After set­tling into campus for the school year, stu­dents may want to run for the hills as pro­fessors assign the first round of papers and projects. And for the last couple weekends of summer, they should. Here are the three best spots for outdoor adventure and camping in Michigan’s lower peninsula.

Pinckney State Recre­ation Area

Pinckney State Recre­ation Area is 11,000 acres of forests and lakes northwest of Ann Arbor, only an hour drive from Hillsdale. The park has 40 miles of forested multi-use trail, including some of the greatest mountain biking in the lower peninsula. Though Pinkney has modern camp­grounds with RV hookups and modern bath­rooms, vis­itors should con­sider the rustic camping at the Crooked Lake Camp­ground. Though homely, there is a charm to pumping water by hand and cooking dinner right on the coals of the fire. This small camp­ground is set more than a mile off of the road and offers silence and birdsong along with tranquil lake views and great fishing. Silver Lake is only a mile hike from Crooked Lake and boasts an excellent beach area com­plete with a con­ces­sions stand and beach vol­leyball courts. If campers need a break from all the solace and relax­ation, the charming town of Chelsea is close by.

Muskegon State Park

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Muskegon State Park lies on more than 1,000 acres of forested dunes that connect the Great Lake shoreline to Muskegon Lake. The vast beaches with pure Great Lakes sand make the park one of the top parks in Michigan. A road runs along the lake between the park’s camp­grounds and near dusk cars line the shoulder to watch the sun drop into Lake Michigan in a beau­tiful unob­structed sunset. The twelve miles of hiking trails that cross over sand dunes and through hardwood forest make for strenuous exercise but at the end of the hike, the cool waters of Lake Michigan can always refresh the weary. The park may be more remarkable in the winter because it is the home of the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, which has one of the four luge runs in America. The public is welcome to come and have a lesson with a pro­fes­sional luger before sliding down the turns at over 30 miles per hour. This park has some­thing for outdoor enthu­siasts in all seasons.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the jewel of the lower peninsula. Located in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula, the park encom­passes a 35-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. During the last Ice Age, sand col­lected atop the glacial moraines to form the stunning 400-foot bluffs for which the park is famous. Because of these bluffs and the pristine waters of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear was named the most beau­tiful place in America by Good Morning America in 2011. Vis­itors to the park can enjoy 100 miles of trails over dunes, around lakes, and through wild­flower fields. The most famous of these trails is the Dune Trail which begins at the Dune Climb, a 450-foot wall of sand that is as strenuous to clamber up as it is exhil­a­rating to run down. From there, a two mile hike over sand dunes leads to the shore of Lake Michigan where breaking waves make for a great body-surfing session halfway through the journey. Hardier campers may want to drive up to the park in autumn to see the stunning array of hues as the leaves change color.

In only a month or two, midterms will drive stu­dents into the library and snow will begin to blanket the ground, but for now, take a minute to drive around Michigan and see some of the natural beauty it offers.