McLain State Park

Encompassing almost 2 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, McLain State Park sits atop a short bluff overlooking the Keweenaw’s North Entry. It’s an ideal position for watching the sun set far out over the lake as it silhouettes the lighthouse out at the end of the breakwater. Its also an ideal position for great amounts of shore erosion – magnified by the those same breakwaters. Over the years the beach has been battered back inch by inch – taking large chunks of the park with it every year.

Today the majority of the park sits up atop a steep sand cliff – a good 8-10 feet above the lake. Down by the water sits a wide gravel beach which gradually drops under the waves. Certain sections contain some rock outcroppings and boulders just under the water. Along the top of the cliff sits spacious picnic grounds and rows of campsites shaded periodically by white birch and red pine.

At the park’s west end the wide open picnic grounds are replaced by a dark pine forest – crisscrossed by hiking trails, boardwalks, and a small gazebo. Behind the long concrete pier anchoring the breakwater is the parks large swimming beach. Protected from Superior’s fury by the pier, this wide gravel and sand beach slopes quite quickly into the channel, but provide much warmer and calmer water then can be found along the rest of the park.

Back behind the beach, McLain State Park encompasses some 443 acres of Keweenaw landscape. The majority of this sits under a forest of red pine and fir. High sand dunes on its eastern end, Bear Lake to the south, and the expansive picnic grounds along the shore make up the rest.

NOTES: McLain Park is easily accessible by car, as paved roads provide easy access to all the parks amenities. However, cars entering the park must have a motor vehicle permit, available for purchase at the park’s front gate. Daily permits are $6 for Michigan residents and $8 for others. Yearly permits are available for $24 for residents and $29 for non-residents. There is no charge for non motorized entry. Most of the park is flat and level, with a good collection of paved walkways. A sharp sand cliff separates the beach from the rest of the park.

DIRECTIONS: From Hancock, follow M203 west out of town for 11 miles. The park entrance is on the left.

FOR MORE INFO: More information about McLain State Park can be found at the Michigan DNR website.

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