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Awesome Mitten’s ULTIMATE Guide of When, Where, & How to See the Northern Lights in Michigan

If you’re looking to see the “northern lights near me” in Michigan, you’ll want to read our full guide to the best places to see Michigan Northern Lights as well as when to find them!

Have you ever been dazzled by online posts, photos, and videos of the northern lights? If so, you’re not alone! But have you ever seen the auroras dance with your own eyes? It might surprise you, but watching the northern lights is closer than you think.

The Northern Lights Michigan is famous for showcasing (aka Aurora Borealis) are a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and charged particles released from the sun.

Northern Lights
Mission Point Lighthouse | photo via michiganskymedia

Everyone remembers the first time they see the majesty of the northern lights.

When I saw the auroras for the first time, it was late at night and even though it was summer, I remember it being a bit on the chilly side (I didn’t realize that hoodies and knit hats are required year-round on the shoreline of Lake Superior!).

Not wanting to build a fire in the pit outside my cabin (too much ambient light), I grabbed a mug of hot chocolate as I gazed up at the night sky. I tried to stay focused on a specific part of the sky, but every time I blinked, I thought I saw movement.

And then, just like that, the sky was full of dancing lights! It was like the whole universe was dancing to a song that only it could here — the shooting pillars of light were keeping time to the beat. It was perfect!

When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Michigan?

Once you experience the auroras for the first time, you’re addicted. It’s hard not to chase the lights. If you’re interested in seeing the northern lights in Michigan, your best bet is to plan your trip between now and the peak in 2025 when the sun is switching magnetic poles.

We’ll be in what scientists refer to as the Solar Max, and more plasma will be heading toward Earth than in other years. This means brighter and more vibrant northern lights shows.

The transitions from winter to spring and fall to winter seem to produce the best conditions in the atmosphere for seeing the Aurora Borealis in Michigan. Key months for Northern Lights activity in Michigan are April, October, and November.

The actual timing of the Northern Lights can be difficult to predict, and most predictions are made within 24-48 hours of the actual display. Pick a clear, crisp night for the best chance at catching the Northern Lights on display in Michigan.

Related: Will the Northern Lights Be Visible in Michigan Tonight?

See the Northern Lights During a New Moon

To increase your chances of seeing the auroras, it’s important to travel to areas with low light pollution. This will help ensure that the night sky is as dark as possible, making it easier to see the auroras.

And if you schedule your travels during new moon cycles, you’ll be treated to incredible stargazing and your odds of seeing the auroras will be at their absolute peak. We’ve gathered the new moon dates for 2024 to help you plan your trip. Keep your fingers crossed for solar plasma during these dates:

  • January 11
  • February 9
  • March 10
  • April 8
  • May 7
  • June 6
  • July 5
  • August 4
  • September 2
  • October 2
  • November 1
  • November 30
  • December 30

Remember, while scheduling your trip during new moon cycles can increase your chances of seeing the auroras, the lights can still be viewed any clear night after a solar storm. So don’t worry if you can’t make it during a new moon cycle – there’s still a chance you’ll be able to witness this incredible natural phenomenon.

Wondering are Northern Lights visible in Michigan tonight? 

The best app to predict the lights is Space Weather Live, which can predict them up to an hour before they become visible, helping you to “see the northern lights in Michigan tonight” when they’re likely to be visible!

Unable to catch the Northern Lights in Michigan tonight? Check out this time-lapse video of the Northern Lights from 2011.

Where to See the Northern Lights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

Northern Michigan is full of quiet, remote, and dark places that are perfect for watching the Northern Lights in Michigan. So go grab the family and a blanket and find a spot that is free from any type of light and enjoy the Aurora Borealis in Michigan.

The Northern Lights Shine Bright Along Lake Superior’s Shoreline in the Upper Peninsula

Northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is at an excellent latitude position since the auroral oval dips further south on nights of higher auroral activity.

Due to the relatively dark night sky, the Upper Peninsula is gifted with hundreds of miles of shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, which affords some of the greatest places to see the Northern Lights in Michigan.

With its proximity to the North Pole and its lack of light pollution, the Upper Peninsula is a prime place for watching the Northern Lights in Michigan. Lake Superior’s high shorelines give sky-gazers a full, unobstructed view of the night’s lights, making it one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Looking north over Lake Superior’s southern shore, one can see all the way to the horizon and enjoy a 180-degree panorama of the night sky. At our latitude, getting to a position without being obstructed by a treeline or hills is critical, as an auroral show will often sit extremely low on the horizon.

St. Ignace, Michigan - Northern Lights
St. Ignace | photo via @wanderingpelican

Some of our favorite places to see the Northern Lights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula include:

Experience the Northern Lights from Historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge at Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula

This U.P. park became just the third International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Michigan in June. This historic wilderness lodge offers stargazers a chance to see the Northern Lights at Michigan’s northernmost tip.

This Upper Peninsula park also offers programs and photo workshops so you can take awesome Northern Lights photos when the time is right.

The Beaches of Drummond Island Provide Northern Light Michigan Viewing Spots

At the far-east end of the Upper Peninsula on Lake Huron is Drummond Island, which offers arguably some of the best viewing spots for the Northern Lights anywhere in the world. If you’re looking to throw a blanket down and soak in the views, try Glen Cove Beach or Township Park Beach.

Northern Lights
Northern Lights | photo via 906_images

Marquette is One of the Upper Peninsula’s Best Places to View the Northern Lights

The largest city in the U.P. has lots of great spots to see the stars and Northern Lights, especially if you visit during the fall or winter. Winters in the U.P. can be treacherous, but the views up here are spectacular.

Try hiking Sugarloaf Mountain during the warmer months or try any of the numerous pullout spots along M-28 if you’re driving from Munising to Marquette. Once you’ve found the perfect spot along Lake Superior’s shoreline, you won’t be able to beat the views.

See the Aurora Borealis from the Remote (and Totally Awesome) Isle Royale

Believe it or not, Isle Royale National Park is actually one of the least visited national parks in the nation. But it’s located in the Mitten State and it’s a great place to see the Northern Lights!

This national park in the middle of Lake Superior may be remote and rugged, but it’s the perfect spot to catch the wondrous aurora borealis. Your best bet to see it here is between mid-April and late October since the park is only open for visiting in warmer months.

Enjoy the Aurora Borealis Along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Did you know that Pictured Rocks was the country’s first National Lakeshore? This is a special place to visit any time of year for the colorful sandstone cliffs, but nightfall brings the chance to see the Northern Lights.

The park is open 24 hours a day, so stop by for a visit. Try stopping by Miner’s Beach, Twelve Mile Beach, or Grand Portal Points for some excellent views.

Whitefish Point, Michigan - Northern Lights
Whitefish Point | photo via @wideeyedone_

Where to Watch the Northern Lights in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula?

If you’ve never seen the northern lights Michigan is known for and want to optimize your chances, learn about and pay attention to sunspot activity, as that is what triggers them.

When the Michigan Northern Lights forecast predicts possible sightings in the Lower Peninsula, find the darkest spot with a clear 180-degree unobstructed view of the northern skies, and get ready for an amazing light show!

Headlands International Dark Sky Park – Mackinaw City’s Best Spot for Viewing the Northern Lights

The sixth International Dark Sky Park in the U.S., exploring Headlands International Dark Sky Park is one of the best things to do in Mackinaw City, especially if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis in Michigan’s lower peninsula!

Over 600 acres along more than two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County provide a perfect stargazing paradise.

See the Aurora Borealis at Wilderness State Park in Carp Lake

Situated west of Headlands International Dark Sky Park, this Emmett County park is spread out over 10,000 acres, including more than 20 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. There are also trails to explore and plenty of camping space. If you can’t make it to Headlands, this is a wonderful stargazing spot.

Don’t Miss Catching the Northern Lights Over the Mackinac Bridge

Headlands is one of the best spots in Michigan to see the Northern Lights, but if you want to “get closer,” try checking out the lights by the Mackinac Bridge.

Driving over the bridge is always a special experience, whether you’re a native Michigander or just visiting. But watching the Northern Lights while you’re driving over the bridge or situated close by takes that special feeling to the next level.

No matter what side of the bridge you’re on, there are several exits and turnoffs you can pull off to really take in the majestic view.

Mackinaw City, Michigan - Northern Lights
Northern Lights over the Mackinac Bridge | photo via @chase_gagnon

Lower Michigan’s Best Northern Lights Locations are Along the Lake Michigan Shoreline

In recent years, the Lake Michigan shoreline has become a popular place to see the Northern Lights. This colorful, natural phenomenon can look like it’s waving in the breeze, and it’s best seen right along the shoreline.

So if you’re camping in Ludington, Traverse City, or anywhere else on Lake Michigan, keep your eyes peeled for some magnificent views.

Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin is a Perfect Place for Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Michigan’s Thumb

The dark sky preserve in Port Crescent State Park gives stargazers in East Michigan the perfect setting for catching a shooting star or a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Michigan!

Competent kayakers might even enjoy a nighttime venture to Turnip Rock for nature’s best light show.

Don’t Miss the Dark Skies at Negwegon State Park in Ossineke

Located just outside of Alpena, Negwegon State Park was recently designated as a dark sky preserve. It’s perfect for hunting, hiking, and rustic camping and it’s a great spot for stargazing, so you may be able to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights on the Lake Huron shoreline.

Northern Lights
Silver Lake Sand Dunes | photo via nat_geo_vibes

Rockport State Park in Alpena is a Great Place to See the Aurora Borealis in Michigan

Located a few miles north of downtown Alpena, Rockport State Park has a lot to offer visitors. There’s a pier, sinkholes, plenty of beachfront, and more. It’s also a dark preserve and a great place to spend the night looking up at the stars and trying to catch a peek at the Northern Lights when the time is right.

Dark Skies Abound at Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Posen

Sticking along the Lake Huron shoreline, head north on US-23 toward Posen. This park allows visitors to have rustic camping or hiking experience if they wish. It’s also perfect for some lakeshore stargazing and a place to catch the Northern Lights if you don’t want to drive so far north.

T.K. Lawless Dark Sky Park in Jones is a Great Place to Catch the Northern Lights in Southwest Michigan

Believe it or not, you don’t always have to travel to Northern Michigan to see the Northern Lights or the stars.

Situated in southern Michigan in Cass County is the Dr. T.K. Lawless Sky Park, the only International Dark Sky Association (IDA) certified dark sky park in this part of the state. The designation was given in 2020 to the park.

The park is spread out over more than 800 acres and has lots of outdoor recreation activities for visitors. But if you’re looking for a stargazing spot in southern Michigan, this is the place to be.

Northern Lights
Little Sable Point Lighthouse | photo via burgerplex

What’s Michigan’s Northern Lights Forecast 2023?

The Northern Lights are not something that you can necessarily predict with a high degree of accuracy. The aurora borealis is dependent on solar activity and the weather, both of which can change quickly.

To get an idea of when you might spot the lights, check out websites like Aurora Service or Space Weather Live. These sites use real-time data to provide forecasts for where and when to see Northern Lights Michigan displays.

Any Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights Michigan?

Seeing the northern lights in Michigan is difficult to predict as they are a naturally occurring phenomenon and a clear night sky is required.

Follow these tips to increase your chances of viewing an aurora borealis shower, regardless of where you are in the northern hemisphere.

  • Find a dark sky with a wide horizon to the north.
  • Check NOAA’s three-day forecast and 30-minute forecast for possible sightings.
  • Dress warmly and be patient.

Need an Interactive Northern Lights Michigan Map?

We’ve created an interactive Northern Lights Michigan map to help you find the best place to catch this awesome phenomenon near you when it’s time for their appearance in Michigan!

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights, commonly known as aurora borealis (and aurora australis in the Southern Hemisphere), are a natural display of light in the night sky of the northern hemisphere.

Auroral displays come in a variety of colors, the most frequent of which are light green and pink. Red, yellow, green, blue, and violet hues have also been recorded.

A solar flare (energetic particles emitted by the sun) travels across space on the solar wind, ultimately breaching the Earth’s magnetic field. Electrons in the Earth’s magnetic field sideswipe oxygen atoms or nitrogen molecules.

The northern lights are caused by colliding particles (typically electrons) with atoms; after impact, electrons might revert to their initial, lower energy state, releasing photons or light particles known as aurorae.

The differences in color are caused by the different types of gas particles that are colliding. We are blessed with some of the best places to see this Michigan Northern Light phenomenon.

An Interesting Historical Perspective of the Aurelia Borealis

Historically, Aurora Borealis has had many interpretations as people groups tried to explain this natural phenomenon.

  • The Maori, of New Zealand, believed them to be the fires and torches of people living far north.
  • Inuit tribes of Alaska looked to the lights to see representations of their ancestors and the animals that they hunted.
  • A little closer to home, the Menominee of Wisconsin thought the lights were the lanterns of a group of giants that lived to the north.

Regardless of how they work or the beliefs behind them, the Aurora Borealis is beautiful and the Mitten is blessed to have such a good seat in this natural light show.

Want to See Michigan Northern Lights Photography?

And if you’re not able to travel to see the northern lights in person, there are still ways to experience the magic from the comfort of your own home. Many websites and social media accounts offer live streams of the auroras, so you can watch them from anywhere in the world.

You can also find stunning photos and videos of the northern lights online, which can be a great way to get inspired and plan your next trip.

When the Aurora Borealis is on display across much of Michigan, the best Michigan landscape photographers do not let us down. Using a wide aperture and slow shutter speeds (as slow as 1-15 seconds!), they’ve captured some amazing photos. Here are just a few of our favorite photos of the Northern Lights in Michigan…

Headlands International Dark Sky Park - Mackinaw City, Michigan - Northern Lights
Headlands International Dark Sky Park | photo via @sindusanjuu
Eagle Harbor, Eagle Harbor - Michigan Tech Winter Carnival
Eagle Harbor | photo via @lpvisuals
Crisp Point Lighthouse - Crisp Point Lighthouse, M-123 Tahquamenon Scenic Byway
Crisp Point Lighthouse | photo via @mark_o_foto
Lake Huron, Michigan - Northern Lights
Lake Huron | photo via @chase_gagnon
Lake Huron, Michigan - Northern Lights
Lake Huron | photo via @chase_gagnon

Can you see the Northern Lights in Michigan?

Michigan is one of the best places in the northern hemisphere to see the Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights, thanks to miles of undeveloped Great Lakes shorelines and vast acres of quiet forests.

Where is the Best Place to See the Northern Lights in Michigan?

Finding a dark place with a long-range view of the northern skies is preferred for seeing the Northern Lights Michigan is famous for. Examples include dark sky parks and various locations along Lake Superior’s southern shorelines.

When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Michigan?

The Northern Lights in Michigan can often be seen between the months of August and April, with the peak months being March, April, October, and November.

Solar activity tends to be highest during the transition from fall to winter and winter to spring, adding to the chances of catching Aurora Borealis in Michigan!

Do the Northern Lights happen every night?

While the Northern Lights do happen every night, they don’t generally make their way far enough south to be seen regularly in Michigan. Watch the skies on clear, cool nights for your best chance to catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon in Michigan!

What month is best to see the Northern Lights in Michigan?

The northern lights are best seen during the winter months on dark, clear nights around a New Moon. In general, the months of September through April are the best for seeing the Northern Lights in Michigan.

To get the most out of this natural light display, begin looking skyward several hours after dusk.

How long do the Michigan Northern Lights last?

The Northern Lights Michigan boasts are most prevalent between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. They aren’t generally visible for long, and they may just show for a few minutes before drifting away.

A nice light show will likely last for no more than 15-30 minutes at a time, but if you’re very lucky, it may just linger for many hours.

Where have you seen the Northern Lights in Michigan?

Remember that the northern lights are a bit hard to predict, so it’s important to keep an eye on the weather and solar activity. But don’t worry, the auroras can be viewed any clear night after a solar storm.

Whether you’re a seasoned aurora chaser or a first-timer, seeing the northern lights is an experience you won’t forget. So why not add it to your bucket list and start planning your trip today? With a little bit of luck and some careful planning, you could be watching the auroras dance with your own eyes in no time!

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