If you love to go on picnics, hike through the woods, view fauna and flora, go fishing, set up camp, or zoom around on maintained trailways, then you probably have an affinity for state forests, state parks, and state game & wildlife areas. One of our greatest resources for outdoor recreation, public lands that are managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are go-to locations to enjoy time – sometimes solo, sometimes with others – doing favorite outdoor activities. There is approximately 4.6 million acres of public lands in the state of Michigan.

In light of the pandemic, it became obvious to everyone that public lands are not just “nice to have,” they are essential and must be preserved. People – locals and tourists – flocked outdoors and discovered outdoor pursuits and hobbies as well as used the spaces to stay connected with the people they love in the open air. Many DNR-managed lands are home to tourist attractions, both manmade and natural.

It’s well-documented that spending time outdoors is good for your health, so here are some things you can do to get outside on National Public Lands Day – the fourth Saturday of September.

  1. Volunteer. If you’ve felt you have gained much by the existence of public lands in your area, or you simply love the outdoors and wish to protect it for future generations, then volunteer on National Public Lands Day. It’s the single-largest volunteer event in the nation. Volunteers help to restore and improve public lands by assisting with cleaning up, trail maintenance and restoration, and other events. It’s a great opportunity to give back, as well as to do something as a family. Most events start mid-morning. These are known events in Michigan, but check for local events.
    1. HuronManistee Public Lands Day at REI, Kentwood: We are hosting an information table (outside in front of the store) to promote Leave No Trace Principles, Wilderness Values, and highlight the Huron-Manistee National Forest special places.  We will also have Smokey Bear promotional give away items and volunteer/job/career information. 10:00amto 4:00pm
    2. Park Cleanup, Empire: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 10:00amto 2:00pm
    3. Stewardship Workday, Ann Arbor: Invasive shrubs threaten natural areas by crowding out the native flora and fauna. Join us to cut and remove invasives like buckthorn and honeysuckle. Pre-registration through VolunteerHub is encouraged; please stay home if you are feeling ill. NAP continues to monitor recommendations from health officials, volunteers registered for events will be notified in advance of any changes to the workday. Please wear long pants and closed-toed shoes and bring a water bottle and leather gloves. All minors should be accompanied by a guardian. Tools and know-how provided. Register here. 9:00amto 12:00pm
    4. Hike with a Naturalist, Canton: Join us for a Fall nature hike in one of Canton’s hidden gems, the Nature Trail at Flodin Park (Morton Taylor and Saltz Rds).Our hike will include a walk around several wetland areas (0.75 miles total) with information and commentary by Mike Broughton, Community Outreach Interpreter from the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. There will be a photo scavenger hunt and an opportunity to ask questions about the wetland ecosystem as well as information on ‘Leave No Trace’ principles and recycling.  Fall refreshments will be offered in a safe manner. This is a family and pet-friendly community event, and limited pre-registration is required.10:00am to 12:00pm
    5. Public Lands Day Cleanup, Detroit: Join us for National Public Lands Day to clean up the Sorensen Recreation Area. Volunteers can choose between trimming invasive buckthorn and/or picking up litter. Please wear gloves, long pants, and bug spray. Trash bags and loppers will be provided. Sign-up at rougepark.org.9:00am to 11:00am
    6. Beach and Trail Clean-up, Munising: Trash pickup on beaches and trails. Groups or individuals can choose an area they would like to clean up. You can call or meet us at Munising Falls or the Grand Sable Visitor Center for garbage bags, gloves, and to sign in. 10:00amto 12:45pm


  1. Visit a national park for free. National Public Lands Day is one of those special entrance-free days of the country’s national parks. In Michigan, you can visit Isle Royale, Keweenaw (Calumet), Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising/Grand Marais), River Raisin, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Empire). You can also enjoy riding the North Country Trail, which traverses over multiple states if you were to complete it in its entirety. Visit a national park’s website for trail maps, event information, popular attractions, and more.


  1. Do you favorite outdoor activity. The leaves haven’t fallen yet, so there’s no excuse. Autumn is a beautiful time temperature-wise to engage in outdoor pursuits. It also means chilly weather is right around the corner, so take the time to get outside and enjoy your favorite activity while you still can. Gather the family or meet up with friends at a favorite park, or visit someplace brand new. Public lands were set aside to be enjoyed and to help people reconnect with the pace of nature.


  1. Go camping. Off-season or late season camping has a lot of benefits: fewer crowds at the campground, better choice of sites, moderate temperatures, and fall colors. Find a site with an RV hookup at a public campground on the Michigan DNR website.