Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Headlands International Dark Sky Park, an Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac, is one of many great places and tourist attractions in Mackinaw City, MI.

Photo of Headlands Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, MI.Headlands International Dark Sky Park
15675 Headlands Road
Mackinaw City, MI 49701
(231) 348-1713 (Dark Sky Program Office)
Facebook: Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Reservations (Guest House and Event Center):
(231) 436-4051

Program Director: Mary Stewart Adams
Hours: Always Open
Admission: Free*
* Fees apply to reservations and programs.

Planning Your Visit to Headlands Dark Sky Park

  • Headlands is a protected and natural environment.
  • Prepare for being outside in the wilderness and weather (dress appropriately).
  • Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to stay out through the night and early morning hours for night-sky viewing opportunities.
  • There is no camping allowed at Headlands.
  • Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times and are not permitted in buildings. Please pick up after your pet.
  • Portable restroom facilities are available 24/7 near the Dark Sky Viewing Area.
  • Red filtered flashlights lights only, please do not use flash lights without a red filter. Please try to avoid using your smartphone, as much as possible, as light from the screen (even in low-light mode) still adds to the light pollution.
  • Plan to park near the entrance and walk about a mile to the Dark Sky Viewing Area. We want to protect and preserve as much of the park as possible, for visitors to enjoy. However, this means not tearing down additional trees to add more parking lots.
  • The park is handicap acceesible.
  • Guided tours and programs are available.

Headlands is an excellent place to get stunning views of the stars and constellations throughout the year. In late summer, visitors can experience the majesty of meteor showers like never before and even the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which typically appear in late March and September.

While the below photos are incredible and breath-taking, they were not taken from Headlands Dark Sky Park. Just imagine seeing the Northern Lights in a naturally dark sky (without the light pollution)! Photographer Brian Tanis of shares some of his tips for getting pictures like the ones shown here he took in 2016. He suggests watching the space weather forecasts and to be very patient, since the Northern Lights are so unpredictable. Just when you think you're not going to see them, they pop up out of nowhere. Have your camera ready before it gets dark, look to the North and hope for clear skies.

Photo of the Northern Lights in Mackinaw City, MI. Copyright 2016, Brian Tannis,
Photo of the Northern Lights over a coast guard ship in Mackinaw City, MI. Copyright 2016, Brian Tannis,

About Headlands Dark Sky Park

Established in the late 1950s by Roger McCormick, who hired a helicopter to drop 50-pound sacks of flour marking the boundaries of a property he desired to purchase.

The Headlands contains over 550 acres of woodlands, several miles of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan and many species of rare and endangered plant life. Visitors may experience sightings of wild animals native to the area including: bald eagles, osprey, white tail deer, wild turkeys, coyotes and occasionally a black bear. Marked nature trails guide hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, and nature photographers to experience the park throughout the changing seasons.

The International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, Arizona awareded designation to Emmet County for the Headlands as an International Dark Sky Park in 2011. Only the 6th such park in the United States at the time and only the 9th in the world.

Dark Sky Parks, like the Headlands, are part of a very dynamic, international movement to protect natural darkness worldwide. The Headlands have influenced state legislation that now protects the dark skies over an additional 30,000 acres of state-owned land, and are working in partnership with the National Parks Service on the dark skies over their properties in the Great Lakes region.

The International Dark Sky Association now recognizes over 20 international dark sky parks worldwide. Though Headlands is the only IDA designated dark sky park in Michigan, they participate at the international level supporting programming and the cultural history of humanity's relationship to the stars through their program director's participation in IDA committee work and through an extensive schedule of events on-site every month at Headlands, through weekly radio broadcasts in Northern Michigan, and at conferences around the world.

For more information please visit their website at

If you have new or updated information about the Headlands Dark Sky Park, please contact us.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>