State parks in Michigan: Celebrating 100 years

Trekers is undertaking a big travel project involving the Michigan state parks in 2019. We’re excited to get things underway and invite you to come along with us!

The state park system in Michigan is celebrating its centennial year in 2019. Trekers is going to help celebrate this milestone by visiting all 103 state parks throughout the year.

We are thrilled to finally be starting this project that has been months in the planning stage. You can join our trek by following along on this blog, at our YouTube channel, on Instagram, and Twitter. We’ll be using the DNR’s hashtag — #mistateparks100 — as well as our Trekers hashtag — #hikecampgo.

About the parks

The state established the parks system in 1919 after the creation of the Michigan State Park Commission. Today, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources oversees the parks. The state acquired most early parkland through donations of private individuals, and has continued to add acreage over the years to expand the parks.

State parks in Michigan vary greatly. If you’re into history, you can learn about the state’s meridian or the logging industry. If sunbathing is more your style, you can visit the sandy beaches on four of the Great Lakes or the many inland lakes.

You can be in the state’s largest city — Detroit. Or you can enjoy peace and quiet on large swaths of forestland in the Upper Peninsula. There is truly a park for everyone.

Some brief history

Historic camping photo from Michigan
A historic camping photo, courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

According to the DNR’s Quick History of Michigan State Parks System, Michigan’s population exploded in the 1900s. That coincided with the growth of the automobile industry. Henry Ford made the automobile affordable for “every man” and the need for a state-level system of public recreational areas became clear. Urbanites could drive to the country and lake shores, but there were few public destinations available to enjoy these settings.

“The appearance of ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Property, Keep Out’ signs has been a growing one, all tending toward an approaching era of exclusion of the great mass of our residents and visitors from wonderful recreational advantages offered by the state. Through this, if nothing else, has come the setting aside of tracts of land and water by the people for the use and enjoyment of all.”

– P. J. Hoffmaster, Michigan’s first superintendent of state parks

Historic camping brochures
Classic camping brochures from the Michigan Department of Conservation circa 1967

About three-quarters of the state parks in Michigan offer camping sites. The rest are designed with day-use activities in mind. There’s a lot of ground to cover, a lot of activities to participate in, and plenty of beautiful places that capture the spirit of Pure Michigan.

About our treks

That’s where our big project for 2019 comes in! There is so much to see and do in Michigan’s state parks. But sometimes it can seem daunting to figure out which ones you should visit. So, follow along on our adventures and keep track of fun things to do, cool places to see, and campgrounds that look like a place you’d like to spend some time.

We will be offering highlights including campground information, activities available in the parks, fun facts, and things to see and do in the communities around the parks.

We owe a big shout-out to Erwin Hymer Group North America, which owns Roadtrek, the company that built our RV. When we approached them about using our Roadrek 190 Popular 4×4 to explore all the state parks in Michigan, they were excited to help out. Their sponsorship will help pay for some of our expenses. But they want us to focus on our treks and Michigan’s parks. Kudos to EHGNA and Roadtrek for being interested in showcasing the RV lifestyle without pushing in-your-face marketing.


UPDATE: Due to “financial irregularities” at the corporate level of Erwin Hymer Group North America, that company and its Roadtrek subsidiary have been closed and we lost our sponsorship. The sponsorship from EHGNA and Roadtrek was not income. But it was going to help cover some of our fuel and travel expenses. They also were going to provide social media support to help promote our Michigan State Parks Centennial Trek. This is a significant setback that we are working to overcome.

We hold no ill-will toward the marketing team at Roadtrek, as they were apparently being kept in the dark about the company’s status right up until the end. Our hearts are with the hundreds of employees and their families affected by the closure of this long-time Kitchener company. Roadtrek has made a great product for dozens of years and we hope someone comes along who can restore the factory and the Roadtrek brand to its position as a leading Class B RV manufacturer.


Starting the party

Tahquamenon Falls in winter
A picture we shot at Tahquamenon Falls in January 2018

Did you know there are several Michigan state parks open year-round, even way up north? Our Centennial State Park Trek is going to kick off right away at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a beautiful area that has multiple waterfalls, great hiking trails, and is near Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. (Cue “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”) Camping there in the winter requires some additional planning and a few extra layers of clothing, but the crowds and the mosquitoes are gone!

If you want to see our video announcement of this project, you can find it at Celebrating Michigan’s State Park Centennial on YouTube.

So, let’s go! Follow along on this blog, our YouTube channel, on Instagram, and Twitter. You can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. And you can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #mistatepark100 and #hikecampgo.

Back windows of Class B RV
This is our new rear-window wrap. We think people following our van will know how to follow our adventures now!