michigan landscape

What are the best locations for landscape photography in Michigan?

Michigan is a landscape photographer's paradise.

 

The Wolverine State. The Mitten State. The Great Lakes State.

Whatever you call it, one thing is for sure: Michigan is a landscape photographer’s paradise.

With over 3,000 miles of freshwater coastline, 5 rugged National Parks, and 2 equally unique peninsulas, there is no shortage of breathtaking vistas, endless beaches, and unrivaled scenery.

Surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, this hidden midwest gem is a year-round destination, offering photographers a chance to capture the rawness of all four seasons.

From the shores of the summer to the world-renowned fall foliage, there is no doubt a trip to Michigan will give you stunning contrasts, depths and details.

Read below for some of the great spots the Great Lake State has to offer. Whether you are on the hunt for raging waterfalls, infinite sunsets or simply pure nature, you can find it in pure Michigan.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Located on the northwestern shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, this midwest hotspot was voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America.

One look through your lens, and you’ll see why.

With 35 miles of untouched lakeshore, sweeping sand dunes and hiking trails with vast vistas, seemingly any scene can be captured here.

Take a hike up to Point Reyes for a nearly-birds-eye view of Lake Michigan and be enamored with the Caribbean-like blue waters.

Looking for some history?

Walk the shores and you might just stumble upon the jutting angles of shipwrecks the Great Lakes have claimed over the years.

After being named “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” you can rest assured this place gets very busy, especially with families who come to take in the beauty and have their kids burn some energy running up and down the sand dunes.

Go in the spring or fall and you’ll see reduced crowds, giving you fewer interruptions and more time to capture the landscapes.

 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

This breathtaking beauty sits on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

This intersection of lake and land has formed a collage of different textures, colors, and depths.

With over 100 miles of hiking trails, there are plenty of opportunities for landscape photographers to find a vantage point over cliffs that bleed color and sand dunes that stretch for miles.

Head out to the water on a kayak for panoramic views of the sandstone cliffs or head inland to capture stark white birch trees and contrasting lush green forests.

Grand Haven, Michigan

Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan about 40 minutes west of Grand Rapids, this once-sleepy beach town has seen a boom in the recent years after being named the “Second Best Secret Beach in the World.”

Yes, that’s right. The world.

In the summer, this place offers one of the best sunsets you’ll find in the midwest.

Set up near the pier to capture its red lighthouse against a canvas of color and contrasting against the foaming white waves of Lake Michigan.

The best part about this place? It’s equally as stunning in the winter.

And while winter-time crowds have increased in recent years, you should still be able to find some space to capture the moment.

In the winter, the lighthouse and pier are again the place the be.

The rough waves of the lake cover the pier and its lighthouse in thick ice that shoots out in all directions. It truly is a one-of-a-kind site for a landscape photographer.

If you go when the lighthouse hasn’t been encapsulated by ice yet, you’ll get a stunning contrast of its deep red color against the stark white snow.

Old Mission Peninsula

Just north of Traverse City, this narrow strip of land stretches 22 miles into the Grand Traverse Bay.

It is dotted with orchards, vineyards and small villages that are particularly lovely in the fall.

The rolling hills of the peninsula offer plenty of places to take in the sprawling views.

At the summit of the hill overlooking the winery, Chateau Grand Traverse is where you can find one of the most rewarding lookout points featuring views of both arms of the Bay- a favorite spot to watch sunsets and storms rolling in. Just after the town of Mapleton- one of two towns on the peninsula.

The road spans north over Hog’s Back, a razor-thin bluff with stunning views of the East Bay. Take the final hill on the peninsula through the cherry orchards and tall rows of hops, ending at Lighthouse Park. Here, you’ll find the picturesque Mission Park Lighthouse. While it’s no longer in operation, it makes for a beautiful man-made contrast to the pure nature that surrounds it.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Michigan’s largest state park sits on 60,000 acres of pristine Upper Peninsula real estate.

Here, landscape photographers can find thick forests, rushing waterfalls and vast lakes.

Head up to the photography hotspot, Lake of the Clouds, to capture the blue waters tucked in among the emerald green forests, framed by silhouettes of the mountains. In the fall, the trees burst into fiery flames of red, yellow and gold, peaking at the beginning of October.

To take in the rushing waterfalls, head to the Presque Isle River-on the western end of the park, in the springtime, just after the snow has melted.

 

Isle Royale National Park

Photographers looking for some space while taking in the sights should head to Isle Royale National Park.

This isolated island is surrounded by Lake Superior and filled with beautiful landscapes. There are plenty of short hikes that will take you up to the much sought after views, like the Lake Louise Lookout.

You can access the island by private boat, plane or ferry from Copper Harbor, Michigan, or Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Due to its location, the park is closed November 1 through April 15. However, the remoteness and seasonality of this National Park make it one of the least visited in the whole country, giving landscape photographers plenty of room to navigate the scenery.

This also makes for more unique photos as fewer photographers make the trek to the island.

 

Summary

A trip to Michigan is one worth any landscape photographer’s time.

Surround yourself with infinite vistas, breathtaking forests and rich history in this year-round masterpiece.

The different seasons make for different photos, angles, depths and details to capture at every location.

Start in the south of the state and work your way up the coast for a road trip so captivating you’ll only believe it when you see it through your lens.

An adventure in Michigan will not only scratch your photography itch, but remind you of why you got started in the first place.

So, go ahead. Pick up your camera, put down the map and follow the endless beauty Michigan has to offer.

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