Michigan State Parks: Wilderness

Ari and Jessi in front of the Wilderness State Park sign

With more than 10,000 acres, 16 miles of trails and 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Wilderness State Park lives up to its name.

Located in the upper tip of the Lower Peninsula, the state park offers a huge amount of ecological diversity as well as an array of camping options.

Visitors come to Wilderness State Park to get away and enjoy the wilderness. Activities are available year-round, from swimming to stargazing to skiing.

Beaches, wildlife, and stars

There is not a typical day-use area at Wilderness State Park. There is a small parking area near the park headquarters with a couple of picnic tables and access to the beach for swimming. The only playground equipment is located in the campground.

If you want to enjoy a stroll down the beach and don’t mind a bit of a drive, head all the way to the end of Waugoshance Point Road. It’s a rough dirt road that leads to a small dirt parking lot. From there, you can enjoy a stroll down the beach to look for rocks and fossils and catch a glimpse of the Mackinac Bridge in the distance. If you’re up for it, head west for 3 miles to the end of Waugoshance Point.

Beach at Wilderness State Park
Wilderness State Park Beach

While in the park, be on the lookout for wildlife. Bald eagles are frequent visitors, as are bear, deer, muskrat, otter and more. For an up-close look at wildlife, a nature center is located in the campground.

Due to its remote location away from any big cities, Wilderness State Park is designated as a Dark Sky Preserve. This is a wonderful location to catch the Perseid Meteor Shower or other astronomical events.

Wilderness State Park Trails

The trail system that winds through the state park takes you through dense forest, open meadows and past a number of small ponds. Trail length varies and many of the trails intersect and loop, so you can hike, mountain bike, or ski as little or as much as you want.

Small parking lots are available in different sections of the park depending on which trail(s) you want to hike. Around 10 miles of the North Country Trail wind through the park.

Due to the limited cell service and dense woods, be sure to carry the trail map with you (and maybe a compass) at all times.

Trail and trail sign at Wilderness State Park
Part of the Hemlock/Nebo trail at Wilderness State Park

Camping at Wilderness State Park

From walk-in rustic sites to full-hookup with water and sewer, there is a camping option for everyone at Wilderness State Park.

More than 200 modern sites with electricity are available with options for 20/30 or 50 amps. Two loops (East and West Lakeshore Campground) are located near Lake Michigan, while the third loop (Pines Campground) is tucked into the woods.

Something you won’t find at most state parks is 18 full-hookup sites including water and sewer. Additional camping options include 25 walk-in tent-only sites near the beach and 3 rustic bunkhouses in the Pines Campground.

If seclusion and solitude are more your thing, Wilderness State Park has 6 rustic cabins dispersed throughout the park, most down long, rough dirt roads. A few are located with views of Lake Michigan, while others are tucked deep in the woods.

Two backcountry hike-in camping sites also are available. Check with the park office for more details.

Map of Wilderness State Park

Hunting and fishing

For the outdoors people, hunting and fishing are allowed within the park boundaries with both a boat launch and fishing pier available.

Check with the park for more details on licensing and open seasons, but according to the park website: “This park boasts excellent deer and snowshoe hare hunting, while hunting opportunities exist for grouse, duck, goose, and squirrel as well. Bear hunting is available with the appropriate license. The park is also open to trapping.”

Nearby activities

If you’re looking for activities outside the park, Mackinaw City is only 15 miles away. And just up the road, you’ll find the Headlands International Dark Sky Preserve and the McGulpin Point Lighthouse with a lovely view of the Mackinac Bridge from the top.

A lighthouse
McGulpin Point Lighthouse

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Wilderness 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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