Hug the Giants at Michigan’s Hartwick Pines State Park

Hartwick Pines State Park, Old Growth Forest Trail

Hartwick Pines State Park: Walk Under Towering Trees to Glimpse Old Michigan

Did you know there’s a getaway destination in Michigan’s lower peninsula where you can walk beneath giant 150 foot-tall pine trees?

And that some of the towering trees are 350- 375 years old?

Hartwick Pines State Park

I didn’t know about this place until a few years ago, but now that I do, I can’t help but share this dreamy outdoor escape with you.

That’s right – our destination: Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, Michigan – has the largest unbroken stand of Old-Growth White Pines in the Lower Peninsula. You’re gonna want to hug these trees by time time you’re done reading this article.

Hartwick Pines State Park Happy Little Trees Sign

Without question, it’s been one of my favorite parks in Michigan since the first time I discovered it years ago. I’ve walked these trails in every season and love this park more with every visit.

Don’t be surprised if Hartwick Pines puts a pitter-patter in your heart too.

Let me show you around!

Save this post to come back to it later, and check out some of the other Michigan State Parks we love!

What to do at Hartwick Pines State Park

When I’m mapping out a road trip, I like to know all the fun stops along the way. Any other roadside attraction enthusiasts here?

Hartwick Pines State Park Sign

Hartwick Pines State Park is located 3 hours (200 miles) from Detroit, and just 8 miles off of I-75 near Grayling. 

It’s a great place to stretch your legs after a couple of hours in the car.

boy at Hartwick Pines State Park

Things to do at Hartwick Pines State Forest

The Visitor’s Center at Hartwick Pines

Climb the stairway from the parking lot to begin your adventure at the Visitors Center. The year-round, fully accessible visitor center is a gateway to the towering pine forest that surrounds it.

Hartwick Pines State Park visitor's center

Stroll through the exhibit hall inside the visitors center to explore Michigan’s forests and wildlife on a journey through time beginning with the Ice Age. 

Hartwick Pines State Park interior

The back wall of this gorgeous lodge has huge windows overlooking the old-growth forest. These windows are a bird-watcher’s dream.

Take a seat on the mitten-shaped Adirondack chairs or pull up a bench at one of the biggest log tables I’ve ever encountered and see how many birds you spot on the feeders.

The visitors center at Hartwick Pines State Park also has a gift shop, bookstore, restrooms and an auditorium that holds 105 guests.

Visitor Center Hours

  • Memorial Day – Labor Day: open daily, 9 PM – 5 PM
  • Sept. – Oct. – open daily, 9 AM – 4 PM
  • Nov. – April – weekends only, 9 AM – 4 PM

Take the The Old Growth Forest Trail

Walking a loop on the Old Growth Forest trail is becoming a family tradition whenever we drive past the Grayling exit on I-75. It’s paved, and fully accessible for everyone to enjoy. We’re talkin’ stroller-friendly, dog-friendly, wheelchair friendly, and family-friendly. Everyone in your car, even if they’re wearing crocs, can do this trail.

My teenage daughter recently taught me you can put Crocs into “sport mode” simply by wearing the back heel strap. You’re welcome.

signs at Hartwick Pines State Park

The Old Growth Forest trail meanders through one of the last standing old-growth forests in Michigan.

This trail begins at the Visitors Center (which is open year-round), it’s short (only 1.25 miles) and in addition to strolling under some 350-400 year-old White Pines, you pass two main highlights of the park along the way: The Chapel in the Pines, and the Logging Museum (more on these in a minute.)

Walking in the woods always delights me, but this deep, old forest smells richer and sounds quieter than other forests I’ve hiked through. The mossy ground almost pulses with life. Stand quietly for a moment and you’ll hear nature’s silence, but also how loud a bird or a breeze can sound.

Just writing about it makes me want to close my eyes and imagine I’m standing beneath those pines right now.

pine trees Hartwick Pines State Park

Consider stopping for an hour or two at Hartwick Pines State Park next time you’re exploring Northern Michigan.

More Hartwick Pines State Park Trails to Explore

walking on log at Hartwick Pines State Park

The Chapel in the Pines

Deep in the woods at Hartwick Pines State Park, on the Old Growth Trail, is a little log structure known as The Chapel in the Pines.

It’s a peaceful sanctuary hidden away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. The perfect place to sit down and reflect on the beauty of nature.

chapel in the pines Hartwick Pines State Park

The first time I spotted this log chapel up on the hill it took my breath away.

The amazing pine wood smell and the light beaming through the huge cross-shaped window will delight your senses as you enter the back of the chapel. It’s absolutely stunning. That single window is the only light source inside the chapel.

Beneath the cross window, Nature’s Prayer is carved in wood. No matter your religious beliefs, it’s evident that the prayer’s author wanted the reader to notice, enjoy, and appreciate the beauty of Hartwick Pines.

Nature’s Prayer at Hartwick Pines Chapel

Our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is nature, we humbly come to you in the midst of nature’s splendor to thank you that as Americans we are free to worship as we please, work as we please, and move about as we please to enjoy all that is nature – its mountains, its hills, its valleys, its lakes, its streams, and the living things that dwell therein…

prayer Hartwick Pines State Park

You Can Get Married at Hartwick Pine’s Chapel

Getting hitched? The Chapel in the Pines is one of the smallest and best-kept secret wedding venues in Michigan.

  • The Chapel, which holds 18 guests, can be reserved up to one year in advance.
  • Reserve the chapel for $116 for a two hour block of time, (10-Noon, Noon-2, or 2-4) plus a reservation fee. (2023 Pricing)
  • Call 800-447-2757 or book online under the Day Use tab to reserve the Chapel in the Pines at Hartwick Pines State Park.

The Logging Museum at Hartwick Pines

Past the Chapel in the Pines, on the Old Growth Trail, you’ll find the Logging Museum, one of our favorite destinations in Hartwick Pines State Park.

Lumberjack saws once rang out across Michigan, and this area of northern Michigan is still known as “Timber Town.” Get a glimpse of our state’s logging history, and what life was like for 19th century tree workers, in this fascinating museum.

If you’re lucky enough to be at Hartwick Pines State Park during one of the ranger programs, you might be able to try old fashioned chores or using a crosscut saw. Occasionally, during the summer, costumed actors from the Michigan History Center are on site to demonstrate activities and share history of an 1890’s logging camp.

Hartwick Pines State Park

Step into the Logging Museum to explore the restored bunkhouse, where the “shanty boys” once slept. Can you imagine waking up on a frigid Michigan winter morning in a lumber camp bunkhouse? 

Inside you’ll see the mess hall where they ate, the cook’s shack where their food was prepared and the blacksmith’s shop where tools like saws, hammers and axes were both forged and repaired.

Make sure you check out the historic photos of lumberjacks building roads and using horses, steam engines, and rivers to move logs to shipping ports throughout the great lakes region and US.

Outside the museum get an up-close look at the sawmill, big-wheel, and large road-building equipment.

Logging Museum hours

  • April 29 – May 26: 9 AM – 4 PM
  • May 27 – Sept. 3: 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Sept. 4 – Oct. 29: 9 AM – 4 PM

Hartwick Pines State Park Memorial Building

Hartwick Pines State Park built its first public structure, the Memorial Building, under the direction of Karen Hartwick to honor her late husband, Edward.

For over 60 years, the Memorial Building served as the park’s visitor center.

Hartwick Pines State Park Memorial Building

Fun Opportunity Alert: Apply to be a Host at the Memorial Building! In exchange for leading tours, minimal building maintenance duties, and helping with park programs, you get to camp for free at the park’s campground!

(I’ve been encouraged to cut back on my exclamation point usage, but that last sentence deserves to be yelled.)

Hosts can volunteer for one week up to one month and can serve as an individual, family, or group of friends.

Camping at Hartwick Pines

Load up your camping gear and stay overnight at Hartwick Pines State Park.

Choose between their year-round rustic campground and seasonal modern campground with 100 sites – 64 electric-only sites and 36 pull-through sites with full hook ups.

Due to an enhancement project to upgrade the electrical system, the modern campground will tentatively close in October 2023.

The campground has playground, sand volleyball court and trail connections including trail access to Bright and Glory lakes and a spur from the campground road that leads to the park’s mountain biking trails.

Hartwick Pines State Park Campground Map

Map & Address

Location: 3612 State Park Dr, Grayling, MI 49738

Know Before You Go:

  • You’ll need to purchase a Michigan Recreation Passport for your vehicle, that pass will get you into all of Michigan’s state parks throughout the entire year!. They’re $13 when you add them to your license plate registration renewal through the Secretary of State. Otherwise, you can get your annual pass at the park entrance station for $18. (2023 pricing shown)
  • Don’t skimp on bug spray if you’re visiting anytime between May 1 and Oct 31. The mosquitos at Hartwick Pines State Park are some of the biggest and hungriest I’ve ever encountered in Michigan.
  • The Logging Museum is open May-October (the same months as the mosquitos).
  • Due to an enhancement project to upgrade the electrical system, the modern campground will tentatively close in October 2023. Check website for campground or building closures.
  • You can rent The Chapel in the Woods in 2-hour time blocks. Contact the Park for more information.


How much does it cost to get into Hartwick Pines?

Admission and parking is free, however a Michigan Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry into the park. You can get your annual pass at the park entrance station for $18 or ahead of time for just $13 when you add them to your license plate registration renewal through the Secretary of State. (2023 pricing shown)

What is significant about Hartwick Pines State Park?

Where do we begin? The park is most known for its 49 acres of old-growth pine forest. Other highlights include a stellar visitors center, 21-miles of gorgeous trails, a logging museum filled with historic items, and modern campground, and more.

Can you bring dogs to Hartwick Pines?

There is not a designated dog play area, but dogs are allowed as long as they’re on a lead no more than six feet in length. Dogs are not permitted to enter public buildings.

Does Hartwick Pines have full hook ups?

The modern campground has 36 pull-through sites with full hook ups, and 64 electric-only sites.

Does Hartwick Pines offer school programs or field trips?

Yes! There are a variety of programming options for school groups at Hartwick Pines. From forest ecology tours or Michigan wildlife studies, to maple syrup making – you’re sure to find a program that will delight your group.

How big is the largest tree at Hartwick Pines State Park?

“The Monarch” is the most famous tree at Hartwick Pines. It once towered 150 feet over the forest, the tallest and largest tree in the heart of the park. It was damaged by a storm in 1992 and died 4 years later. Today when you visit, you can hug its 60 foot tall stump.

What is an Old Growth Forest?

Forests that have never been logged and have developed over a long period of time are considered old growth. They play essential roles in numerous ecological processes including wildlife habitat, carbon storage, nutrient cycles, and species diversity.

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