Michigan’s Great Outdoors: Our State’s Park System by the Numbers


From Southeast Michigan to the Western Upper Peninsula, Michigan abounds in outdoor recreation. Pictured here is the Lake Superior Trail trailhead in Porcupine Mountains State Park. Photo by Doug Marrin.

The new year is young. Many of us are looking ahead, still planning/dreaming about what we will do for summer recreation/vacation/fun.

We know the outdoors is better physically and mentally than indoors when we can take advantage of it. So, in your planning, consider the Michigan Parks and Recreation Division of the DNR manages a system that includes:

  • 103 state parks, recreation areas, scenic sites, and historic state parks.
  • More than 13,750 state park campsites.
  • More than 250 cabins, yurts, lodges, and other overnight accommodations.
  • 360,000 acres of land within state parks and recreation areas.
  • 140 state forest campgrounds, totaling 2,647 campsites.
  • 13,400 miles of state-designated motorized and nonmotorized trails.
  • 630 miles of state-designated water trails.
  • 19 state harbors on the Great Lakes and connecting waters.
  • 636 transient slips and 236 seasonal slips at state harbor facilities.
  • 1,092 DNR-administered boating access sites.
  • 63 community harbors and 237 boating access sites supported by DNR Waterways funding.
  • 7 visitor centers, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, and the Mann House.
  • Special facilities include the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, Outdoor Adventure Center, and Holly Oaks ORV Park.
At 11,000 acres, Pinckney Rec Area is the second largest tract of state land in Lower Michigan. It is connected to the largest tract of state land in Lower Michigan, Waterloo Rec Area for a total of 31,000 acres of outdoor fun. Photo by Doug Marrin.

This system contributes toward the state’s $26.3 billion tourism industry by hosting (2021 figures):

  • More than 30 million state park day-use visits.
  • More than 1.4 million state park camp nights annually.
  • 24,483 harbor nights annually.
  • More than 100 concession and vending contracts.
  • More than 400 operating agreements for management or commercial use of state park facilities.

Additionally, PRD protects the following natural and cultural resources:

  • 47,000 acres of dedicated natural areas.
  • 263 different endangered, threatened, or special-concern species.
  • 344 occurrences of exemplary natural communities.
  • Over 700 identified archaeological sites.
  • 403 historic structures, including nine Great Lakes lighthouses.

(Source: Michigan DNR Parks and Recreation Division Draft Strategic Plan, 2023-2027)

In our backyard, we’ve got the Waterloo and Pinckney recreational areas, more than 31,000 acres of hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, swimming, hunting, fishing, kayaking, bird watching, and other activities to enjoy in the fresh air.

The King of Trails, the Potowatomi, is a 17-mile loop in Pinckney Rec area that outdoor enthusiasts have been using for decades. Photo by Doug Marrin.

Another 22,000 acres await you a few minutes further in the Brighton, Highland, Holly, and Island Lake rec areas.

Getting outdoors more doesn’t need to be the purchase of a new bike or kayak (although that is always fun). It can be as simple as stopping at Hartwick Pines State Park on your way up north for a short walk or checking out the Vasa trails in the Pere Marquette State Forest just outside Traverse City.

In addition to the nearby state land, we’ve got Metroparks, city parks, county parks and preserves, the Huron River, and the Border-to-Border Trail to give us options through the week and on weekends.

Magic happens when you simply put on your shoes. You want to use them. And there are many ways to do that with all we have around us.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified