Nature's Playground: Outdoor Adventures
Photo: Wisner Rents Canoes.

Every time the warm weather rolls around, we all remember why we decide to keep living in Michigan.

The lush green summers are made all the more vibrant by the grey months before it, and it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our patience. Hiking, swimming, tubing, strolling, even just laying down in the grass and looking up at the clouds—that’s what this season is for.

So, we thought we’d help give you a head start and suggest some of our favorite spots to get out and play. Check it out!


AAA Canoe 
18 S. Squires St., Rockford  /

AAA Canoe Rentals is one of the only services offering water trips via kayak, canoe and tube down the Rogue River. Since kayaking works up such an appetite, it’s a good thing that their trips end at the Rockford dam, providing access to all the local restaurants downtown Rockford has to offer. The river is mild and easy, making this a good option for groups with a variety of skill levels, or a relaxing tube float.

Happy Mohawk 
401 E. Fruitvale Rd., Montague  /

Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery operates on the White River, in Montague. Their 17-foot-long canoes encourage the inclusion of your furry friends, but if your dogs aren’t big on canoeing, they also provide kayaks, tubes and rafts so you can bring human friends instead. The White River is narrow and windy, making it an engaging and ideal kayak adventure.

Plainwell Kayak Company 
211 N. Main St., Plainwell  /

Offering trips on both the Kalamazoo River and the Allegan Riverfront Park, Plainwell Kayak Company rents out both single and tandem kayaks, and transports you to your preferred location. Whether you choose the smooth-flowing river or the still, relaxing lake, kayakers of all capabilities can enjoy all the water has to offer, and soak up the sun at the same time. 

Wisner Rents Canoes
25 W. Water St., Newaygo  /

Wisner Rents Canoes offers several trips, some up to 13 miles, on your choice of watercraft: canoe, kayak, rafts, motorless fishing boats, or tubes! The Muskegon River is wide, easy and mild, the perfect place to spend a few hours drifting down in tubes or rafts. For a little more excitement, check out their full moon kayak trips, which occur monthly during the summer, and include a guided nighttime paddle to an island to enjoy a bonfire, s’mores and snacks. If you want to make a weekend out of it, Wisner rents out pet-friendly lodges close to the river. 


MacKay-Jaycees Park
2531 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

This 54-acre spot off 28th Street features greenspaces, sports fields and trails both paved and natural circling a small wetland area. It’s a nice spot to chill and walk around a bit without getting lost!

Aman Park
0-1859 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids

Aman is a great little system of woodland trails tucked away off Lake Michigan Drive. There isn’t much parking, which is part of its appeal, but if you show up and can’t find room for your car, don’t force it! The forest here is full of blooming flowers and dead trees, creating a unique ecosystem.

Pickerel Lake
6001 Ramsdell Rd. NE, Cannonsburg

Pickerel Lake is a lovely nature preserve tucked away in the Rockford area. Because it’s a preserve, nature is pretty much left to its own devices, allowing for a ton of unique sights. Walk around the lake for a beautiful view of the trees reflecting on the water.

Provin Trails
2900 4 Mile Rd. NE, Grand Rapids

Right down the road from Robinette’s, Provin Trails can get busy, but there’s so much freedom to roam, you really don’t have to worry about being overcrowded. If you head to the center of the park, you’ll encounter a huge hill of sand in the middle of the woods, which is perfect for running down (or sledding in the winter). 

Highland Park
Grand Ave. NE and Frontage Rd. NE

You can see Highland while driving by on College, just north of the 196 ramp, but your best bet for parking is over on Grand Avenue. This wide-open park has fields for picnicking, trees for hammocking, trails for walking, and a perennial garden in the center of it all. If you’re looking to get away from it all near the Medical Mile, this is the spot.

Mulick Park
1632 Sylvan Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

This 10-acre park on the southeast side has paved trails, tons of wide open space and one of the city’s oldest trees! It’s a great place for a picnic or a short stroll.


Ludington State Park

Ludington is one of the most popular camping spots around for a reason. At the state park, you get a nice lot with a picnic bench, fire pit and electric outlet, perfect for tents and RVs. You also get access to miles of hiking trails through the woods, along a lake and out to the beach, plus boats and kayaks for rent on the sizable Hamlin Lake, which is also great for fishing. Not to mention the gorgeous, historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse which requires a pleasant trek. While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on other beautiful sights like the Ludington North Breakwater Light, celebrating 100 years in 2024.

Newaygo State Park

Each of the 99 Newaygo campsites is large, with room for up to two cars. You get a firepit and picnic table, but no electricity, which may be why the fees are only $17 per night. If you want to rough it a little more, this is the place to be. Plus, there’s a moderately difficult disc golf course wrapping around the campsites! Both sites are near Hardy Dom Pond, which is great for fishing and boating.

Charles Mears State Park

If you want to camp RIGHT on the beach, head to Pentwater. These sandy sites are great for tents and RVs alike, and are surrounded by lovely dunes. Come here to soak up the sun and dive into Lake Michigan, for roughly $30 per night. It’s the perfect place to squeeze in a tad more tan before winter arrives. 

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park

Hoffmaster admittedly isn’t for everyone. If you want to get lit or stay up late with friends, head somewhere else. If you want a campsite resting in the shade of hundreds of tall trees, and your family likes to go to bed and wake up early, this is your spot. There are plenty of spaces to explore, including hiking trails and three miles of lakeshore.