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Last updated: March 31, 2023 • Traveling Around the World

Hidden Gems in Michigan

The Great Lake State, what a place to visit! Scenic trails, gorgeous waterfalls, and vibrant cities are the hallmarks of the state of Michigan, which has been and continues to be a popular destination for visitors from all over the globe. There are many tourist hotspots in the state, but the best places to visit in Michigan are the ones where you don’t have to swim through a river of people to get to enjoy the views. There are plenty of hidden gems in Michigan that are not tourist hotspots and are just sitting there, waiting to be discovered! The brave willing to venture off the beaten track will be rewarded with a wealth of hidden treasures and secluded natural wonders. There’s nothing like a journey through a world of unspoiled beauty and awe-inspiring landscapes of shimmering lakes, sand dunes, and lush forests! Visiting hidden gems in Michigan is an unforgettable experience that will be with you forever.  

And now, let’s see where are those hidden gems in Michigan? In this article, we are going to take you on a journey of discovering some of the lesser-known but truly amazing locations and hidden places in Michigan that will leave you speechless. So, recapitulate the do’s and don’ts in nature, put on your trekking boots, and prepare to witness the best hidden gems in Michigan!

Hidden gems in Michigan – the best places of them all

Whether you are already an experienced hiker or just starting to discover the adventurous hobbies for outdoor lovers, Michigan has an amazing variety of places to choose from. We’ve made a compilation of the best hidden gems in Michigan that will surely leave you with one-of-a-kind experiences. 

Arcadia Dunes

arcadia dunes between

A fantastic discovery among the hidden places in Michigan, this place is excellent for enjoying some sand dunes – and without the crowds! The Arcadia Dunes Park has several hiking and biking trails you can take to experience 15 miles of natural beauty. 


Is located in the Palms Book State Park, and it’s Michigan’s largest freshwater spring with crystal clear water. Its name means “big colt spring” in the Ojibwe language, and it’s also known by the name “Mirror of Heaven.” The oval-shaped pond measures 300 by 175 feet, and it’s about 40 feet deep. The bottom is beautifully green, rich with the sight of old tree trunks and numerous fish species. 

Eben Ice Caves

eben ezen ice cave

The state is so full of outdoor opportunities that there are hidden places in Michigan to explore every season! Noone actually minds the cold when there are such beauties to witness as the Eben Ice Caves. Well, technically, those are not caves but colossal ice curtains that form corridors and closed spaces you can walk beneath and around. The magical beauty of the caves could easily make it to any list of the best U.S. destinations for winter holidays, too. From January to mid-March, those amazing ice formations can be visited in the Hiawatha National Forest. 

Spray Falls

This one is one of the best hidden gems in Michigan and a bucket list must-have if you’re into waterfalls. The most impressive among the several waterfalls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Spray Falls is located a few miles northeast of Munising. The water falls down right from the edge of the cliffs and lands in Lake Superior. The cliffs are quite abrupt near the falls in all directions, so the cascading water can best be seen from the water. 

Ocqueoc Falls

As the biggest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, the Ocqueoc Falls can’t be missing from the list of hidden gems in Michigan to visit. Even though the waterfall is considered to be among the more hidden places in Michigan, this waterfall is easily accessible to everyone. There’s even a decked ramp for wheelchairs to approach the water, qualifying this destination as a disability-friendly hiking trip. The waterfall is on the Ocqueoc River, cascading over several smaller ledges and forming a pool below. If you’re visiting in the spawning season, you might be lucky to spot the salmon swimming upwards.

Chapel Rock 

Located a few miles from Spray Falls, Chapel Rock is an iconic sight worth the track. Those who want to enjoy the beauty of nature in a less crowded environment are invited to take the route that might be a little bit bumpier, but the visual reward is well worth the effort. The peculiar-shaped, sculpture-like sandstone formation offers a unique view that calls for interpretations.

Hidden gems around Lake Michigan

aerial view big sable

One of the Great Lakes of the north, Lake Michigan is the only one out of the five located entirely in the USA. This lake is where the state got its name from: the Ojibwe word michi-gami or mishigami meaning “great water,” is believed to be nothing less than the name-giver of the state. And no wonder! Lake Michigan is hiding several hidden gems well worth exploring.

Here are a few examples:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

This stunning natural wonder is located on the northwest side and makes part of the hidden places in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The park features amazing towering sand dunes, many miles of hiking and paddling trails, and mind-blowing views of Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear has beaches with bright sand, clear water, and amazing trails, including the Empire Bluffs Trail, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and the Dune Climb. There are several designated camping areas if you feel like exploring some campfire cooking ideas while you’re there.  

Mt. Pisgah Dune Boardwalk

A comfortable hike on wooden stairs with amazing views of both Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa, the Mt. Pisgah Dune Boardwalk is a route accessible to anyone. You don’t have to be an experienced hiker or need special equipment or boots to complete this route. You are invited to enjoy the beauty of a shoreline walk while you can catch a glimpse of the Big Red Lighthouse as a bonus. 

Olive Shores

Another easy hike on the shoreline of Lake Michigan is the Olive Shores, a real gem for lovers of forest beauty. A few kilometers east of Grand Rapids, this hidden gem in Michigan features boardwalks to the beach and great views to enjoy for hikers of all ages and levels of experience.


aerial view sagatuck

If hiking in nature is not your favorite thing, there still are amazing hidden gems in Michigan to explore in the comfort of your city shoes. The small town of Saugatuck is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its art galleries, charming shops, and scenic beauty. No bucket list would be complete without this charming little settlement. Visitors are invited to take a stroll on the boardwalk, hike in the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, or watch the sunset from a cruise on the Kalamazoo River. Sunsets are amazing in this charming little town, maybe that’s why it’s one of the best locations to enjoy lakefront living in the USA. 

Les Cheneaux Islands

The islands’ name originates from French, meaning “the channels”.  The group of 36 small islands is a real hidden gem in Michigan, stretching 12 miles along the shore of Lake Huron. The islands make the perfect destination for relaxation and are an excellent place for adventure, as the narrow channels create an exciting environment for boating and sailing. There’s a diverse range of things to do on the islands, from adventurous hiking trails to shopping areas, restaurants and relaxing resorts, there’s something for every taste. The islands are proudly the home of the largest antique boat show in the world, and the Cheneaux Islands has its own festival, too, known by the name of the Aldo Leopold Festival. Remote and rich, the Les Cheneaux Islands is one of the best hidden places in Michigan to visit for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Hidden gems in lower Michigan

South Haven

One of the most charming hidden gems in Michigan, the small town of South Haven is on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its picturesque lighthouse and beautiful sandy beaches. While there are some pros and cons of beach living, it’s slightly different with lakefront beaches, and many would argue that it’s better. Visitors usually enjoy dining in this gorgeous little town. Engaging in activities like boating, fishing, or kayaking is also a popular thing to do around South Haven. If you’re looking for hidden gems in lower Michigan, South Haven is definitely worth checking from the list of hidden places in Michigan worth discovering.


kalamazo michigan

A cool city in the southwestern part of Michigan, Kalamazoo has a population of 73,257 and has been named among the best college cities in the USA. The city is a popular and vibrant place to be, with its many restaurants, diverse population, and fizzy arts and entertainment scene. Kalamazoo has very affordable rent prices, making it an excellent choice for college students. If you’re looking for college towns that are hidden gems, you should definitely check out this charming place, too. 

Wrapping up

Michigan’s hidden gems offer unforgettable experiences for those who are willing to take a different route and explore beyond the usual tourist spots. From the stunning shoreline of Lake Michigan to all the charming small towns, Michigan has a lot to offer to those who are thirsty for adventure and beauty. By exploring hidden places in Michigan, you get to discover the real character of the state and get a true sense of all the diversity it has to offer. Michigan hidden gems are a great alternative to crowded and noisy tourist destinations, offering visitors a more authentic experience and an opportunity to connect to the real essence of the place. The state’s natural beauty, rich culture, and charming towns make it an ideal destination for travelers seeking a memorable and authentic experience. Those looking for a deeper connection with nature and Michigan’s essence can explore the state on a more out-of-the-box route that will indeed create memories to last for a lifetime.


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