Ludington State Park is comprised of nearly 5,300 acres of scenic sand dunes, ponds, marshlands and forests. Situated between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, it has several miles of shoreline and beaches. Explore everything there is to do at one of Michigan’s most popular state parks.

Ludington State Park

8 Things to Do at Ludington State Park

This portion of the article was featured in the 2021 Traverse Magazine Vacation Guide. Download your free digital issue today to experience the full guide for yourself.

1. Go for A Hike
Hike the three-mile Ridge Trail for spectacular views of the Big Sable Point Lighthouse and Lake Michigan. Visit the Ludington website for the hiking trail routes.

2. Relax and Snack on the Beach
Seven stunning miles of sugar sand Lake Michigan beach await you, your towel and sunscreen. A portion of the beach is outside the Ludington State Park gate, so no permit is needed. Families love heading over to the beach at Hamlin Lake with its warm, shallow waters. Concession stands and restroom facilities are available in the park. Spread your towel on the wide sandy beach and break for treats at the Lake Michigan Beach House.

3. Stay at Ludington State Park
Book one of the park’s three mini cabins. Cute as buttons, they sleep four and are outfitted with a microwave, mini-fridge, heaters, lights and an outdoor fire pit.

4. Have a Boat Day
Rent a pontoon at Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals to go tubing, fishing or lounge in the sun on Hamlin Lake.

5. Go Fishing at Hamlin Dam
Throw a hook and line in at the Hamlin Dam.

6. Head to Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Take in the view from 112-feet-up at the top of Big Sable Point Lighthouse. It’s worth the two-mile hike to get there.

7. Kayak or Canoe a Water Trail
Rent a canoe or kayak from Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals and paddle the four-mile canoe trail that skirts parts of Hamlin Lake that aren’t accessible on foot. The Ludington State Park Canoe Trail begins at the Hamlin Canoe and Concession and meanders 4 miles along the Hamlin Lake past marshy areas and a variety of wildlife. Great for novice paddlers. Bonus: Time it so your paddle ends with the sunset. 

8. Float or Paddle Big Sable River
Rent a tube or paddleboard at Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals to float or paddle the Big Sable River to its mouth at Lake Michigan.

All About Ludington State Park

The park opened on August 15, 1936, and celebrated its 75th birthday in 2011. This wonderful area of land offers everything from camping to hiking, fishing, biking, tubing and paddling. Ludington State Park is also home to sand dunes with jaw-dropping views, hardwood forests, marshlands and nearly seven miles of gorgeous Lake Michigan shoreline.

Within Ludington State Park there are three modern campgrounds: PinesCedar and Beechwood. The campgrounds have a combined total of 355 campsites including three mini-cabins. The sites have electricity and modern shower and bathroom facilities in each campground. Cedar Campground also has an area of eight tent-only sites separated from the modern site area. The tent sites do not have electricity.

Visitors also enjoy the park’s eight marked trails covering 18 miles. Information kiosks providing fascinating historical and natural facts about the state park. To learn more about the individual trails, and each hike’s estimated walking time, check out the detailed Trail Map. From this page, you can print a PDF of the map to carry along.

In addition to adventuring on land, explore the park’s many rivers and streams. Ludington State Park is well known for its picturesque marked canoe pathway. You begin by launching your canoe at the Hamlin Lake Beach and then meander along the eastern shore of Hamlin Lake. The time required to travel the pathway can take about one to three hours, depending upon your skill level and preferred pace.

Ludington State Park is often hailed as a fisherman’s paradise with an abundance of Hamlin Lake walleye, bass, northern pike, perch and bluegill. During the fall salmon run, fish attempt to jump over the dam on their way upstream, and spectators and fishermen often line the Sable River Boardwalk to capture the thrill.

Finally, Ludington State Park is well known for its breathtaking views. This includes the Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is a black-and-white striped, 112-foot lighthouse standing proudly on the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s a short hike to get to the lighthouse from the campground, but the views are something you’ll never forget.

How to Get to Ludington State Park

Directions: From Ludington, take Lakeshore Drive north until it becomes M-116; follow to the park entrance at the end.

Park Pass: You’ll need an $12 (per car) Michigan State Park Recreation Passport to enter Ludington State Park. You can either purchase it at Ludington State Park, or Michigan residents can purchase the passport when they renew their Michigan license plates. Just check the box on your license renewal form.

Hike & Cross-Country Ski on State Park Trails

  • Coast Guard Trail: This 1.5-mile trail meanders from the Lake Michigan beach through the park’s three campgrounds. Along the way, you’ll pass the site of what once an early life-saving station.
  • Lighthouse Trail: This 3-mile trail winds from the Beechwood Campground to the 1867-built Big Sable Point Lighthouse—a black-and-white classic maritime building perched amid Lake Michigan’s dune-swept shore. The lighthouse is open for daily tours between May and October.
  • Logging Trail: This dune and woods looped trail begins and ends at the Pines Campground and winds past two trail shelters built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp Camp. In the winter, this trail is a popular groomed cross-country ski trail.
  • Ridge and Island Trails: The Ridge Trail begins near the Ludington State Park office and leads along a tall wooded dune that treats hikers to inspiring lake vistas. The Island Trail begins at the Hamlin Lake boat rental and follows the Hamlin Lake shoreline past a lovely picnic shelter that overlooks the lake and adjacent dunes.  About 2 miles out, the trails link up to form a loop for a combined total of about 4 miles.
  • Sable River Trail: A 1.5-mile long paved pathway that is wheelchair accessible leads along the Hamlin Dam and Big Sable River.
  • Lost Lake Trail: A charming 1.5-mile trail that meanders around small islands in a cove of Hamlin Lake.
  • Skyline Trail: This half-mile boardwalk along a dune ridge is packed with lake vistas. On clear days you can see 20 miles to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. 
  • South End Ski Trails: Six miles, three loops. Sheltered by pines in the winter–a strenuous hike for the hearty in the summer.

Find this article and more in the 2021 issue of the Traverse Magazine Vacation Guide. If you’re not subscribed to Traverse Magazine, you can download the Vacation Guide for free.

Photo(s) by Taylor Brown

X
X