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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > southern lower peninsula > hoffmaster

79 P. J. Hoffmaster State Park Upper Peninsula

wildlife viewing  |  directions and facility information

Sand reed grass on dune
Photo: Don Peterson, MI DNR

Excellent location to see and learn about Great Lakes sand dunes and the plants and wildlife that live on them. Hoffmaster has some of the finest dune formations and wooded dune complexes along the Michigan western shore. The park features 3 miles of pristine beaches on Lake Michigan, a spectacular dune overlook perched atop a towering forested dune, and the famous Gillette Visitor Center known throughout the Midwest for its outstanding educational programs and attractions. Sheltered valleys between the wooded dunes and dense stands of hemlocks make excellent habitat for migrating songbirds and raptors, providing great wildlife viewing opportunities during spring and fall migrations.

walkway view of lake over dune stairway on sand dune
Climb the dune stairs at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park to get a birdís-eye-view of Lake Michigan and the towering sand dunes along its shores. These mountains of fine sand were created by thousands of years of wind and waves from the lake. Photos: l-r, Don Peterson, MI DNR; © Phil Seng, Don Peterson, MI DNR.

Wildlife Viewing

There is excitement on the bird front year-round at Hoffmaster. The park is an excellent location for viewing migrating songbirds, including wood thrushes, orioles, and many species of warblers and sparrows, plus migrating raptors such as sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks and an occasional eagle and falcon. Hooded, chestnut-sided, worm-eating, and palm warblers, plus American redstarts are common residents in the parkís woodland habitats.

Little Black Creek is a prime feeding and wintering
spot for bald eagles. In the summer, warblers
and American redstarts are common residents
in woodland habitats such as this.
Photo: Don Peterson, MI DNR

At the Visitor Center, a small pond with running water is a major attraction outside the viewing area. In the summer, scarlet tanagers, northern orioles, red-eyed vireos, indigo buntings, and other colorful summer residents are common visitors to the pond. In the fall, it is not uncommon to be able to view 6-8 species of warblers at one time. In the winter, bald eagles winter and feed along Little Black Creek near the campground on the north end of the Park.

Fritillary on Butterfly Weed
A profusion of wildflowers attracts butterflies such
as this frittilary. Interpretive staff offers butterfly
and insect hikes during the summer.
Photo: Don Peterson, MI DNR

Butterflies are another colorful wildlife viewing treat at the park. Butterflies can be viewed at a native wildflower and butterfly garden in front of the Visitor Center. They are most abundant from July through early September. A partially mowed path is maintained near the northern campground and is bordered by a profusion of wildflowers that attract a diversity of butterfly species. These include the monarch, tiger swallowtail, black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, buckeye, great spangled fritillary, pearl crescent, summer azure, and silver spotted skippers. Interpretive staff provide butterfly and insect hikes throughout the summer.

During the summer months, the Visitor Center conducts very popular interpretive programs on plants and animals that live at Hoffmaster, and has displays of live snakes, turtles, toads, and frogs—species commonly found on the Michigan dunes. A daily schedule is available at the Visitor Center.


From Muskegon, travel south on US-31 to Pontaluna Road. Turn right (west) and follow the signs to the park entrance. If traveling north on I-96, take Exit 4 and follow signs to park entrance.

Click here for an Area Map

Ownership: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (231) 798-3711

Size: acreage increased to 1200 acres.

Closest Town: Muskegon

Weather and Driving Directions for Muskegon

Plan Your Trip with travel.michigan.org!

More information can be found by visiting the DNR's site (link leads to web app allowing users to search for campgrounds, harbors, trails and more), or by conducting a Google search:


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