How Do Michigan National Park Sites Stack Up Against the Rest of the Country?

How Do Michigan National Park Sites Stack Up Against the Rest of the Country?

Pictured Rocks Lake Superior Kayak Trip 2022

Michigan is home to one national park, two national lakeshores, a national battlefield park, a national historical park, and more than 1,100 miles on a national scenic trail. We’ve already looked at how 2023 was a great year for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore¬†and the fourth-busiest year ever for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and now we wanted to take a look at how all of our Michigan national park service sites stack up against those in the rest of the country. The National Park Service makes visitor stats available on its website each year for close to 400 sites, and as we get ready for a bust 2024 spring and summer let’s see where our Michigan national parks sites rank!

Isle Royale Windigo

Isle Royale National Park was once again one of the least-visited national parks in the United States. With just under 29,000 visitors (and increase of around 3,000 from 2022), only four national park sites saw fewer visits last year. This remote Lake Superior island is a mostly unspoiled paradise for outdoor exploration and has to be reached by boat or seaplane. The difficulty of getting there and the short season it is open contribute to its low visitor numbers, but those who make it there appreciate its solitude. Home to wolves and moose, four lighthouses, and more than 40 miles of hiking trails. This park has been right around 25,000 visits in seven of the last eight years, and in 2023 it was ranked 319th among national park sites. The most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, saw more than 13 million visitors last year.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Pierce Stocking Covered Bridge

When it comes to national lakeshores, Michigan is home to two of the three in the U.S. and our two are by far the most popular. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore led the way in 2023 with just under 1.6 million visitors, good for 55th place among all national park sites. Coming in at 82nd was Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with more than 910,000 visitors. For comparison, the other national lakeshore is Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which was 180th with just over 247,000 visitors. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s numbers put it on par with Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Shenandoah National Park, and Arches National Park. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sees similar visitor numbers to Everglades National Park and Sequoia National Park.

Quincy Dryhouse Ruins Keweenaw National Historic Park

Keweenaw National Historic Park covers more than 20 sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that tell the story of the area’s mining history. Tracking visitors numbers at all of these sites can be difficult, and the reported numbers for 2023 of 29,221 was likely lower than actual visitor numbers. The 2023 numbers are encouraging as they almost doubled the visitor numbers for 2022 and moved KNHP to the 317th spot nationally (in 2022 it was 342nd.

River Raisin National Battlefield Park Path Michigan

River Raisin National Battlefield Park saw an increase of around 10,000 visitors in 2023 compared to 2022 and that landed it at 175th. Considering the more well-known battlefield sites of the Civil War and Revolutionary War draw in around 500,000-1.5 million visitors, seeing these kinds of numbers for a Michigan battlefield from the War of 1812 is a solid accomplishment.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary North Country Trail Information

Finally, we come to the North Country Trail. This national scenic trail recently was upgraded to an official unit of the National Park Service, which should mean that more usage statistics will be available in the coming years. With hundreds of access points, getting actual user data from a trail this large would be quite a daunting task.

Pictured Rocks Kayak Trip 2022 Painted Cove Lake Superior Summer

Seeing two of Michigan’s national park sites rank in the top 100 in the country is encouraging, and also not surprising for anyone who has visited them. It’s also important to remember when visiting on busy summer days that our parks are never as busy as Acadia National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, or Rocky Mountain National Park. We’re glad people love visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and it’s great to see that strong visitor numbers will provide these parks with the funds and resources they need to stay beautiful and open to all for many years to come!