Ludington State Park

As I mentioned earlier,the May/June issue of Midwest Living magazine has as one of its feature stories their picks for the top state parks each Midwest state has to offer. Beginning with this post, I’ll periodically feature each of their selections.

Ludington State Park, Michigan

Midwest Living said Ludington State Park, located 100 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, is “busy enough to warrant a rich lineup of amenities and programming – including boat rentals, lighthouse tours and guided dune walks – but large enough, at 5,300 acres, to escape summer crowding. Lake Michigan beckons, cobalt waves washing onto unruly dunes. Eighteen miles of trails hopscotch over bridges and boardwalks along inland Hamlin Lake. A bike path traces the tranquil Sable River, and a 2-mile hike north through wild sands leads to the lighthouse tower at Big Sable Point.”

Because it sits nestled between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, which was created by loggers at the turn of the last century, Ludington State Park is practically an island.

The park boasts nearly seven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and features sand dunes, evergreen and hardwood trees, sandy beaches and 18 miles of hiking, biking and canoe trails.

The park’s education and interpretive programming is very popular and offers slide and video presentations, and live programs that can give you a better appreciation of the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique area.

Ludington State Park offers wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities from its trails. Walk the Skyline Trail for some spectacular views of high dune ridges and Lake Michigan, and hike the Lighthouse Trail to Big Sable Point Lighthouse to sample a bit of Michigan’s maritime history.

Perhaps the most unique trail here is the canoe trail, which takes you along the bayous and inlets of Hamlin Lake’s shoreline. Slip silently down this trail early in the morning for a high probability of viewing herons, egrets, waterfowl, deer and other animals along the water’s edge.

There are three modern campgrounds at Ludington State Park — Pines, Cedar and Beechwood — with a combined total of 355 campsites including three mini-cabins. These sites have electricity and modern shower and bathroom facilities in each campground. Full-hookups are not available; call 1-800-44-PARKS to get site specific information.

Cedar Campground also has a small loop of eight tent-only sites separated from the modern site loop. These tent sites do not have electricity but are within walking distance of the restrooms and showers. For backpack campers, Ludington offers 10 remote tent sites in the new Jack Pine Hike-In only campground. This campground has no electricity and the toilet facilities are rustic. Showers are available at the Pines modern campground.

My relatives — RV campers, of course — have stayed here many times and it’s easily their top choice when it’s time for camping. Trouble is, Ludington State Park is so good it’s nearly impossible to reserve a site, especially on weekends and holidays. Michigan allows you to reserve a state park campsite six months in advance, though, so pick a summer date and sometime in late winter go online here and stake your claim.

Folks at RV Park Reviews had a few minor complaints, but overall most seemed to really enjoy their stay.

“Large, diverse, and pretty park with lots to do,” said one camper. “There’s a long beach along Lake Michigan for sunbathing, a good-sized inland lake for motor boating and canoing, and a short stretch of river connecting the two lakes for lazily tubing/rafting.”

“Very impressive State Park, well run and well maintained,” said another camper. “Very quiet with a wonderful boardwalk for fishing, walking and bird viewing. Many terrific hiking trails and a very picturesque lighthouse. Great campground if you like the outdoors and wildlife.”
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My family (wife and three kids, sometimes the dog) and I have been RV campers since 2007. We own a 2000 Trail-Lite B22 Bantam hybrid, our tow vehicle is a 2006 Trailblazer LT EXT (5.3 V8 with 3.73 Rear Axle Ratio), and our setup includes the Equalizer sway controller. Looking to upgrade the camper in the near future, but until then we get out 2-3 times a month in season.