Ludington State Park is a state park located just north of Ludington, Michigan between the shores of Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. The park encompasses nearly 5,300 acres (2,100 ha) and contains several ecosystems, including: forests, sand dunes, a dam, a Great Lake, and a river.
Ludington State Park is home to Big Sable Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was first lit in 1876 and stands 112 feet (34 m) high. It can be visited from the beginning of May through the end of October. Visitors must walk 2 miles (3.2 km) on the sandy beach to reach it, though there is limited bus transportation on certain days throughout the season. Visitors can tour the lighthouse for a small donation.
Hamlin Lake is an artificial lake created by the backup of the Big Sable River by the Hamlin Lake Dam. The lake, which covers 4,990 acres (20.2 km2), is five miles long and two miles wide. It has two sections, the upper and lower lakes, which are separated by the narrows. The lake is great for swimming during summer months as it is typically much warmer than Lake Michigan and has a smaller swimming area, making it easier to keep track of family and friends. Park visitors can rent a variety of boats at this location and many of the park's trails (including a canoe trail) begin and end here. During the winter season, ice fishing is popular.
Big Sable River is the primary river that runs through the park. The park's portion of the river begins at Hamlin Lake Dam, the dam that created Hamlin Lake, and ends at Lake Michigan. The primary road that runs through the park runs alongside the full length of this portion of the river. During the summer months, Big Sable River can often be seen with groups of people floating down current in inner tubes. The river is home to otters and many fish. In 2005, the park made an effort to replenish the salmon population by creating cages for the fish to grow in and then releasing them when they were able to live on their own.
Ludington State Park has four campgrounds—Pines, Cedars, Jack Pine Hike-in, and Beechwood—containing a total of 352 campsites. Each campground also contains one mini-cabin. In addition, there are ten campsites within the remote Jack Pine camping area set aside for backpack hikers. All the campsites at Ludington State Park require a reservation and reservations typically fill up about 6 months before any given date. Campers sometimes secure campsites less than 6 months in advance by checking the reservation system frequently until a vacancy opens.
The first campground located in the park, Pines, contains 99 campsites, making it the smallest in the park. It is located just inside the park entrance. The walk to the beach and the restaurant on the beach are mere minutes from any campsite in the area.
Cedar is the second campground in the park. It contains 106 campsites and is located about 1/3 the way into the park. Cedar is home to the camp store, which sells T-shirts, food, camping equipment, firewood, ice cream and miscellaneous goods. It also rents out bicycles to use within the park. Cedar is the closest campground to the nature center and the Skyline Trail, a popular short walk along a ridge.
Jack Pine is a hike-in only rustic campground with 10 campsites, away from most park developments. It is about 0.75 mile north of Pine Campground on the unpaved road to the Lighthouse.
Beechwood is the largest campground in Ludington State Park with 147 campsites. It is located about 3/4 of the way into the park and is split into two sections, with the top section being far smaller than the section at the bottom of a high hill.
Beechwood is the most popular campground in the park for several reasons. It is more secluded than the others as it sits off on its own, away from popular tourist areas and other campgrounds. It has the most campsites ready for tents to be set up. It is also one of the best areas in the park for recreation. Several trails run through or near this campground, including the Lost Lake Trail, which guides hikers around the nearby Hamlin Lake. There is a playground and small pond nearby. Small church services are conducted every Sunday morning.
Beechwood was renovated somewhat recently and received several benefits. It now contains the majority of the park's boardwalks where people can fish, walk, and relax. The boardwalks also connect the campground to its own private, though very small, island.
Ludington State Park is home to several bike and hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Hiking trails are generally very well marked but a map from the park rangers' station will come in handy. There are 21.5 miles of hiking trail, 10 miles of cross-country ski trails, a 2-mile bicycle trail and a 4-mile canoe trail. There is plenty of fishing to be done at Hamlin Lake, Big Sable River, and Lake Michigan. The park also contains a nature center that highlights the park's wildlife and natural habitat. Tubing down Big Sable River and swimming in Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan are encouraged during the summer months.
The Beach Cafe is located right on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is the only restaurant located within the park and has stunning views of Lake Michigan and the beach. The cafe also has an attached gift shop, as well as a changing/locker room in the basement for those who would like to swim in Lake Michigan.