Best Nature Centers and Hiking Trails in West Michigan

Michigan is blessed with many wonderful state parks, national forests, lake and wildlife attractions. As homeschoolers, a great deal of our schooling revolved around field trips, wildlife explorations and nature study. Whenever we'd visit a new place, city or county, we'd immediately check out local nature trails, state and country parks and national forests. Here are our favorite West Michigan nature centers, hiking trails and nature activities.

  DeGraaf Nature Center: Holland, Michigan. This is a woodland nature center with historic pioneer cabins and costumed docents. DeGraaf has a lovely wetlands walk. In the spring, DeGraaf hosts a maple sugaring event. Students can touch, taste and collect sap and see it cooked into maple syrup and maple sugar.

  P.J. Hoffmaster State Park and Gillette Nature Center: Muskegon, Michigan. On the southern end of Muskegon Country in Norton Shores, Gillette Nature Center hosts a lovely interpretive nature center, dunes exhibit, theater, interactive animal activities, plus miles of woodland trails. Walk through an old growth forest. Learn about a dune's geological structure. Climb the Dune Staircase to view the panorama of the dune and Lake Michigan. Hofmaster Nature Center hosts Snake Days, Frog Days, Insect Days and Bird Days, as well as the Annual Trillium Festival.

  Blandford Nature Center: West Leonard St. near Grand Rapids, Blandford has an entire historic village, one room school house, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, narrated barn exhibit, settler's cabin and general store. Blandford Nature Center hosts a spring sugaring event and Civil War infantry re-enactment. Blandford has habitat trails: pond life, meadow, wetlands and forest. There are animal exhibits and an animal rehabilitation hospital which guests may visit.

  Great Lakes Visitor Center: Ludington, Michigan. Located on the Au Sable River, that runs to Lake Michigan, through Ludington State Park, Great Lakes Visitor Center has a fine interpretive center. A sky-view dune walk navigates the
forested back of the dune. Stroll Lake Michigan's shoreline or follow the wooded 1.5 mile trail at Ludington State Park to visit Big Sable Point lighthouse

  These nature centers and nature trails are an outdoor classroom full of learning experiences and activities.

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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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