Exploring Ludington State Park

A little-known fact about Michigan is that the state has more miles of freshwater coastline than any other in the United States. For this, you can thank Lake Michigan, one of the five “Great Lakes”. While you can enjoy a beach day almost anywhere along the shores of Lake Michigan and its 300+ miles of coastline, it’s hard to beat an afternoon at Ludington State Park.

The small town of Ludington is situated about halfway up the length of the eggplant-shaped lake and offers an array of outdoor activities for all ages as well as luxurious beachfront accommodations with scenic “sea” views.

The state park is as much overwater as it is on land. You can expect to spend any time away from Water’s Edge immersed in the coniferous forests and paddling along the placid waterways within Ludington State Park.

This beloved Michigan State Park in Mason County is one of the largest and most popular state parks for locals and tourists alike in the state. Whether you just want to enjoy the Lake Michigan Shoreline or hike across numerous park ecosystems, breathing in the fresh air— here’s your complete guide to Ludington State Park.

About the Ludington State Park

  • Address: 8800 M-116, Ludington, MI
  • Website:
  • Parks Pass: Non-resident cost is $9 per day or $32 for an annual pass. One license plate per recreation passport.
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Amenities: Public parking, public restrooms, water sport rentals, kayak launch, a boardwalk, and picnic tables.

From Downtown Ludington, it’s just a short drive to the park entrance and a lovely diversity of outdoor activities and environments.

Ludington State Park is renowned as one of the most accessible parks in Michigan. In addition to their new all-terrain, electric-powered track chair the park also has a wheelchair-friendly kayak launch ramp, EZ Roller Floating Surf Wheelchair that allows people with disabilities to enjoy the water, and several other accommodations all available free of charge.

What to do & see at Ludington State Park

Covering more than 5,300 acres of land, Ludington State Park has plenty of space to roam about on foot or watercraft! Here are the best attractions within park boundaries.

Summit the Sand Dunes

Photo Credit: kclew

Hiking on sand is always a challenging endeavor, but the view (and the descent) is worth the extra effort. You can climb, sled, and generally frolic about on the sand dunes surrounding Lake Michigan to your heart’s content. Just bring your own dune sledding device for the kids!

Hit the 18 Miles of Established Hiking Trails

Photo Credit: ehrlif

Trails in Ludington are overwhelmingly bike-friendly, stroller-friendly, and filled with interpretive signs, bringing educational fun to the whole family. None are overwhelmingly strenuous, but they do vary quite a lot in length.

Those looking for a longer Ludington hike should try the meandering Lighthouse Trail that snakes its way back along the sand or combine the Ridge and Island Trail for one full-day walk through most of the park’s ecosystems. But the best Ludington State Park Hike goes to the Lost Lake Trail, which offers an exceptional diversity in scenery as it crosses over bridges, traverses dunes, and skirts along the islands of the eastern park boundaries.

The trails to explore this park are also on water as much as land. The popular canoe trail is for those looking to stick to water exploration!

Spot the Local Fauna

Photo Credit: WildMedia

Raccoons, possums, skunks, chipmunks, and deer. These are the quintessential wildlife of America. The kinds of species we’ve become so accustomed to in our backyards. You can expect to see a lot of them while exploring the various forests, marshlands, and dune-scapes within the park. Twitchers (birdwatchers) will enjoy a plethora of geese, duck, swan, and widgeon species out on the water.

Kayak Hamlin Lake

Photo Credit: G-Stock Studio

The calm water paths of Hamlin Lake are a park favorite with locals and visitors alike. While the lake itself is man-made, it’s the surrounding natural beauty that draws a crowd. The Hamlin Lake Canoe Pathway is one of the most common waterways to travel within the park.

You can also rent SUP, canoes, row boats, and paddle boats from Hamlin Lake Watercraft Rentals at the Dune Grass Concessions at Hamlin Beach if you don’t bring your own. As far as actually getting into the water is concerned, there is an accessible boat launch for watercraft nearby.

Visit Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Photo Credit: John McCormick

The Big Sable Lighthouse’s black and white spire protruding from the rolling dunes littered with pale green scrub grass and small forest patches is a stunning backdrop for a day’s activities.

Between May and October, you can also climb the 112-foot tower (for a donation fee) during the mid-day hours. You’ll be treated to a short historical tour run by volunteers of the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Hit the Beach at Lake Michigan

Photo Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr CC 2.0

It’s all the fun of a Ludington beach day without the added hassle of a layer of salty residue on your skin. The park has several pristine sections of coastline to choose from, but the beach near the Lake Michigan Beach House is the favorite. You can also skip the crowds of Lake Michigan and set up at Hamlin Lake Beach instead.

Go Fish

Photo Credit: ehrlif

While fishing is a popular local pastime almost year-round, the autumn season brings Steelhead and Salmon anglers to the banks of the Big Sable River near the Hamlin Dam.

Even for non-fishermen, this upstream migration is fun to watch as the fish leap up the dam. Make sure you get the appropriate permits from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (Michigan DNR) to enjoy your catch of the day.

Savor a Stunning Sunset

Photo Credit: Jeff Camilleri via Flickr CC 2.0

Lake Michigan is a stunner when it comes to sunsets. Picture stepping outside your Waters Edge villa with the soft sand beneath your toes and a pale pink and purple hue erupting across the sky, reflecting the last glowing rays of sun on the placid lake water. It doesn’t get better than that.

You can pretty much swim, bike, hike, or boat your way all over this exceptionally accessible stretch of Michigan wilderness!

Ludington Park By the Season

The Friends of Ludington State Park hosts weekly seasonal events throughout the year, focusing on education and exploration.


Photo Credit: Nathan Zhang Travel Diarist via Flickr CC 2.0

Summer is the group’s most active season, with guided hikes or kayak tours through the park’s prettiest scenery, evening outdoor concerts with a wide variety of musical performances, archery events, and tons of kid-friendly attractions like nature discovery tables.


Photo Credit: Bill Vriesema via Flickr CC 2.0

In the fall, you can learn to craft your very own pair of snowshoes woven in the traditional Native American style or ride through the crisp fall foliage on a horse-drawn carriage to a feast of fresh apple cider and doughnuts by a warm bonfire.


Photo Credit: John McCormick

Ludington State Park is most accessible in the temperate months of May through October, but you can cross-country ski and snowshoe throughout the cold months.

Visitors can also enjoy wintertime trails and a warming hut near the dunes inside the park. In the wintertime, extraordinarily lucky visitors can even glimpse the green apparition of the Aurora Borealis on clear, dark nights.


Photo Credit: Bill VanderMolen via Flickr CC 2.0

In the spring, Ludington State Park in Michigan comes alive with various outdoor activities and attractions. You can start by exploring the natural beauty of the park through hiking, as the forest turns into a canvas of blooming flowers and greenery, and you might even get lucky hunting for morel mushrooms!

Attractions Nearby Ludington State Park

Photo Credit: Robert Geiger via Flickr CC 2.0

Ludington, Michigan, is a vibrant town with lots of diverse attractions for outdoor enthusiasts. While you can enjoy bicycle travel within the boundaries of Ludington State Park, enthusiastic cyclists can also explore the trails at Memorial Tree Park, Cartier Park, and Ludington School Forest.

There’s also an interactive Children’s Museum dedicated to sandcastles (don’t miss the gift shop) and Sterns Beach, the lovely city beach with space for lounging, BBQ facilities, and a skatepark.

Where to Eat in Ludington State Park

Photo Credit: Karen Rice via Flickr CC 2.0

Your options within the park are pretty much limited to the Beach House Concessions Stand and a few other small concessions scattered throughout the park. Fortunately, Beach House has some excellent ice cream options to tide the whole family over till dinner.

There are also plenty of excellent dining options around Ludington, including Table 14 and the Jamesport Brewing Company.

Be Enchanted by the “Queen” of Michigan’s  State Parks

If you find yourself in West Michigan, Ludington State Park is the number one place to visit. Offering a little bit of everything promises a good time for everyone. Even if you only venture into the park for a quick picnic and a scenic view, it’s well worth the stopover on your next getaway.

For the perfect trip, skip the mini-cabins and crowded hike-in tent sites/campsites at the campgrounds of Ludington and opt for a luxurious Waters Edge Villa instead for the perfect romantic couples vacation or a family-friendly stay.

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