Best time to travel to Michigan

Northern Lights in Michigan

Go on an exciting aurora borealis chase in Northern Michigan

Best time: August–April (all year round)

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights along the Lake Superior shoreline East of Marquette in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
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Northern lights is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena. Stunning displays color the skies in green, pink, red, and purple. This natural wonder is caused by a solar wind when energetic particles float through the magnetic field of the earth. It usually occurs during periods of peak solar activity. Even though Northern Lights are often associated with Arctic Circle, the phenomenon is actually perfectly visible in Northern Michigan, especially on the south shore of Lake Superior.

Best time to see Northern Lights

The season of aurora borealis in the Northern hemisphere generally lasts from August through April. However, due to dark skies in the summer, it's possible to witness aurora in Michigan all year round. Fall and spring months are considered to be peak times as solar activity is the most intense. You also need maximum darkness and clear skies to be able to see aurora borealis. A three-day aurora forecast from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could help pick the right time for the chase.

Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula with its shoreline along Lake Superior is the premiere aurora-watching location in Michigan. The area has many spots without light pollution, trees, and tall buildings that could spoil the view. Houghton offers many potentially good spots for aurora enthusiasts. Go over The Portage Lake Lift Bridge and choose between North Canal Township Park or McLain State Park for unobscured views and low light pollution. If you head further north, Eagle Harbor, Eagle River, and Copper Harbor are perfect for aurora chase. However, almost every town on the south shore of Lake Superior offers a solid chance to see elusive northern lights.

Mackinaw City

The beautiful Mackinac Bridge that traverses the Straits of Mackinac and connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan is one of the best places in the state to make a perfect northern lights photo. Reflections and bridge illumination can add interest to your picture. However, if you are looking for some real darkness you can drive north for a few miles on I-75 and get to Headlands International Dark Sky Park, one of the six dark sky parks in the USA and a designated star gazing spot. The park occupies 550 acres (222 ha) of the really old forest and a stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. The park is open around the clock. The Beach House on the shoreline is a good place to start your adventure.

Port Crescent State Park

The Port Crescent State Park Dark Sky Preserve is a perfect place to see the stars and northern lights. The park is located near Port Austin, in the Blue Water Area on Lower Peninsula. Three miles of shoreline along Lake Huron create plenty of opportunities to see and photograph aurora borealis reflections. During the day, the park offers cross country skiing in the winter. Hiking, kayaking, and fishing are possible in summer, spring and fall.

Practical info

Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Michigan?

The Upper Peninsula and the shores around Lake Superior offer prime locations to watch the Northern Lights. Houghton, Copper Harbor, Eagle River, and Eagle Harbor are famous sites for aurora spotting. Additionally, Headlands International Dark Sky Park, one of six dark sky parks in the United States, and Port Crescent State Park Dark Sky Preserve are designated areas for northern lights viewing. Show more

When is the best time to try to witness the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are visible from August to April in the Northern hemisphere. Although they can be seen throughout the year in Michigan, the peak times are fall and spring when solar activity is most intense. To plan for the perfect viewing experience, it is recommended to check the three-day aurora forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Show more

What is the Headlands International Dark Sky Park?

Headlands International Dark Sky Park is located in Emmet County and occupies over 500 acres of land, including a stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. It is one of six designated dark sky parks in the USA and is popular for stargazing. Visitors can watch the Northern Lights in total darkness with low light pollution. The Beach House on the shoreline offers a unique experience for those looking to explore the area. Show more

What other activities can be done at the Port Crescent State Park Dark Sky Preserve?

Port Crescent State Park Dark Sky Preserve offers a variety of activities throughout the year. Cross-country skiing is popular in winter, while hiking, kayaking, and fishing are enjoyed in the spring, summer, and fall. Additionally, the three miles of shoreline along Lake Huron provide a breathtaking view for Aurora Borealis reflections at night. Visitors can enjoy a unique experience with nature while taking in the Northern Lights. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen