Headlands International Dark Sky Park

In early May 2011, Emmet County was awarded International Dark Sky Park designation for the Headlands property — just the sixth such park in the United States and the ninth in the world at the time (a couple more have been named since).  To see this year’s Dark Sky Programs, go to www.emmetcounty.org/2013-dark-sky-park-program-schedule-631/

About the park: What you need to know

The Headlands is open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. Click here for the address and directions.

There is no camping allowed; however, visitors are welcomed and encouraged to stay out through the night and early morning hours for night-sky viewing opportunities. You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc.

Plan accordingly and dress for temperatures 10 degrees below what you expect. The park is located on the shore of Lake Michigan and is always cooler than inland.

The public Dark Sky Park programs take place at the Beach House (unless otherwise noted); follow the signs through the park. It’s about a mile drive in from the park entrance. Also, the programs are intended for naked-eye observation; however, you may feel free to bring binoculars or telescopes if you prefer to enhance the experience.

Please note: There are not yet concrete pads in place for telescopes.

If you are heading to the Headlands on a non-program outing, look for the signs for Dark Sky Viewing. There is a designated trail and viewing area along the lakeshore for the public to utilize. Because the two properties on the acreage are rented out by the county, they may be occupied at any given time. Please respect the privacy of the occupants and do not enter the buildings (the Beach House and the Guest House).

Call (231) 348-1704 or email darksky@emmetcounty.org if you have further questions.

Getting to the Headlands

The Headlands is located about two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City in northwest lower Michigan.

From downtown Mackinaw City, head west on Central Avenue — the main street through the downtown. Take it as far as it goes, to the T-intersection with Wilderness Park Drive. Turn left, or south, on Wilderness Park Drive. The Headlands will be a short ways down (about two blocks) on your right. Look for the sign at the entrance and “open” flags.

The physical address is 7725 E. Wilderness Park Dr., Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Parking and restroom facilities

Parking is available near the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area at the shoreline. It is about 250 feet from the parking area to the viewing area. Parking is also available at the entrance to the park off of Wilderness Park Drive. It is about one mile from the entrance to the Dark Sky Viewing Area.

Portable restroom facilities are available 24/7 near the Dark Sky Viewing Area.

Are pets allowed at the park?

Dogs are allowed at the Headlands as long as they are on a leash. And please remember to pick up after your pet so everyone can enjoy the park experience!

Dogs are not allowed inside the buildings at the Headlands.

Where to camp nearby

Camping is not allowed at the Headlands. For those who would like to camp near the Headlands, there are several options:

Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping (approx. 10 minutes away)

KOA Kampground (approx. 5 minutes away)

Tee Pee Campground (approx. 10 minutes away)

Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga, owned and operated by Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga is located about 30 minutes away in Alanson.

Reach out, stay informed!

Sign up for email alerts
The county’s Dark Sky Park team offers an email news alert service to inform those who register about what to watch for in the night sky, interesting dark-sky facts and fun information, and also updates about our Dark Sky Park programming. The email blasts are sent about every two weeks.

To sign up, email darksky@emmetcounty.org

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