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Where & When Can You See the Northern Lights in MICHIGAN USA?

where when can you see the northern lights in michigan usa 2

Want to see the aurora without leaving your backyard? Here, we answer where & when can you see the northern lights in MICHIGAN USA, with precise timing and location guides for the state.

While the aurora borealis is typically seen in the most northern parts of the world, above the Arctic Circle, with a bit of planning and good timing, it is possible to see them in the lower 48. And one of the best places to spot northern lights in the lower 48 is in Michigan USA, particularly the upper peninsula area.

In this guide, we answer your pressing questions about where and when can you see the northern lights in Michigan USA. We explain exactly how to get your timing and choice of location right, to give you the very best chance of seeing the aurora this season.

Pictured above: Mackinac Bridge, MI.

Can You See the Northern Lights in MICHIGAN USA?

If you’re wondering whether can you see the northern lights in Michigan, the answer is yes, if you plan it right. Michigan is a popular destination for those looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure. The state is separated into 2 distinct regions, the upper and lower peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula is known for offering some of the darkest skies and most remote locations in the lower 48. As a result, Michigan is a popular destination for aurora hunters looking to view the elusive lights without traveling too far. However, to have the best chances of seeing the lights, you need to get your timing and location just right.

When Can You See the Northern Lights in Michigan?

The best time to view the northern lights in the state of Michigan is going to be during the winter months. However, during the peak of the solar cycle, you can witness the natural phenomenon between the end of September and the beginning of April. It’s important to remember that to improve your chances of viewing the aurora borealis, you will want to visit Michigan during the peak of the winter months.

Best Months for Aurora Activity

Although it is possible to view the northern lights between the months of September and April, the peak months for Aurora activity typically occur between October and March. For the best result, try to visit Michigan between December and February when the skies are at their clearest and darkest.

Best Years Based on Solar Cycle

The solar cycle plays an important role in developing the intense aurora displays viewed throughout the northern hemisphere. This cycle peaks out every 11 years, during which time Aurora activity is at its most frequent and vivid. Since the last peak occurred around 2013, 2024 is guaranteed to be a perfect year for capturing a glimpse of the elusive lights. You can learn more about this in our northern lights solar cycle schedule where to explains all the ins and outs of how that works.

Moon Cycle and Other Timing Considerations

When you are planning your aurora viewing trip it is important to take into consideration the phases of the moon. Since light pollution can interfere with your ability to view the elusive lights, it is always best to plan your trip during a new moon, which will minimize the amount of light pollution created by the moonlight.

where can you see the northern lights in michigan usa Mackinac Bridge 2
Where can you see the northern lights in Michigan USA? Pictured here is Mackinac Bridge, a popular sighting spot.

Where to See Northern Lights in Michigan

Upper Michigan Northern Lights Hotspots

Copper Harbor Northern Lights

Closest City: Copper Harbor, MI

More Information: copperharbor.org

Copper Harbor is a popular destination in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, offering some of the most spectacular views of the northern skies. The harbor is located far away from any major cities, which minimizes the amount of light pollution and provides visitors to the remote location with the serene and dark backdrop that is perfect for viewing the aurora borealis.

Northern Lights Copper Harbor MI – Considerations
  • The Upper Peninsula Is Very Cold during the Winter
  • Limited Accommodation and Dining Options
  • Some Roads May Be Closed During the Winter Months

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Closest City: Ontonagon, MI

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is an excellent destination for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city living. Far away from any major light pollution, the state park provides visitors with excellent opportunities for viewing the elusive lights.

Porcupine Mountains – Considerations
  • Limited Cell Phone Service
  • Extremely Remote Location
  • Bring Heavy Winter Gear
  • Pay Close Attention to Park Regulations and Guidelines
  • The Cautious of Wildlife Encounters during the Winter Months

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Closest City: Traverse City, MI

You will find the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore situated along the coast of Lake Michigan. The popular Lakeside destination is located just outside of Traverse City, which makes it an easy destination to reach.

Sleeping Bear Dunes – Considerations
  • Extreme When Chills
  • Icy Trails
  • Large Open Areas
  • Permit Is Required
  • Beware of Lake Effect Snow

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Closest City: Munising, MI

The Pictured Rocks is a renowned destination filled with colorful sandstone cliffs. Situated along the shores of Lake Superior, you’ll find this destination to be an excellent choice for those wanting to hunt for the elusive lights in the Upper Peninsula.

Pictured Rocks – Considerations
  • Lake Superior Can Be Frozen during the Winter
  • Bring Some Snowshoes If Possible
  • Don’t Forget Your Photography Gear
  • Be Mindful of Winter Wildlife Including Hares and Deer
where to see northern lights in michigan copper harbor usa
Wondering where to see northern lights in Michigan USA? Head to Copper Harbor for some of the most spectacular views in the state.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Closest City: Mackinac City, MI

The Head Lands International Dark Sky Park is situated just west of Mackinac City and is one of the few international dark sky parks in the United States. The destination is known for providing star watchers with the perfect viewing experience thanks to it being designated as free from any form of artificial light.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park – Considerations
  • Respect Park Rules to Minimize Light Pollution
  • Receive Updates on Astronomy Programs and Nice Guy Events at the Visitor Center
  • Roads May Be Closed Due To Excessive Snowfall
  • Try Visiting during Stargazing Events

Isle Royale National Park Northern Lights

Closest City: Houghton, MI

The Isle Royal National Park is accessible only by boat or seaplane. This pristine destination is situated within Lake Superior and is known for providing excellent conditions for viewing the northern lights. Every year, thousands of visitors make their way to the remote island, to enjoy cross-country skiing durring the daytime and view the auroras at night.

Isle Royale National Park Northern Lights – Considerations
  • Can Only Be Accessed by Ferry or Seaplane
  • Permits Are Required
  • Bring Essential Winter Gear
  • Check for Seasonal Closures
  • Be Careful Winter Weather Events

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Closest City: Paradise, MI

The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located in the upper Peninsula along the shores of Lake Superior. Visitors to the state park have an unobstructed view of the northern sky, providing them with some of the most awe-inspiring aurora displays imaginable.

Tahquamenon Falls Considerations
  • Drill Conditions May Change without Notice
  • Icy Pass in and around the Waterfalls
  • Find Up to Date Trail Maps at the Park Information Center

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Closest City: Seney, MI

When it comes to a tranquil destination for viewing the aurora borealis, look no further than the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. This destination provides visitors with a unique experience for viewing the elusive lights, along the shores of its many hidden and remote lakes.

Seney National Wildlife RefugeConsiderations
  • Respect Winter Wildlife
  • Check for Designated Snowmobile Routes
  • Follow Park Guidelines and Hiking Trails
  • Pack for Your Trip Accordingly

Mackinac Island

Closest City: Mackinac City, MI

Mackinac Island is a popular destination which is located just east of the Straits of Mackinac, and Lake Huron. The island is known for its historic charm and natural beauty, where cars and other motorized vehicles are expressly banned from its quiet streets.

Northern Lights Mackinac Bridge & Mackinac Island – Considerations
  • Check for Winter Ferry Schedules
  • Accommodations May Be Limited
  • Bring Extra Outdoor Gear
  • Even a Short Stay on Mackinac Island Can Be Pricey

Au Sable River

Closest City: Oscoda, MI

Far away from urban areas, the Au Sable River is a quiet and scenic destination for those hunting for the elusive lights. When you visit the Au Sable River just outside of Oscoda Michigan, you will be presented with dark skies and amazing opportunities to view the aurora borealis.

Au Sable River – Considerations
  • Be Cautious near the Shores of Frozen Rivers
  • Be Respectful of Those Who Are Ice Fishing

Conclusion

That brings us to a close on our guide to where and when can you see the northern lights in Michigan USA. While the aurora is not always visible beneath the Arctic Circle, with some careful timing, especially with regard to timing, you can have a pretty good chance in the Michigan upper peninsula area. Aim for areas with dark skies and very low light pollution, and make sure to keep your eyes on an aurora forecast with a good northern lights app.

Still feeling uncertain about where and when can you see the northern lights in Michigan?

For more help with pinning down the elusive aurora borealis in Michigan, make sure you check out the Michigan Aurora Chasers Facebook Group, for insider tips from a beautiful community of likeminded aurora hunters.

You can also learn more about where can you see the northern lights in Michigan and nearby lower 48 states in our Northern Lights US Lower 48 guide.

Happy aurora chasing!

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