Explore By Day
The Headlands property is magnificent in every season, and at every hour of the day, so please note that you don’t have to wait for the starshine to come out in order to experience the beauty of the park.
The Headlands property is home to the rare and wonderful dwarf lake iris, a flower that only grows in the upper Great lakes region, and five miles of well-groomed trails through our 600 acres of old growth forest. The trail network offers hours of inspiration among hardwoods and ferns in the warmer months, and spectacular snowshoe and cross country skiing throughout the winter.
The Frog Pond Trail takes you through a mysterious cedar swamp and beside the scenic McCormick Pond, while the Overlook Trail at the park’s north end leads you deep through fern woods and up a massive rock bluff where it’s easy to imagine the power of ancient glaciers.
For an easy walk through the property, you can stay on the main entrance drive, where every tenth of a mile you will find a planetary station that includes information from the cultural history of humanity related to the planets of our solar system, as well as they history and story and mythology of their discovery.
The Headlands trails amount to over five miles of hiking through one of the area’s only untouched, old growth forests, with two miles of shoreline along the world’s fifth largest body of fresh water ~ all on beautiful display by the light of day! Trail Map
Dark Sky Discovery Trail at the Headlands
The “dark sky discovery trail” opened in November of 2012 and, as of site construction completion in June 2017, is fully accessible once again.
The Dark Sky Discovery Trail is a 1-mile long paved trail from the Headlands entrance to the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area. It features cultural docents, indigenous artwork and regional photography that interpret humanity’s relationship to the night sky over the centuries and across a variety of cultures.
The Headlands, an Emmet County park located 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week at no charge. The signs are not lighted so plan accordingly.
Each Discovery Station features a cultural docent or representational artwork; an interpretive display board with text about each planet; and a sign indicating how visitors can access audio components (either via dialing a phone number with your cell phone or using the QR code). The audio is different than the written board text.
The opening sign sets the stage for what visitors will experience when they arrive at the Headlands to participate in the Discovery Trail: “The dark wilderness of endless sky has held wonder for humanity as long as there have been sky and man. Along this 1-mile Dark Sky Discovery Trail, visitors will encounter inspiring people and figures – ‘cultural docents’ – and art representations which will explore humanity’s relationship with the cosmos. They will demonstrate how this relationship has impacted the evolution of our culture, from ceremonial and agricultural practices of indigenous tribes to the navigational instruments used by the first Europeans to arrive here.
“Indeed, humanity’s striving to understand its place in the cosmos has motivated the highest achievements in architecture, literature, science and the arts.”
Each Discovery Station represents one of the planets, plus Pluto, Moon and Sun. This is not a science trail, said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director, but a path that leads visitors through cultural understanding and the interconnectedness of people from around the Earth both in ancient times and today.
“Too often we overlook the fact that scientific ideas and facts often emerge from wild imaginations and cultural beliefs,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director. “Our intent with this project is to celebrate the impact of these imaginations and beliefs on the on-going process of discovery in our own age, and to consider how the rhythms of the planetary worlds around us were understood by the people who named these celestial bodies. Every culture in history has rendered their understanding of the planetary bodies in art, in architecture, and through moral imaginations that we regard as mythologies. When we approach the planets this way — through the story of humanity’s emerging understanding — we can more readily accept that our own views will grow and change with time, and that our contemporary views may one day be viewed as the wild mythology of a former time.”
The Discovery Trail was made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with support from the Emmet County Board of Commissioners. The board content was provided by experts and scholars in local, indigenous and star lore, including Mary Stewart Adams; Eric Hemenway of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians; and Sandy Planisek, a Mackinaw City historian. The boards were designed by Beth Anne Piehl, former Emmet County Communication and Web Development Director.