in their beauty.

Visits to this park frequently include hiking, biking, chasing waterfalls, camping, boating, hunting, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. The park is truly an outdoor playground with six major lakes, 111 miles of hiking trails, three drive-in campgrounds, and 13 backcountry camping areas within its boundaries.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Visitor Centers:

  • Munising Falls Visitor Center – located on the park’s western end in Munising
  • Grand Sable Visitor Center – located on the east end of the park near Grand Marais
Pierece Stocking Drive-Sleeping Bear Dunes
Pierce Stocking Drive | photo via _samantha.miller_

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a protected shoreline along Lake Michigan that sees over one million visitors annually

This NPS site was established by Congress in 1970 and has grown in popularity as more and more people discover its beauty. Good Morning America named the park the “Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011, exposing the nation to one of Michigan’s favorite year-round destinations.

Most famous for its namesake dunes that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, the park boasts 35 miles of mainland shoreline along with two islands (North Manitou and South Manitou), 26 inland lakes, 12 miles of rivers and streams, and eight sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including an 1871 lighthouse.

Climbing the dunes, traversing Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, hiking the Empire Bluff Trail, paddling the Platte River, biking the Heritage Trail, or simply enjoying a day on the shores of Lake Michigan are all popular activities at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Centers:

  • Philip A. Hart Visitor Center – located in Empire
  • South Manitou Island Visitor Center – located on South Manitou island
  • Port Oneida Heritage Center – open seasonally
Isle Royale National Park - Michigan
Isle Royale National Park | photo via @marniminn

Plan Your Free Visit to Michigan’s National Parks

Which Pure Michigan summer experience will you choose? A remote island getaway? Backcountry hiking with breathtaking views and rushing waterfalls? A day in the sun on the shores of Lake Michigan? No matter what you choose – be sure to take advantage of no entrance fees on these 2023 dates:

  • January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • April 22: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

This article was produced by AwesomeMitten.com and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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