Michigan State Parks: Yankee Springs Recreation Area

Two people with bikes

Yankee Springs Recreation Area is one of the most popular state parks in lower Michigan as it offers so many different activities for all ages and recreation styles.

The 5,200-acre state park is located in southwest central Michigan and provides opportunities all year round for hiking, camping, fishing, boating, horseback riding, skiing, swimming, ice fishing and much more.

According to the DNR, the state park was once the hunting grounds of the Algonquin Indians and the famous chieftain, Chief Noonday. Established in 1835, the local village was made famous by Yankee Bill Lewis who owned and operated a hotel along the stagecoach run from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids. Today, the surrounding area is known for its summer cottages and seasonal hunting opportunities.

Yankee Springs Recreation Area is so large it has multiple entrances located miles apart. To make your visit successful, we advise checking out the map online in advance to know what activities you want to do and where they are located before you arrive.

Massive Trail System

Trail marker
Look how many different trails intersect here!

There are more than 40 miles of trails in Yankee Springs Recreation Area split between hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian. The 12-mile mountain bike trail has rugged hills and terrain rated intermediate to difficult. Luckily, there are a few cut-off points and smaller loops available right off the parking lot for the more novice bikers.

The equestrian trail is 10 miles long and is in a separate area of the park so the horses aren’t spooked by the mountain bikes.

Hikers are free to explore all of the trails, but if doing so be mindful of surroundings and who has the right of way. A 6-mile portion of the North Country Trail runs through the park as well.

Along the trails, you’ll find special features like Devil’s Soupbowl (a glacially carved kettle formation), Graves Hill Overlook, and the Pines. We discovered the vegetation and forest have overtaken the overlook, so the view is not as grand as it once was.

Not much of an overlook behind us!

Boating and Fishing

There are nine lakes within the boundaries of Yankee Springs Recreation Area that provide excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and other watersports. The largest is the beautiful Gun Lake. During the summer it can be very busy since the lake is mostly surrounded by private homes.

Two main boat launches are available on Gun Lake and Deep Lake, as well as five other non-accessible launch sites on the other lakes. There also are two very nice barrier-free fishing piers.

A channel in the campground provides access to Gun Lake via a small boat launch for campers. And if you’re camping you can leave your boat tied up behind the campsites in the channel.

Fishing pier
Fishing pier at Deep Lake

Camping options at Yankee Springs

Since this is such a large state park, you’ll want to stay a few days to explore it all. Camping options at Yankee Springs Recreation Area include both modern and rustic facilities. You can bring your own tent or trailer or there are four rustic cabins available for rent.

The Gun Lake Modern Campground has 200 sites of 20/30amp. The sites are packed in and super close together with no privacy between sites. We noticed trailers, tents, trucks, and boats all vying for space and trying not to infringe on neighboring sites.  

Also sharing campground space are many tall mature trees that you’ll need to maneuver your trailer and slideouts around. One nice thing is the trees provide lots of shade, which is welcome on hot summer days but not good for those who use solar power.

There are two rustic camping options, one equestrian-only and one for everyone else. The equestrian campground has 25 sites with horse paddocks. Sites are good-sized to accommodate large horse trailers. The Deep Lake campground is located on the banks of Deep Lake with 78 sites of varying size and privacy. At both of these campgrounds, you’ll find vault toilets and a hand pump for water.

Snapping Turtle
One of the obstacles we encountered on the mountain bike trail

Beaches and picnic facilities

The main Gun Lake Day Use Section at Yankee Springs Recreation Area is full of places to have a picnic and go for a swim.

The large pavilions usually require advanced reservations but the picnic tables and grills are first-come-first-serve and there is no shortage of those. There also is plenty of grassy space available if you just want to lay a blanket out.

There are three swimming beaches – two in the Gun Lake day-use area and one in the modern Gun Lake campground. Despite high water levels, all three still had plenty of sand for beach towels and sandcastles.  

Two modern bathrooms and changing facilities are available, and in the summer months, a concession stand is open near one of the beaches.

Beach

Overall impressions of Yankee Springs

No matter what time of year you visit the Yankee Springs Recreation Area, you won’t be disappointed. There will always be something fun to see or do because of the changing seasons and available activities.

In the winter most of the facilities are closed, but portions of the park are accessible for snowshoeing, cross country skiing or ice fishing.

Make your campground reservations early, grab your bike or kayak and head out to explore Yankee Springs.


We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Yankee Springs Recreation Area 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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