Programs & Events

The Headlands is open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. There is no camping allowed. Programs take place rain or shine! Visitors are welcomed to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities (camping units like tents and campers are not permitted; the Headlands is not intended as an overnight sleeping destination but a place to stay awake and view the stars!). You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc. Plan accordingly and dress for temperatures 10 degrees below what you expect.

Please use red-filtered flashlights only during your visit to the Headlands. Learn more here

Of special note for 2016 …

  • Construction on our waterfront program and observatory facility is well underway at the site of the former Beach House. Since Headlands remains open during construction, this portion of the property is closed to public access. Abide by the signage within the park to ensure the safety of all of our guests and to allow us to complete the project in a timely manner. All events listed on this brochure will take place at Headlands shoreline viewing, the Guest House, or at the Heritage Village, which is directly across the street from Headlands entrance. CONSTRUCTION UPDATES
  •  Programs take place rain or shine and no reservations are required unless otherwise noted.
  •  Register for email blasts about programs by contacting or (231) 348-1713.


8th annual Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night details @ Park Entrance
Oct 29 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
8th annual Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night details @ Park Entrance | Mackinaw City | Michigan | United States

Dare the dark at the Headlands Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016!

‘Triple Fright Night’ details and special McGulpin Point Lighthouse hours

The spookiest time of year can be the most beautiful, too! Emmet County will host the eighth annual Headlands Challenge event at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Dare to walk the 1-mile, dimly lighted path from the Headlands entrance to the Guest House, or new this year take the unlit woods route – shorter, but darker and not for the faint of heart. Both end at the Guest House, where seasonal storytelling will take place under the stars at the Guest House shoreline. Refreshments will also be part of this free, family-friendly event that takes place from 8 to 10 p.m.

Prior to the start of the Headlands Challenge, visitors can enjoy a bonfire, cider and donuts and trick-or-treating at Heritage Village, just across the road from the Headlands entrance during “Triple Fright Night” activities. Each year, Emmet County Parks and Recreation partners with Heritage Village offering families three sites for Halloween fun – the Headlands, McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Heritage Village.

Heritage Village will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. with costumed docents handing out treats. McGulpin Point will be open until 11 p.m. All events are free and open to the public, with no RSVP required. Trolley service among Heritage Village and the lighthouse will be provided at no charge, beginning at 6 p.m. at Heritage Village, where parking will be available. The trolley will not service the Headlands, as the Challenge is strictly a walking event.

Once guests arrive at the Guest House, Adams as “Destiny” will relay fortunes based on star knowledge. Refreshments will be available.

“Our free monthly Dark Sky Park programs are intended to get area residents and visitors out into the dark and observe the amazing night sky we have protected over Emmet County and Northern Michigan,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director at the Headlands. “The Headlands Challenge is an especially fun event because it really gets people outside and experiencing what the park has to offer.”

Sunset on Oct. 29 is at 6:30 p.m., and this night will be especially dark because the Moon is hidden from view, wending its way toward new phase after the event. This means the evening will be deep and dark, Adams noted. Since the roadway into Headlands will be heavily traveled by foot traffic on this evening, all cars will be parked near the Headlands entrance and there will be no parking allowed at the Guest House.

Guests are advised to bring chairs/blankets for night-sky viewing. Wagons/strollers are suggested for those walking with young children along the 1-mile road.

In addition to the Headlands Challenge, Emmet County is also hosting special trick-or-treating hours at McGulpin Point Lighthouse, which is located a short distance from the Headlands. McGulpin Point will be decorated in a Wizard of Oz theme with special hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Oct. 29; and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 30-31.

For further information, contact Beth Anne Eckerle, Emmet County Director of Communications and Web Development, at (231) 348-1704 or email

The three park properties are located about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

The Headlands: 15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI

McGulpin Point: 500 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI

Heritage Village: 1425 W. Central Ave., Mackinaw City, MI (use Headlands Road entrance)




‘Friday Night (No) Lights’ for the Leonids @ Shoreline viewing area at Headlands
Nov 18 @ 10:00 pm – 11:45 pm

We know it’s football season, but it’s also the peak of the lion’s meteor shower, and you’re invited to join us for a beautiful night under starry skies.

Snowshoe Hike Through the 12 Days of Christmas @ Meet at Park Entrance
Dec 29 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The last New Moon of 2016 occurs during the sacred season of dark and quiet that bridges the old year to the new, allowing for unique contemplation of where we’ve been, and where we’re going! You’re invited to contemplate this passage of time in the old growth forest of Headlands, and to participate in engaging storytelling of the night sky that arcs overhead every year at this time. The stars of the season have lent themselves to many cultural tales and traditions, some of which will be shared both indoors and out.
“Winter stargazing can be deeply satisfying, because the cool air makes the night crisp and clear,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
Limited number of snowshoes available by reservation, but it is best to bring your own! 231-348-1713. Program happens rain, snow, or shine!
Plan Your New Year with the Stars @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Jan 7 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Planning your new year with the stars

In ages gone by, community life was centered around the observance of celestial phenomena, with the consequence that the sites from which this observing took place would naturally be the place for celebrating life’s most significant moments. At Headlands, we’re stepping into the wisdom of this tradition with our first program of the New Year, during which we will highlight all the terrific phenomena coming toward us in 2017, designed to support all of us in our effort to find harmony in the greater rhythm of things! Though not required, we recommend you bring calendars and writing instruments so you can be a scribe of the stars all year long by knowing in advance how to center your year around meteor showers, eclipses, and all the other starry events unfolding overhead. During this program we will provide specific dates and times for the celestial highlights of the year, with viewing tips and the cultural history of the phenomena.

A Winter Moon makes for the Darkest Night of the Year @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Jan 28 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The position of the Big Dipper region of Ursa Major can be used like a mighty celestial clock to determine the seasons of the year and the time of night!

January’s New Moon carries the promise of deep darkness for finding the stars and constellations that are used to determine the celestial new year, not only in the Chinese Calendar, but in the Native American and Christian cultures as well. At Headlands we’ll get together just before sunset to learn about these different traditions, to craft our own star calendars, celebrate the year of the rooster, and to follow it all up with some winter stargazing. Some supplies provided, though you are welcome to bring your own! Suitable for ages 9 to 90…
The Romance of the Stars @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Feb 11 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
In February we peer into the opposite sweep of stars in our Milky Way spiral than is pictured here from late summer 2016, which can make the individual stars appear more brilliant

In February we peer into the opposite sweep of stars in our Milky Way spiral than is pictured here from late summer 2016 at Headlands, which can make the individual stars appear more brilliant. Photo by Joe Garza.

In the heart of winter as we ready to celebrate love at Valentine’s Day, Headlands will host special guest Laz Slomivitz of the Gemini Twins out of Ann Arbor with his extraordinary project of setting the mystic poems of Rumi and Hafiz to song. From the cultural perspective, poetry is the closest we can come to the stars, and through this program, Laz demonstrates the beauty of such an idea. Tonight is an ideal date night for couples and individuals young and old, newly in love or celebrating the enduring romance of a fixed-star union! Guests to tonight’s program may bring snack and beverage and arrive early to catch sunset at 6 pm, or arrive 6:30-6:45 pm to park, get settled and wait for the show to begin, and stay late, because the Moon will touch the heart star Regulus in the midnight sky! “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment…”~Rumi