HARTWICK PINES STATE PARK, MIchigan
Hartwick Pines State Park, with an area of nearly 10,000 acres making it the largest state park in the lower peninsula and the fifth largest park state-wide, is located just north of Grayling, off I-75. The park's rolling hills, which are built of ancient glacial deposit, overlook the valley of the East Branch of the AuSable River, four small lakes and unique timber lands. The principal feature of this park is the 49-acre forest of Old Growth Pines which gives the park its name. This forest is a reminder of Michigan's past importance in the pine lumber industry as well as a source of inspiration for the future of our forests. The park is rich in scenic beauty and because of the different habitats it encompasses, there is ample subject matter for the sports person, photographer, or naturalist throughout the year. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round.
Campground and Day Use Area
Campers can enjoy a 100 site campground, including 36 full hook-up modern facilities. For those who want to stay, but not camp, a secluded Rustic Cabin, with sleeping capacity for six, is available by reservation. Also located in the park is a day use area, which provides a picnic area, playground, and a covered shelter. Located near the old growth forest, this area has grills, tables, a modern bathroom facility and drinking fountains. Trails are maintained for mountain bikes.
Michigan Forest Visitor Center
The center is located adjacent to one of Michigan's last stands of majestic old-growth pine forests. This year-round, fully accessible center draws thousands of visitors, campers, and school children each year to Hartwick Pines State Park.
The Michigan Forest Visitor Center serves as a gateway to the towering pine forest, a relic of the past. Visitors exiting the rear doors of the building enter a mystical place, offering a serene escape from the modern world.
"Michigan's Forest... its past, present and future" is the theme of the 1,500 square foot exhibit hall. Visitors find hands-on exhibits, dioramas and the talking "Living Tree." Interpreted is the natural origin of the Michigan forest, the lumber era, forest products of yesterday and today and the development of forest management.
Within the Visitor Center is a 105-seat auditorium featuring a nine-projector, multi-image slide program: "The Forest, Michigan's Renewable Resource." The 14 minute show orients visitors to the story of Forest Management from the logging era to the present. The auditorium also hosts a variety of programs, videos and special presentations.
Groups will find space for meetings and educational opportunities available in the conference style Classroom. This room features a TV/VCR unit and a whiteboard. Seating capacity is approximately 35. This room is available by reservation.
Volunteers from the Friends of Hartwick Pines State Park help at special events and sponsor four festivals devoted to old-time logging and 19th century life from July through September. This group is a non-profit organization committed to the preservation of Michigan's rich logging history.
The Friends Group also operates a Bookstore at the Visitor Center. It features reference books, field guides, stationery, children's items, and a variety of merchandise relating to logging and Michigan's natural history.
Virgin Pines Foot Trail
A self-guiding brochure corresponds to numbered posts along the Virgin Pines Foot Trail as it winds through the forest behind the Visitor Center. The paved handicapped-accessible trail is 3/4 mile long and takes about one hour to walk. Highlights along the way include the beech-maple climax forest, the Monarch White Pine, the old-growth pine forest, glacial landforms, and the logging camp, including Big Wheels and other old logging equipment.
Several other Hiking Trails lead the visitor through diverse and scenic habitats. Cross Country Ski Trails provide access to miles of rolling wilderness terrain. When not blanketed with winter snows, the cross country ski trails enable Mountain Bike enthusiasts access to this beautiful landscape.
Hunting and Fishing
Fishing is allowed along the scenic East Branch of the AuSable River and from handicapped-accessible fishing piers at Bright and Glory Lakes (trout stamp required). Four small lakes can be found within the park boundaries. Outside the old-growth forest and developed areas, the park is open to hunting during established seasons. Signs mark the areas closed to hunting.
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