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Michigan DNR > wildlife viewing guide > northern lower peninsula > wilderness

50 Wilderness State Park Upper Peninsula

wildlife viewing  |  directions and facility information

Pink lady slipperRose pagonia © Jerry Holdash
Showy lady slipper
Wilderness State Park boasts an amazing array
of wild orchids, including pink lady slipper,
rose pagonia,and showy lady slipper.
Photos: Pink lady slipper & showy lady slipper
by US Forest Service; Rose Pagonia ©Jerry Holdash

This beautiful natural area is located on a long finger of land that protrudes into Lake Michigan on the northwest tip of the Lower Peninsula. It offers scenic views of Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, and the Mackinac Bridge. A diversity of habitats from the sand dunes and beaches along the coastline to the mixed conifer and deciduous forest habitat in the interior offer a rich and diverse selection of plants and animals. On the east end, visitors are greeted by stands of virgin hemlock trees and second growth red pines that tower nearly 100 feet into the air. Wildlife watchers will find campgrounds and an extensive series of trails that provide foot access into the park’s interior and out to the western tip of the park at Waugoshance Point. The Lakeview Road on the south takes you through the Lake Michigan sand dune habitat and past a great beach. The Wilderness Park Drive on the north takes you along the north shore and through the typical wooded habitat found throughout much of the interior of the park.

Wildlife Viewing

Collage of piping plover photos
The endangered piping plover often nests on sandy
beaches. Signs at the park encourage visitors to
protect plovers by staying away from marked areas
when they are nesting and raising young.
Photos: © Wilderness State Park and Phil Seng
Piping plover chicks,  Dave Keyon, MI DNR
Delightful piping plover chicks are balls of fluff
on stilts. Eventually, their bodies will grow to fit
such spindly legs. The chicks blend into pebbles
and rocks on the beach. When threatened,
they may hunker silently to the ground and
wait for danger to pass.
Photo: David Kenyon, MI DNR

The rare piping plover often nests on the sandy beaches on the south and north edges of the park, particularly during lower water periods. Portions of these beaches near the plover nests are closed to foot traffic and dogs during the critical summer periods of May through August. Please help protect these endangered shorebirds by staying away from the marked areas when the plovers are nesting and raising their young.

Gulls and terns, mallards, mergansers, and loons can be seen from and along the park’s many miles of coastline. During spring and late summer, migrating shorebirds stop here to feed and rest. Late April and early May are good times to catch migrating hawks and owls along these coastal habitats as well as migrating songbirds later in May. The mixed conifer-deciduous forests host many species of breeding birds, especially woods warblers, which the park is famous for. Many species can be seen or heard along the hiking trails and Wilderness Park Drive.

Dwarf Lake Iris MIDNR
The dwarf lake iris is Michigan’s state flower
and a federally threatened species.
It grows only in special sites near the
shores of the northern Great Lakes.
Rare because of its restricted habitat,
this iris is becoming rarer still because
of shoreland development.
Photo: MI DNR

Common loons and bald eagles both commonly nest in the park. Wilderness boasts a large population of wild orchids, including the rose pogonia, grass pink, calypso orchid, showy ram’s head, and lady’s slippers. Threatened shoreline species like the Houghton’s goldenrod, dwarf lake iris and pitcher thistle are also found here. Stop at the park headquarters to learn where and when the best times are to catch the flowers in bloom, and don’t forget to ask for the park’s wildflower and bird checklists.

Portions of this area are open to public hunting. Contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for affected seasons and locations.



From Mackinaw City, drive west on Central Avenue, which becomes Wilderness Park Drive. A short stretch of Wilderness Park Drive is known as Trails End Road, but signs direct you toward the park. The park office is 11 miles west of Mackinaw City on the left (south) side of the road.

: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Park headquarters (231) 436-5381

: 8,000 acres

Closest Town
: Mackinac City

Weather and Driving Directions for Mackinac City

Plan Your Trip with travel.michigan.org!


Facilities and Opportunities

RestroomsTrailsPicnicCampingBoat RampDrinking WaterFishingHuntingEntry Fee

Restrooms – on the southern coastal beaches, Lakeshore Road, and the picnic and campground areas on the north at Big Stone Bay.
Trails – 12 marked trails, 23 miles, including North Country National Scenic Trail.
Picnic – Big Stone Bay along Wilderness Park Road.
Camping – open year round; 250 modern campsites in two campgrounds, plus organization camp.
Boat Ramp – Access to Lake Michigan, Big Stone Bay.
Drinking Water – At campgrounds and picnic areas.
Fishing – Park is famous for smallmouth bass fishing around the many islands in Lake Michigan.
Hunting – Small and big game during fall and winter seasons.
Entry Fee - Michigan State Park Motor Vehicle Permit required for entry.

Additional Information:
Michigan DNR Parks and Trails information

Other web sites of interest:
Boyne Country
Mackinaw City

helping handsHow you can help
Volunteers help patrol the beaches of the park during the nesting seasons for the endangered piping plover. Contact the park headquarters for details on how you can help.


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