Article Summary: National Parks Near Detroit
National Parks Near Detroit! There’s so much more to the Wolverine State than Motown. In this article, More Than Just Parks gives you some exciting vacation destinations within a day’s drive of Detroit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Long known as the automobile capital of the world, Detroit is also famous for its distinctive Motown music sound from the 1960s.
Detroit is home to a rich mix of people from various ethnic backgrounds, including citizens of Italian, English, German, Polish, Irish, Mexican, Middle Eastern, African, and Greek descent.
But it’s also home to some amazing national parks that are within a day’s drive (or less) of the city.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Motor City then one book that I highly recommend is: A History Lover’s Guide to Detroit by Karin Risko.
Now let’s go ahead with 5 reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Detroit to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Detroit
National Parks Near Detroit
- Best National Parks Near Detroit
- More National Parks Near Detroit
- National Parks Near Detroit FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Detroit
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Detroit
1. North Country National Scenic Trail
Distance From Detroit: Two hours via I-96 W.
The North Country National Scenic Trail provides visitors opportunities from bird watching to backpacking.
The trail traverses eight northern states and connects a host of natural, historic and cultural sites. You can see everything from small towns to larger cities, valleys to hilltops and much more.
If you’re planning to go then I recommend picking up The North Country Trail: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips on America’s Longest National Scenic Trail by Ron Strickland.
In addition to a full overview of the trail’s tread in each state, the guide describes in detail forty of the NCT’s premier segments, with helpful information including easy-to-read trail descriptions, physical and navigation difficulties, trail highlights, hiking tips, and precise maps incorporating the latest GPS technology.
The History Of The North Country National Scenic Trail
In 1980, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) was authorized by Congress. It stretches 4,600 miles from upstate New Hampshire to its western terminus at Lake Sakakawea State Park.
The trail actually traversed seven states until 2019 when Vermont was added. The Vermont section is only about 70 miles long.
Across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) the Trail primarily provides a wilderness experience. The UP’s prime scenery includes large lakes, old growth forests, rugged hills, numerous waterfalls and the colossal Lake Superior shoreline – all set amid some of the most remote, uninhabited country found on the North Country Trail.
The five-mile segment that is the Mackinac Bridge can be crossed on foot during the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk each Labor Day. In Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Trail winds through the expansive Manistee National Forest, and a wide variety of state and county parks, state forests, state game areas, small towns and urban areas. (Source: North Country Trail Association)
2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Distance From Detroit: Five hours & 45 minutes via I-75 N.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The park encompasses over 42,000 acres of stunning natural beauty, including sandstone cliffs, beaches, and forests, making it one of the most scenic parks in the country.
The park’s highlight is its towering sandstone cliffs, which rise up to 200 feet above Lake Superior. The cliffs are renowned for their spectacular colors and patterns, which are the result of mineral deposits and erosion over millions of years.
The cliffs are best viewed by boat, and visitors can take guided boat tours of the park to see the cliffs up close.
It’s Also Home To A Variety Of Other National Attractions
In addition to its stunning cliffs, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to a variety of other natural attractions, including waterfalls, dunes, and forests.
There are over 90 miles of trails in the park, providing ample opportunity for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is also a popular destination for kayaking, with many opportunities for sea kayaking and kayak camping. The park’s scenic beauty, combined with its many recreational opportunities, make it a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you’re a hiker, kayaker, or simply a lover of natural beauty, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-visit destination.
With its breathtaking scenery, rich history, and diverse recreational opportunities, it’s no wonder that the park attracts millions of visitors every year.
Some Favorite Things To Do At Pictured Rocks
There are many things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, including:
- Hiking: There are over 100 miles of trails to explore, offering a wide range of difficulty levels and stunning views of the lakeshore’s natural beauty.
- Camping: There are several campgrounds available for both tent and RV camping.
- Boating and Kayaking: Visitors can rent boats or bring their own to explore the lakeshore’s many bays and inlets.
- Fishing: Visitors can fish for a variety of species, including lake trout, salmon, and bass.
- Sightseeing: Visitors can take a cruise to see the famous “Pictured Rocks,” which are multi-colored sandstone cliffs that rise 50 to 200 feet above Lake Superior.
- Waterfalls: The park has several waterfalls, including Miners Falls, Chapel Falls, and Mosquito Falls
- Beachcombing: Visitors can explore the lakeshore’s many beaches, including Twelvemile Beach, Miners Beach, and Chapel Beach.
- Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, bears, eagles, and loons.
- Ranger-led Programs: Park rangers offer a variety of programs, including guided hikes, boat tours, and educational programs.
- Winter activities: visitors can enjoy the park in winter, activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
3. River Raisin National Battlefield Park
Distance From Detroit: 36 minutes via I-75 S.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park is located in Monroe, Michigan and commemorates the Battle of Frenchtown, which took place during the War of 1812.
The park preserves the site of the Battle of Frenchtown, which was fought on January 18 and 22, 1813, between American and British forces, as well as their Native American allies.
The Battle of Frenchtown was a significant event in the War of 1812, as it resulted in the highest number of American casualties in a single battle during the war. Despite being outnumbered, American forces held their ground for two days, but were ultimately forced to surrender.
The aftermath of the battle was devastating for the American soldiers, as many were taken captive and subjected to cruel treatment, including mass murder.
The Park Was Established To Commemorate The Battle
River Raisin was established in 2010 to commemorate the battle and preserve the site for future generations. The park features interpretive exhibits and educational programs, as well as a walking trail that provides visitors with a glimpse into the history of the battle and its aftermath.
The park also serves as a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Frenchtown, and is dedicated to preserving the memory of their sacrifice and bravery.
Today, River Raisin National Battlefield Park is an important cultural and historical resource, attracting visitors from all over the world to learn about the War of 1812 and the impact it had on the people and communities of the region.
Whether you’re a history buff, outdoor enthusiast, or simply someone interested in learning about America’s past, River Raisin National Battlefield Park is a must-visit destination.
With its rich history, beautiful setting, and educational opportunities, it’s no wonder that the park attracts visitors from all over the world.
You Can Enjoy The River Raisin Heritage Trail
On a lighter note, the River Raisin Heritage Trail has eight miles of paved biking and hiking trails which provide scenic routes. Visitors can walk, run, cycle and/or in-line skate on this trails.
The trail connects major historic sites, state and local parks, nationally significant buildings and ecological features.
More National Parks Near Detroit
4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Distance From Detroit: Four hours & 15 minutes via I-75 N.
There are some wonderful things to see and do at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If you’re a first-timer then I recommend that you begin your visit at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center. There you can pick up maps, watch an informative slide show and ask the park rangers questions.
The park features 64 miles of curving sand shorelines and the largest dunes east of the Mississippi. There’s also scenic hiking through hardwood forests, climbing up to beautiful bluffs and paddling along crystal clear rivers. Did I mention the biking and camping options?
There are 21 lakes at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s a great place to go fishing. Inland lakes like Otter, Bass, and Glen Lake provide great spots for catching trout, bluegill and perch.
You can even explore an island. The Mishe-Mokwa (Mother Bear) ferry at Manitou Island Transit will take you to South Manitou Island where you can explore its tall lighthouse, giant cedars, shipwrecks and isolated beaches.
If you prefer a bike to a boat then there’s 22 miles of biking trails along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This biking trail conveniently connects to the kid-friendly Dune Climb, iconic Glen Haven and fun eateries and ships as well as the beach towns of Empire and Glen Arbor.
And Now For Something Entirely Different Because We’re More Than Just Parks
5. The Automotive Hall Of Fame
Distance From Detroit: 18 minutes via I-94 W.
Okay, so it’s not a national park site. Remember: We’re More Than Just Parks so we’re giving you a little something extra. And why not given the history of the Motor City.
The Automotive Hall Of Fame
When visiting the Wolverine State why stop with the Michigan National Parks. At More Than Just Parks we’re about more than just parks. So, while you’re in the great state of Michigan, why not check out the Automotive Hall of Fame?
The Automotive Hall of Fame is an institution that was established in 1939 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the automotive industry. The Hall of Fame is located in Dearborn, Michigan, and is affiliated with the MotorCities National Heritage Area, a partnership program of the National Park Service.
The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals in several categories, including automotive pioneers, industry leaders, and significant contributors to the automotive field.
The first individuals were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939, and since then, over 800 individuals have been honored. Some notable inductees include Henry Ford, Walter P. Chrysler, and Enzo Ferrari.
You’re In Luck – The Hall Of Fame Hosts Events Throughout The Year
The Hall of Fame hosts several events throughout the year, including an induction ceremony for new members, a scholarship program for students pursuing careers in the automotive industry, and an annual symposium on the future of the automotive industry.
The Hall of Fame also has a museum that features exhibits on the history of the automotive industry, including cars, engines, and other artifacts from the industry’s past. The museum also has interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special events throughout the year.
The Automotive Hall of Fame serves as a reminder of the significant contributions that have been made to the automotive industry and serves as a way to honor and recognize the individuals who have played a key role in shaping the industry.
While You’re Visiting The Automotive Hall Of Fame Why Not Check Out The Henry Ford Museum Too
And, it gets even better than that because right next door to the Automotive Hall of Fame is The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
It recounts the story of American innovation and history across 250 acres, over 300 years and with the aid of 26 million artifacts, some of the buildings that were physically moved from their original locations in Ohio, Georgia and even Switzerland.
There are 4 unique attractions which include: a repository of artifacts from 19th century household items to JFK’s presidential limo; Greenfield Village with its incredible collection of historic buildings such as the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop; the Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Giant Screen Experience Theater.
If you love cars or history or both than it doesn’t get any better than the Henry Ford Museum. From JFK’s limousine to the bus that Rosa Parks rode on to Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Complex and the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop, it’s all there for you to see.
National Parks Near Detroit FAQ
River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, approximately a 45-minute drive from downtown.
The 7 national parks in Michigan are as follows:
Isle Royale National Park
Keweenaw National Historic Park
MotorCities National Heritage Area
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
North Country National Scenic Trail
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Detroit?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Detroit
List Of National Parks Near Detroit
- North Country National Scenic Trail
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- River Raisin National Battlefield Park
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- The Automotive Hall Of Fame
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!