By Erica Zazo
Imagine the sun peeks into your tent at 7:30 a.m. just as a cool breeze rushes in through the unzipped windows. Birds chirp in the tall pines overhead, the smell of campfire smoke wafts from campsite to campsite, and the sound of breakfast sizzles on your neighbor’s electric griddle. It’s a sequence of events often referred to as “the camping wake-up call.”
A weekend at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon is the ideal getaway for a West Michigan camping adventure. Situated just off the shore of Lake Michigan, about halfway up “The Mitten,” Hoffmaster State Park campers have access to 1,200 acres of nature, 10-plus miles of hiking trails and a short walk to the beach.
It’s a great park for many reasons. For one, it’s ideal for car campers (folks who like to roll up, unpack their trunk and plop into their folding armchair). It has modern amenities like restrooms, showers and 50-amp electric plug-ins (meaning you don’t have to sacrifice creature comforts for an escape into nature). And it’s also a quick 15-minute drive to downtown Grand Haven — a charming coastal town with local breweries and restaurants, a thriving art scene, and easy access to all kinds of outdoor activities.
We hope this guide helps you piece together an adventurous camping weekend at Hoffmaster State Park — complete with time to explore Grand Haven and have your pick of paddling excursions in the area.
Explore downtown Grand Haven
Off Washington Avenue, one of Grand Haven’s most popular streets for food, entertainment, and drinks, you’ll stumble into stores of all kinds: artist galleries, boutiques, bookstores, and souvenir and secondhand shops.
One favorite local hang is Odd Side Ales, a taproom-meets-coffee shop that’s best known for its brews. On the outdoor patio, you’ll see beachgoers, tourists and families making their way through town. Or, you can find a seat inside at the bar, in a booth, or at a high-top, and order hand-delivered food from restaurants right around the corner — check out The Toasted Pickle, Electric Hero Sandwich Shop or Porto Bello.
It’s also worth taking a walk along the Grand Haven Waterfront Trail, a 2.5-mile paved path that runs parallel to the harbor. Yachts, fishing charters and tall-masted sailboats bob along the harbor’s edge. After sunset, make sure to catch the Grand Haven Musical Fountain — a synchronized water and light display that runs 20-minute nightly shows in the warmer seasons.
Pick your paddle
Launch your kayak and glide through lily pads at Spring Lake, a popular and relaxing spot to paddle in the Grand Haven area. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Grand Haven and offers scenic views, solitude and an up-close look at blue heron wading through the Lloyd’s Bayou wetland area that leads out to the Grand River.
Grand Haven is also the home to the Grand River Heritage Trail, a 41-mile stretch of water trail perfect for day or long-distance paddles. If you’re up for a challenging adventure, consider paddling the Grand River from Grand Haven all the way to Lansing. Another great day trip in downtown Grand Haven is paddling west on the Grand River out to Grand Haven State Park. From there, you can take your kayak out onto Lake Michigan and around the state park coastline. Or, opt to have Lakeshore Kayak Rental deliver your kayak right to the state park and chart your own journey.
Note to readers: Area business hours may be affected due to current conditions. State campgrounds are closed through at least May 15, 2020. Call ahead (231-798-3711) or visit the Michigan DNR website for updates.