Ludington State Park in Michigan
One of Michigan’s most popular state parks and vacation destinations, Ludington State Park is the perfect spot if you love sand dunes, epic beaches, scenic hikes, camping, fishing, hiking to a lighthouse, or outdoor recreation in general.
This park even has a canoe trail!
This 5,300-acre paradise draws thousands of visitors on a year-round basis.
Many come to camp at Ludington State Park in the summertime, float the Big Sable River, or sample the miles of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline.
It’s a prime example of the state’s wonderful Lake Michigan beaches.
The park is sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake.
Ludington State Park
8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431
Ludington State Park FAQs
How much does it cost to get into Ludington State Park?
Michigan Recreation Passport
A Michigan Recreation Passport or Non-resident Day Pass is required to enter Ludington State Park.
A non-resident day pass at a state park in Michigan, including Ludington State Park, is $10 and is good for entry and re-entry to any state park for the day.
Michigan residents can opt to pay $17 per vehicle (at the park gate) for a Michigan Recreation Passport. It will valid until their next license plate renewal.
Residents can also get the yearly recreation passport/park pass for $12 at the Secretary of State when renewing a license plate. (Fee increases to $13 starting March 1, 2023)
Can you swim at Ludington State Park?
Yes, you can swim at Ludington State Park. There are two lakes – and two beaches – here: Lake Michigan Beach and Hamlin Lake Beach.
Choose Hamlin Lake for windier days or when Lake Michigan hasn’t warmed up yet. Head to the big lake when the flag is green or yellow. More on these beaches below.
Is alcohol allowed at Ludington State Park?
Yes, if you are 21 years old or older, you may consume alcohol within the park as long as long you are following general state laws concerning possession and/or consumption of these beverages.
Is Ludington State Park really old?
If you consider “really old'” to mean built in the 1930s, then yes, Ludington State Park is pretty old.
The trail shelters were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps around 1935, at the same time miles of trails were being created in the park.
Is Ludington State Park dog-friendly?
Attended, quiet, leashed dogs are welcome to visit the outdoor areas of Ludington State Park.
Dogs may only swim in designated spaces, such as:
• Along Lake Michigan, north of the Big Sable River, as signed – may be subject to closure if piping plovers nest in the area
• Piney Ridge Lake, one-half mile north of Piney Ridge Road’s intersection with M-116
• Lost Lake, north of the Beechwood Campground
• The sandy shoreline of Hamlin Lake on the south side and east of the dam
Where is Ludington State Park?
Ludington State Park is located in the Great Lakes on the west coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, about two miles north of downtown Ludington MI.
The park is about 1 3/4 hours away from Grand Rapids, MI. (It is north of Muskegon, but south of Manistee.)
Plan on a 10-minute drive to get from the city of Ludington to Ludington State Park.
The park entrance is at the end of M-116.
10 Best Things to Do at Ludington State Park
Choose from a fantastic menu of outdoor activities at Ludington State Park:
1 – Trek to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm in warmer months
2022 Season: May 10th through October 24th
Standard Admission to tour Big Sable Lighthouse: $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for students 17 and under.
Clocking in at 112 feet tall, this remote historic 1867 lighthouse and grounds are kept going by the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association.
Hike or Bike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Reaching Big Sable Point Lighthouse is an experience in itself: the road to the iconic structure is closed to most vehicles. Moreover, the path is quite sandy, a long 1.8 miles, and open to the hot sun. More about the lighthouse hike
At Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Arrive at the lighthouse and you can explore the grounds, tour the original Keeper’s Quarters (now serving as a gift shop), climb 130-step spiral staircase to the top of the tower (fee), watch passing freighters, or explore the surrounding sand dunes and Lake Michigan shoreline.
Events & Bus Days to Big Sable Lighthouse
On select afternoons, round-trip bus transportation to the lighthouse is offered. Fee: $5 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under.
Concerts and other special events are also held at the lighthouse on occasion. Big Sable Event & Bus info
2 – Spend Time at the Ludington State Park Beach & Lake Michigan Beach House
The entrance to this state park is a treat – miles and miles of beachy sand dunes stretch before as you drive along M-116, before you even reach the official entrance to Ludington State Park Beach.
Pull off along the road almost anywhere along the way and jump in the lake or watch a sunset – the choice is yours!
Ludington State Park Beach
Is this the best beach in Michigan? Some would say so.
Certainly, this beach is a magnet for summer visitors. Miles of sugar-sand Lake Michigan beach make swimming, sunbathing, and sunsets a natural way of life.
The beach by the beach house has a parking lot that often fills to capacity in the summertime. If that happens, try to find an alternate parking spot along the road or in a day-use section of the park.
The only downside to this beach is what created it in the first place – wind. Ludington is a notoriously windy spot in the mitten. If you visit on a day where the winds are too strong on Lake Michigan, opt for Hamlin Lake Beach.
Ludington State Park Beach House
This building is a piece of history. Constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Ludington State Park Beach House has stood the test of time.
Today, its two stories house an interactive interpretive area with a lounge as well as concessions, two beach wheelchairs, and restrooms.
Beach House History
This Arts-and-Crafts-inspired building was built using bricks from the old Morton Salt factory in
SWIM SAFE: Ludington State Park Beach Flag Warning System
There are no lifeguards at this park.
Dangerous currents are often present in Lake Michigan – people drown in it every year.
To help you stay safe, the park flies colored flags indicating the level of swimming hazard. Respect these – don’t go in the water on a red flag day. Take caution on yellow flag days – wear a life preserver. Even on green flag days, don’t let your guard down.
See the latest Ludington Lake MI beach conditions
3 – Explore the Hiking Trails
There’s extensive trail system (18+ miles of marked trails) at this state park.
With varying difficulties and a wide range of trail types, most people will find an appealing hike to try. See the Ludington State Park Trails Map for a look at them all.
In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite trails:
0.5 miles – 30 minutes
Easy, with stairs
The Skyline Trail is just south of the Big Sable River. Campers can easily access it via the bridge near the Cedar Campground entrance.
Once at the trailhead, climb a large bank of stairs to reach an elevated boardwalk. The whole trail is a boardwalk system that will guide you along the ridge of a large sand dune.
Overlooks are sprinkled along the way, giving you a good look at the near dunes and scrubby jack pines, as well as Lake Michigan and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in the distance.
There’s even a spot on the Skyline Trail where you can scramble up and down a steep-sloped sand dune.
Lost Lake & Island Trail Loop
2 miles – 45 minutes
Easy with some unlevel ground & several hills.
Water views, boardwalks, pine forests – this hike at Ludington State Park is a favorite for many.
Circling Lost Lake, hikers will find themselves using boardwalks to hop across a series of islands and peninsulas. Benches invite you stop and drink in the peaceful views along this shady trail.
Hike to the Lighthouse
difficult – sandy terrain
“Let’s hike to the lighthouse” is a big statement at Ludington State Park: the almost two-mile trek is sandy and in full sun.
It’s worth it for the breathtaking views, though.
- The road is closed to motor vehicles; you cannot drive to the lighthouse.
- Mountain bikes or bikes with fat tires can navigate this path. Strollers and wagons with wide tires also will do well here.
- Plan 2-3 hours for the walk. There are benches along the way and some shaded spots.
- To find the Logging/Lighthouse road, park at the Beach House, walk past the warming shelter, and into the Pines Campground. In the rear of the Pines Campground, you’ll see the gated Lighthouse Road. This is your trail.
4 – Float & Paddle
The water invites you to play at Ludington State Park!
From stand-up paddle boards to kayaks to canoes to river tubing, non-motorized options are plentiful. Or, bring a jet ski or pontoon boat to amp up your fun.
Ludington State Park Canoe Trail
4 miles – beginner
1-3 hours of paddling
Starting at the Hamlin Lake Watercraft rental area, follow posted signs on this four-mile water trail to explore Hamlin Lake’s wetlands, ponds, and marshes. You’ll very likely see wildlife while you paddle.
The Ludington State Park Canoe Trail route includes marshy areas and consequently, requires four short portages – be prepared to carry your canoe. Other than that, the route is protected and suitable for beginners.
Canoe Trail Map
Hamlin Concession and Canoe Rental
Dune Grass Concessions operates canoe and kayak rentals at Ludington State Park. Find the rental station at Hamlin Lake. 2022 rates are posted below.
Bikes and rowboats are also available to rent.
Float the Big Sable River
You can float the one-mile Big Sable River from Hamlin Lake to Lake Michigan.
Put your tube or kayak in at the dam and enjoy the scenic ride. The river is deep and wide and a paddle is helpful on windy days.
Exit at the mouth of the river or stay and play on the sandy Lake Michigan beach.
River currents can be strong at the river mouth. Follow posted warnings and restrictions when in effect. And, always wear a PDF.
6 – Catch a Sunset
Almost any spot along the Lake Michigan shoreline promises lovely sunset views, and that includes the expansive Ludington State Park Beach.
Arrive at least 30 minutes before the sun dips below the horizon – and stay at least 30 minutes after – to watch the sky turn various shades of pink, orange and purple.
Bring a flashlight to help you navigate the darkness on your way out.
7 – Hamlin Lake Beach, Playground & Canoe Rental
Hamlin Concession and Canoe Rental
Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and rowboats can be rented at the Hamlin Lake concession and Cedar Campground Store.
For motorized Hamlin Lake boat rentals, like pontoon boats, check with:
|Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals||3461 N. Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431|
|Waterside Resort||3298 North Lakeshore Dr. Ludington, MI 49431|
|Sunset Bluff Resort||6075 N. Victory Park Rd., Ludington, MI 49431|
|Clark Castle Point Resort||6239 Barnhart Rd. Ludington, MI 49431|
Hamlin Lake Playground and Beach
Hamlin Lake’s shallow, warm, protected waters offer a nice contrast to the Lake Michigan beach at this park, making it a favorite with families.
As an added bonus, the newer playground is waterside, as are the changing rooms and picnic pavilion. Grills and picnic tables are sprinkled throughout, too.
8 – Go Fishing
It seems like everywhere you look, someone is fishing at Ludington State Park.
From a riverbank, from a boat, on a bridge – with three water bodies and a variety of fish species to go after, fishing is a prime activity here.
Fishing licenses are required. Also, the Big Sable River does have special regulations regarding what type of fishing gear can be used.
Popular fishing spots include Hamlin Lake and the Big Sable River.
In Hamlin Lake, people fish for crappie, bluegill, sunfish, large and smallmouth bass, pike, muskies, perch and walleye.
In Big Sable River, anglers try to land Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, and perch.
9 – Pop into a Park Program
Guided activities are an ongoing feature here. To find out what’s going on, consult the Ludington State Park Facebook Page.
Expect outings like hiking, fishing, trivia, archery sessions, lighthouse visits ,and more. Activities vary from week to week.
The park does a great job of posting weekly event announcements in the summer, as well as general park information.
Winter activities at Ludington State Park
In the winter, Ludington State Park is a magnet for snowshoe hikes and guided lantern-lit hikes.
Lantern-lit Hikes – Available on select evenings, the lantern-lit hike is about one mile long. 75+ old-fashioned lanterns illuminate the mile-long trail that goes from the warming shelter to the amphitheater. If there is enough snow, snowshoes will be passed out or you can bring your own. Guests are invited to stop for hot cocoa and roast a marshmallow as part of the evening fun.
Additional Winter Activities – Bird watching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping. Ludington State Park in one of just a few Michigan State Parks that is open for year-round camping. Plowed campsites in Cedar are available for visitors, as are the park’s three mini-cabins. Water and electricity are available in Cedar, but restroom amenities are
limited to vault toilets.
Snowshoe Hikes – Each weekend, the park interpreter guides visitors through the snowy forests and dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Afternoon and evening hikes are available, so come prepared with a headlamp if you plan on joining
an evening hike. Complimentary snowshoes are provided.
Camping at Ludington State Park
10 – Go Camping & Get the Best Merch at the Camp Store
A popular Michigan camping destination, Ludington State Park is home to 4 campgrounds (3 modern, one primitive) for a total of 355 campsites that are almost always booked between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The park also has three mini cabins for rent.
How to get Camping Reservations at Ludington State Park
Scoring a camping reservation for Ludington State Park is a big win! You can make reservations six months in advance for campsites, and one year in advance for the park’s mini-cabins.
Since all of the sites may be reserved in advance, they often are. The only way to camp here is to make advance reservations – and that takes some strategy.
Start by calling (800) 44 PARKS or going online at the moment reservations open for your desired dates. If that doesn’t work, make an account and set up notifications for your desired camping dates. As time goes by, the reservation system will alert you by email when sites open up. Be prepared to act on these notifications quickly – they are often scooped up within minutes.
Three Main Campground Loops
There are three main campground loops at Ludington State Park: Cedar, Pines, and Beechwood.
98 campsites. This is the camping loop closest to Lake Michigan, the State Park Beach, and the lighthouse. Sites 59-97 are located dune side – climb over the dune to Lake Michigan.
110 campsites. This is the camping loop with the Camp Store, the Camp Host, and the Tent Only Loop. Just outside the Cedar Campground entrance, there’s a bridge over the Big Sable River often used for fishing.
147 campsites. This is the camping loop closest to Hamlin Lake Beach and a favorite among families, especially those with young kids. Easily pick up the Lost Lake/Island Hiking Trail system here.
Showers and Bathroom Facilities at Ludington State Park Campground
Ludington State Park Campground does have showers and modern bathroom facilities. Campers may use them at no additional cost.
RV Camping at Ludington State Park
RV campers should know that there are no water hook-ups on the campsites. Water is available within walking distance at several locations throughout the campground or at the park sanitation station located at the campground registration building. Electric sites are available with 20/30/50 amp sites
The sanitary dump station is located at the campground registration office, two miles south of the park entrance booth. There are also sanitation stations for portable waste tanks located in the Pines, Cedar, and Beechwood campgrounds.
Tent Camping at Ludington State Park
The tent-only, non-electric Tent Loop is located in the Cedar Campground. It has eight sites and a small playground. Tent campers are also welcome to reserve any electric site in the park as well.
Jack Pine Campground: Hike-In Rustic Camping
The Jack Pine hike-in campsites (there are 10) will give you a taste of backcountry camping or backpacking without the big commitment.
Located on the sandy road to the lighthouse, the Jack Pine Campground requires campers to carry camping equipment almost a mile to their campsite. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table.
Vault toilets and a water hand pump are the only amenities here.
Mini Cabin Camping at Ludington State Park
There are just three mini-cabins available for camping here.
Reserve a rustic mini cabin via the reservation system, just like you are booking a tent or RV slot. Cabins have electricity, mini-refrigerator, microwave, electric heat, charcoal grill, table and chairs.
Campers must bring their own bedding and other camping supplies. Two sets of bunk beds including one full size bed.If you manage to reserve one, enjoy!
Camp Store at Ludington State Park
If you like cool branded merch, the Ludington State Park Camp Store is the place to go. They also have ice cream and firewood and a few other camping essentials, but the big draw here is the great sweatshirt, mug, blanket, and t-shirt collection they’ve put together. Find the camp store in the Cedar Campground Loop.
Raccoons will Find Your Food
The critters at Ludington State Park will take every opportunity to dig through your goodies if you leave them unattended. They are smart and know how to open coolers and other latched containers. Store food in a camper or vehicle. Don’t put it in your tent or leave it out overnight.
Camping with a Boat
If you’re camping and bringing a boat: The park has very limited overflow parking near the amphitheater for equipment that won’t fit on your site. If these spaces are full, you will have to find a spot outside of the park to park your boat trailer.
Nearby Ludington Things to Do
Drive into downtown Ludington MI and the surrounding areas for additional fun things to do, like:
- ice cream at the House of Flavors
- visiting the splash pad
- watching the big ships go by
- visit Amber Elk Ranch
You can enjoy Ludington State Park during the day and sleep in a nearby hotel at night. Here are a few places that visitors love:
Ludington Beach House
120 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
About Ludington Beach House: A local developer purchased the former Lakeside Inn of Ludington and remodeled the entire hotel with all-new rooms and queen beds and unique, cottage-chic decor (no two rooms are alike).
This hotel is across the street from Stearns Park Beach and within walking distance to downtown. The hotel also includes an outdoor, heated pool.
Our room was PERFECT for a family with a separate bedroom and living room (complete with a pullout couch) and two bathrooms. The staff was fantastic; we would definitely stay here again.
5323 US-10, Ludington, MI 49431
For those of you who prefer hotel life, the Comfort Inn gets a big thumbs-up from families (it’s about a 5-minute drive to downtown).
The hotel has a large indoor heated pool, free breakfast, a playground, and a picnic area. Consider booking a family suite, offering extra space.
Kids will dig their colorful bunk beds. Oh, and it’s pet-friendly.
612 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
The family-owned Nader’s Motel & Suites, located on Route 116, is another popular option – offering spacious rooms and an outdoor heated pool.
In-town resort atmosphere in-town with the perfect location across from Lake Michigan.
Updated motel with lots of amenities. Walk to downtown, restaurants, marinas, shopping, parks and the car ferry. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers in every room. Full kitchen suites available.
Outdoor heated salt-water pool, picnic area, free bike rental, shuffleboard, etc.
805 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
The Ludington Pier House Motel has one of the best locations in town – a short walk to Stearns Park Beach. It’s also within walking distance to downtown.
You need only walk a bit to capture a Lake Michigan sunset.
Clean, family-friendly motel, with an indoor heated pool. Walking distance to the beach, parks, lighthouse, marina, downtown restaurants and shopping. Family-size rooms. Free wireless internet/ Cable TV Online Specials.