Magical Destinations to Chase the Northern Lights in Pure Michigan
Michigan is home to more than 300 waterfalls, 2,500 miles of trails and 11,000 inland lakes, but did you know it’s also one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights?
The Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, is caused by a chain reaction of released energy from solar particles reacting with Earth’s magnetic field. We’re here to share three destinations within the Great Lakes state that give you a perfect glimpse of these celestial sky dances.
In 2011, the Headlands became the sixth International Dark Sky Park in the United States and the ninth in the world. This 600-acre parcel of old-growth forest sits on more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. Here you will find the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution and preserved in perpetuity by Emmet County. Monthly, free Dark Sky Park programs and special events are held at the Beach House and on the shoreline. Signs in the park direct visitors to designated Dark Sky Viewing areas. No camping is allowed, but the park is open 24/7 year-round, with five miles of trails throughout the property. The park provides dazzling night sky for photographers, astronomers and dark-sky enthusiasts alike.
Nestled in the Blue Water Area, on the tip of the Lower Peninsula’s thumb in Port Austin, is Port Crescent State Park. The park has a designated area where no electric light exists for miles, giving star-gazers an unobstructed view of the night sky. The dark sky preserve is located in the day-use area where there’s a charge for parking, but no overnight reservations are needed. Consider a day filled with kayaking to Turnip Rock, and then sitting back and enjoying the wonders of the universe in the evening.
3. Remote spots on Lake Superior – Upper Peninsula
As photographer Shawn Malone shares in her secrets for viewing the northern lights, Michigan has many positive factors when it comes to viewing the northern lights, the most important being:
- Relatively low light pollution
The Upper Peninsula is blessed with hundreds of miles of shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, which provides some of the best northern lights viewing in the lower 48 due to the very dark night skies. When looking north over Lake Superior, one can see right down to the horizon and take in a 180-degree unobstructed view of the night sky. Having a dark night sky with little light pollution is necessary when looking for the northern lights, as the light of the aurora is equal to the brightness of starlight.
Inspired to begin your Aurora hunting? You’re in luck! March is one of the best months to see the northern lights because of its long, dark nights. There are even rumors that the beginning of spring brings greater solar activity as temperatures begin to warm.