Midwest Living Review
If you drew a rough right angle between Harbor Springs and Mackinaw City, Wilderness State Park would sit at the meeting point of the two straight sides, north of the Lake Michigan shore towns and west of the gateway to Mackinac Island. Despite being relatively close to these tourist meccas, you can come to this 10,500-acre park midweek and have a seemingly endless swath of beach all to yourself—except, maybe, for a pair of loons paddling in the bay. You get a sense of the size of this park on your way in from the south; you drive for miles on a quiet lakeside road just to get to the park entrance sign, and then you drive a couple more miles to the day-use area. There are easy beach-access points along that entry road, but for more guidance, pick up maps and brochures at the humble entrance booth or nature center. Facilities are limited: pit toilets, picnic tables and a few ramshackle grills. Many of the park's 250 modern campsites lure visitors who thrill at the notion of pitching their tent in full view of Lake Michigan. Despite (or perhaps because of) its rusticity, Wilderness State Park is an ideal day-trip destination. The 26-mile shore encompasses grassy dunes and pebbly beaches with a kaleidoscope of rust-, cream-, slate- and sage-color stones. Inland, you can hike or bike (or ski or snowmobile in winter) 20 miles of trails. Dense forest, meadows and marshes also mean plenty of birds, plants and wildlife to see, including some rare and endangered species. Just remember, if you come in late spring or early summer, black flies will be out in full force, so you'll want repellant.