Things to do around W.J. Hayes State Park in the Irish Hills of Michigan

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had our shake-down trip at W. J. Hayes State Park in Onsted Michigan. The region around the park is known as the Irish Hills of Michigan, owing its name to the many Irish immigrants who settled there in the mid-19th century.

The Irish Hills area is located along US Route 12, also known as Michigan Avenue. This route links Detroit, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois and was once also known as The Chicago Road. The Irish Hills are about a one and a half hour drive from Detroit. In their heyday before the Interstate Highway System, the area was known for the roadside attractions. Cruising the area you will see the remnants of abandoned sites such as the Petrified Forest, various motels, miniature golf and more. Directly across US12 from Hayes State Park is Mystery Hill. Still in operation, this feast of optical illusion has mystified visitors since the 1950s.

Hayes State Park is on Wampler’s lake. The park provides boating access to this 780 acre lake, known for its boating and fishing. The area is surrounded by rolling hills that give great scenic vistas in all seasons. The park is about 4 miles from the Michigan International Speedway, and hosts many campers on NASCAR and other race weekends.

Some of the other places to visit include:

Hidden Lake Gardens. Operated and owned by Michigan State University, these gardens feature trees, flowers and shrubs from around the world. A $3.00 per person entry fee gives access to all of the gardens, the Conservatory, and over five miles of marked hiking trails, and a six mile driving tour.

Walker Tavern. For those interested in a bit of history, the Walker Taven Site is a preserved stage coach stop from the 19th century. Located at Cambridge Junction, the tavern saw travelers from all directions. Open from April until October, the site gives a glimpse into the Stage Coach era.

The Irish Hills area is also dotted with a large number of antique shops. We visited a couple of them, and had fun looking through the items of early Americana on display.

Because of the weather, and the time of year that we visited, we only scratched the surface of what the Irish Hills, and W. J. Hayes State Park had to offer. We highly recommend this park and the surrounding area.

For more information on the Irish Hills, you can visit the Irish Hills Recreation Website.

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