Destinations

Things To Do in Popular Ludington State Park

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Ludington State Park is a public recreation area located about two miles north of Ludington, on the west coast of Michigan, positioned between the shores of Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake.

This beautiful and very popular state park has quite long sandy beaches along Lake Michigan and a smaller one on Hamlin Lake. There is also an extensive sand dune area to explore on foot. Then there are some wetlands, marshlands and forest within the park boundaries. Additionally, the iconic Big Sable Point lighthouse is located inside the park. This is quite a diverse place, and there are many things to do in this popular park, like hiking, kayaking, fishing, biking, boating, etc. So any person that likes outdoors can find something to do.

Ludington State Park
Dune area with Big Sable Point Lighthouse in the background.

Things To Do

  • Visit Big Sable Point Lighthouse – you can hike or ride a bike to the lighthouse. For path or trail see the hiking trail section below. You can find more info about the lighthouse visit here
  • Hike many miles of trails – the park has at least 21 miles of hiking trails.
  • Fish in Hamlin Lake and Big Sable River. You can find out more about fishing in Hamlin Lake here.
  • Boating – Hamlin Lake is all sports and big enough to provide lots of fun for boaters. You can find out more about boating on Hamlin Lake and also boat rentals here.
  • Kayaking/canoeing the river or Lost Lake and Hamlin Lake – if you don’t want to get out on the big Hamlin Lake and follow the canoe trail, you can canoe/kayak the quiet Lost Lake.
  • Beach – the main beach is located by the Beach House. However, the park has about 7 miles of Lake Michigan beach frontage to enjoy.
  • Swimming – when the water is warm enough, you can go for a swim in Lake Michigan or Hamlin Lake in designated areas.
  • Biking – while there are no trails for longer bike ride, there are few that will be good for kids with bicycles. If you wanted to go further, you could ride along the long park road and into the city of Ludington. Furthermore, if you are looking for a longer bike trail – in town of Hart starts 22.5 mile long Hart-Montague Bike Trail.
Island Trail in Ludington State Park
Hikers on one of the bridges along the Island Trail.

Camping in Ludington State Park

There are three modern campgrounds located between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake:

Ludington State Park camping
Mini-cabin in one of the modern campgrounds
  • Pines Campground – closest to Lake Michigan (but not on it). The campground has 98 modern sites with electric service (some with 50 amps), modern showers and restrooms and one mini-cabin. Every mini-cabin (there are 3 in the park) has one double bed and three single beds, and also a mini fridge, wall heater, table and chairs.
  • Cedar Campground – in the middle. It has 110 modern sites with electric service, a mini-cabin,  modern showers and restrooms, and 8 tent sites without electric service. There is also a playground for kids.
  • Beechwood Campground – close to Hamlin Lake. The campground has 147 modern sites with electricity (some with 50 amps service), modern showers and restrooms, one mini-cabin. It also has a playground.
Campground map
Map of the campgrounds

There is also a rustic, walk-in campground – Jack Pine – located not far from Lake Michigan, north of the modern campgrounds. The campground has 10 tent sites. Since it’s rustic, there is no electric service and restrooms are primitive.

Ludington State Park campground
Camping in one of the modern campgrounds

Hiking Trails in Ludington State Park

The park has 21 miles of marked hiking trails through dunes, wetlands and forests. There is a number of hiking trails located north of the campgrounds between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. Then, there are few shorter trails located south of the Big Sable River.

Hiking Trail
Hiking trail in the dune wooded area

The Trails North of the Campgrounds

  • Coast Guard Trail – it is 1.5 mile long; it begins in Beechwood Campground and goes all the way to Lake Michigan. The trail goes through some wooded dune area and marshes. (Markers 13, 12, 10, 4 and 5 on the map). See the trail map below.
  • Island Trail – the trail is 2 miles long; it begins north of Hamlin Beach area and follows Hamlin Lake and Lost Lake along few small islands connected by foot bridges. (Markers 14, 15, 16 and 17).
  • Lighthouse Pass – it is 1.8 mile long dirt road going through dune area along Lake Michigan to Big Sable Point Lighthouse. It begins in the middle of Pines Campground, between the campsites 58 and 59. The path lacks shade and can feel pretty hot in sunny summer weather. You can also use it to ride a bike to the lighthouse. However, since there is a lot of sand around, the mountain or fat tire bike is preferred. (Markers 2, 5 and 6 on the map).
  • Lighthouse Trail – the trail stretches for 3.0 miles, beginning north of Beechwood Campground at marker 19 and ending at the lighthouse. It goes through open and wooded dune areas. It is a difficult trail do to the hot conditions in sunny weather and strenuous walking through soft sand. (Markers 19, 9, 7 and 6).
Ludington State Park - trail map
Trail map
  • Logging Trail – it is an out and back trail with a loop at the end. It begins at the north end of Pines Campground. The total round trip distance is around 4.0 miles. The trail intersects some other trails and there are no markers at some of the intersections. Therefore take a map with you, so you can find your way around. It goes through some dune areas with forests and wetlands. (Markers 3, 4, 7 and 8).
  • Lost Lake Trail – it is a 1.5 mile long trail following the western shoreline of Lost Lake. The trail begins in the middle of Beechwood Campground.  It goes through woods and sand dunes. Part of the trail is an extensive boardwalk along the lake. (Markers 15, 19, 18 and 16). When combined with part of the Island Lake Trail is turns into a very scenic loop trail around Lost Lake.
  • Ridge Trail – is a 2.7 mile long trail with a trailhead located along the bike path between park headquarters and Cedar Campground. The trail is one of the more difficult trails because of constant walking over sandy dunes. (Markers 11, 10, 9, 18 and 17). It can be combined with the Island Trail into a longer loop of about 5 miles.
  • Sable River Trail – this is a paved, 1.5 mile long trail along the Sable River; both sides of it connected by the dam, at one end, and a bridge, at the other. (Markers 25 and 20).
Hiking Trail
Stairs on the hiking trail on the south side of the river.

The Trail South of the Big Sable River

  • Skyline Trail – it is a short – 0.5 mile trail, located on the south side of Sable River. The trail has some stairs along the route. It provides some panoramic views  trail begins of Lake Michigan and Big Sable River. (Near marker 21 on the map).
  • South Park Trails – there are about 4.0 more miles of short trails on the south side of the river. (Markers 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29).
Lost Lake kayaking
Kayakers on Lost Lake

Canoe/Kayak Trail

There is also a canoe/kayak trail that starts at Hamlin Concession & Canoe Rental. It is about 4 miles long (round trip) and it takes you along the part of the shoreline of Hamlin Lake and into some small ponds. It requires some portaging. See the description and map here.  

Hamlin Lake beach and rental
Rental kayaks on Hamlin Lake beach

Park Amenities in Ludington State Park

  • Park store – in the Cedar Campground, caries firewood, ice, grocery items, ice-cream, beach equipment and souvenirs.
  • Bike rental – is offered at the concession store in the Cedar Campground.
  • Canoe/kayak/SUP rental – at Hamlin Lake from mid-May through early October.
  • Day use area – located at Hamlin Lake, has picnic areas with charcoal grills and picnic tables.
  • Picnic Shelter – at Hamlin Lake.
  • Boat lunch – at Hamlin Lake.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Final Thoughts

Ludington State Park is one of the nicest state parks in Michigan with a lot of possible outdoor activities to enjoy. Therefore, is probably one of the busiest. Hence, if you want to visit it, you need to plan it in advance, and make your reservation early.

It is a great park for families with kids. There are playgrounds, beaches, lakes for them to play at.

This is not a park to look for solitude and peace. As mentioned above, the park is very busy during the warm season, and there are big groups, families with kids, and therefore it gets fairly noisy.

However, during the day you can wonder over the dunes, to Lake Michigan shoreline and find “you own” spot to enjoy, if this is what you are looking for.

Hiking Trails in Ludington State Park
Trail markers and trail map at the intersection of trails

Resources

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If you are interested in Ludington State Park, you might want to check my other posts for nearby attractions:

Kayaking on Lost Lake

Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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