Michigan State Parks: Hoffmaster

Two people in front of a state park sign

Hoffmaster State Park sits on 3 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline near Muskegon. At 1,200 acres, Hoffmaster State Park has a beach, campground, miles of trails and an extremely nice visitor center. It is the perfect family friendly park with activities for all ages.

This state park holds a special place in my heart as it’s the state park my family visited most when I was growing up. On a Saturday or Sunday morning, my parents would pack my brother and me, and often a friend or two, into the minivan for the 2-hour drive to the beach.

We’d spend the whole day enjoying the beach and the lake. A trip was never complete without stopping at the local Whippi Dip on the way home for ice cream.

At the time, Hoffmaster State Park had a huge, wide, sandy beach that never felt full, even on busy summer weekends. There was plenty of room to spread out blankets, build sandcastles, and run up and down the tall dunes.

Unfortunately, like many parks along the coast, the cyclical rising lake water has taken its toll and the beach is now a mere fraction of its size. When we visited in summer 2019 it was so tiny I barely recognized it. Visitors were practically stacked on top of each other.

The good news is, Hoffmaster State Park offers a lot to do besides just the beach that visitors should take advantage of.

People hanging out at a beach

Camping at Hoffmaster State Park

The campground at Hoffmaster State park has almost 300 sites. While there’s not a lot of privacy between each site, the entire campground is built in the woods, with very tall pine trees all around. Most of the sites are shaded as a result so you won’t bake in the heat, but it’s also not the best place if you rely on solar. One good thing about the trees is that they are a good place to hang a hammock, which we observed quite a few campers had done.

The annual vintage camper event at the Hoffmaster campground. Notice the tall trees and no privacy between sites.

Like many campgrounds, it is built in a series of loops, so some sites will back up to others and some will back up to the woods. Be sure to check out the online map for descriptions and photos of each site before you book. A handful of sites have been upgraded to 50 amps.

The campground has its own beach, separate from the main beach, but it too is considerably smaller due to the high water. A playground also is available for the kiddos.

Hiking Trails and Dune Overlook

View of Lake Michigan from the observation deck

Throughout the park is almost 10 miles of trails to explore via foot (or cross-country skis/snowshoes in the winter). One of these trails includes the park’s famous Dune Climb Stairway that leads to a panoramic view of the dunes and Lake Michigan from the observation deck on top of a tall dune. It’s close to 200 steps, but totally worth it though if you have the ability to make the climb.

A few years ago, Ari and I had the opportunity to participate in a community service project to repair and replace a portion of the observation deck and walkway. It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to a place you love so much.

Ari (right) helps repair the boardwalk

Genevieve Gillette Visitor Center

A main attraction in the park is the Genevieve Gillette Visitor Center. Genevieve Gillette was instrumental in helping shape Michigan’s state park system. She was a pioneer of her time regarding women’s rights and conservation, becoming the first female graduate of the landscape architecture program at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) and leading a successful career working under noted landscape architect Jens Jensen.

Genevieve became good friends with PJ Hoffmaster, Michigan’s first state park superintendent and longest-serving director of the Michigan Department of Conservation. She spent the rest of her career helping scour land across Michigan that could be turned into state parks.

The visitor center is fairly elaborate and well-kept. There are numerous displays and diagrams showing how sand dunes form, what types of animals are found in the park, different seasonal habitats, and other information on the ecology and ecosystems within the park.

The state offers educational activities, as well. According to the park’s website: “Throughout the year, the visitor center offers lectures, guided hikes, and special events. Schools may take advantage of visitor center programs during the school year. A classroom, complete with seasonal teaching displays, is available. The visitor center staff teach about environmental topics on a limited basis. Classes include a guided outdoor experience.”

Visiting Hoffmaster State Park

Hoffmaster State Park is the place to go if you want to get away from the overwhelming crowds at nearby beaches such as Grand Haven State Park. The parking lot is huge, there are changing stations available by the beach, and plenty of space to explore.

One important thing to note is you’ll want your bikes or a car, as the campground, main beach and visitor center are all in completely separate areas of the park. It is more efficient to bike or drive between the areas.

If you’re camping and looking for activities outside the park, be sure to grab ice cream from Whippi Dip, visit Craig’s Cruisers, or even pop over to Michigan’s Adventure for the day.

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Hoffmaster State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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