Located on the shores of Lake Michigan and just north of downtown Ludington, Michigan, Ludington State Park is a fabulous option for families. At nearly 5,300 acres, the park contains several ecosystems including sand dunes, mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, lakes, and a river.
Camping at Ludington State Park
Many people come to Ludington State Park to camp. A total of 352 campsites are available over four unique campgrounds, including one mini-cabin at each campground and ten of the sites set aside for backpack hikers at the Jack Pine hike-in. This is an extremely popular place to camp during summer vacation; be sure to secure your reservation up to six months in advance of your desired dates.
I, personally, thought the car camping situation was super crowded when we visited the park for the day in mid-August. What you lack in privacy, you make up for in easy beach access and miles of hiking and biking trails. Our first stop was the Hamlin Dam, which bridges Hamlin Lake and the Big Sable River. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent at the Hamlin Beach House. Alternatively, many people put in inner tubes just below the dam and float the Big Sable out to Lake Michigan. Both the lake and the river are popular fishing spots (check with park rangers on licenses and limitations).
Activities at Ludington State Park
A highlight for us was the 3-mile round trip walk out to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse (park near the Warming Shelter and walk through the Pines Campground to find the trailhead). The trail is both bike and stroller friendly. Along the way, interpretive signs educate visitors on park ecology and biology. Plan to get sand in your shoes and bring drinking water. Restrooms are available at the Jack Pines campground and at the end of the trail before the lighthouse.
The lighthouse itself stands 112-feet high and is open to the public between early May and late October. Visiting the lighthouse is free, but if you want to climb the tower be prepared to make a $5 donation for adults and $2 donation for children 12 and under (children must be three feet tall to climb on their own). Volunteer historians will answer your questions, play a short video, and sell you items from the small gift shop.
Note, if you promised your kids some beach time, a better location is at the park’s recently remodeled Beach House. Repeat visitors may notice new educational displays and exhibits in addition to a relocation of the concession stand. Bring your beach buckets and towels, but observe the flag system (red = no swimming, yellow = dangerous conditions, green = swim away) and know Lake Michigan is as potentially dangerous as any ocean or sea.
The park is also open year-round with groomed snowshoeing trails and warming houses. Check out the park website for a complete list of amenities and ongoing events and activities. If you need another family-friendly suggestion further down the lake, we also like Duck Lake State Park.
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