The Top 7 Camping Locations in Michigan
Michigan is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and campground in the country. There are thousands of places to camp at and endless trails that you could spend a lifetime hiking or biking. These make for easy family vacations, weekend trips, or getaways to connect with nature. The majestic beauty of the dunes, waterfalls, and forests are captivating and vast. Just be sure to camp responsibly and follow these rules. Always make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back. Never transport firewood because this can spread infectious bugs like the Emerald Ash Borer. Buy your firewood as close to your campsite as possible. Lastly, respect Mother Nature. Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints. These help to ensure safety and environmental conservation. Now let’s look at some of the best camping spot in Michigan.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This national lakeshore stretches over 35 miles of coastline along Lake Michigan. This includes North and South Manitou Islands. Sleeping Bear Dunes has been nationally recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the United States. This popular camping area is home to several campsites, with varying amenities and sizes. You can find everything from rental cabins, to rustic traditional sites where it is just you and the wilderness. The four main campgrounds include D.H. Day Campground, Platte River Campground, and Manitou Island Campgrounds. In addition to these federally recognized campgrounds, there are several others, both privately owned and public areas.
One of the most popular reasons to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes is for the amazing views it offers. There are several bluffs and outlook points where you can look out over the lake. Some of the best views are at Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Empire Bluffs, and Lake Michigan Overlook. Climbing these dunes is fun, but can also be quite exhausting as well. If you plan on doing it, be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen to stay hydrated and avoid a bad sunburn.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks is another wonderful lakeshore destination that stretches over forty miles of Michigan’s northern shores of Lake Superior. Through this park you can find breathtaking views, kayak tours, and and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. There are 14 backcountry campground through this area, all of which require a backcountry camping permit. The campsites can be found along the main trails, in 2-5 miles intervals, so you can choose the distance you want to cover before setting up camp. In addition to these backcountry camping sites, there are a handful of other area sites with various amenities. These range from firepits and picnic tables, to cabins, WiFi, and Showers. Many of these campgrounds are open for RVs as well. Because of the popularity, you should call ahead and make a reservation to ensure that you have a spot.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
This state park is home to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. The Upper Falls are more than 50 feet tall and stretch over 200 feet across. Ironically, the falls are located in Paradise, MI, and the serenity of the area sure feels like paradise. Some of the popular activities in this state park include fishing, hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. There are a variety of campsites in the area for overnight stays. The Lower Falls Campground offers 2 sections with 90 campsites each. These come with electricity, picnic tables, fire pits hot showers and bathrooms with full plumbing. At the Rivermouth Campsites, you get a more rustic feel with no electricity. This offers sandy beaches, fishing areas, and a boat launch. The upper falls does not having a campground, but it is worth a trip to them for the views.
Porcupine Mountains State Park
Porcupine Mountains offers a variety of options to fit your level of camping needs. There are numerous backcountry campsites, and 6 main campgrounds. The primary campgrounds include Lost Creek, Organization, Presque Isle, Union Bay, Union River Outpost and White Pine Campgrounds. I advise taking a hike along the Escarpment trail to see some breathtaking views of Porcupine Mountains, Lake of the Clounds, and Carp River Valley. Other things in the are to do include skiing in the Porcupine Mountains in the winter, or disc golfing the 18 hole course during the summer. The State Park encompasses around 60,000 acres and offers camping options for RVs, pet-friendly sites, and group sites. The trails provide sightseeing of the numerous waterfalls and miles of rivers and streams along the Lake Superior Shoreline.
Wilderness State Park
Located a short drive away from Mackinac City, Wilderness State Park is a great place to take a family vacation or weekend trip. This park boasts over 26 miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline including over 250 campsites. These sites are divided into two main sections; The Pines and The Lakeshore. Between these sites, you can find several rustic cabins and bunkhouses available for rent. Also popular for in this area are hunting and fishing options. There are boat launches and ponds across the area for avid fishermen. An abundance of deer and snowshoe hare in the area are great for the corresponding hunting seasons. Just like the othe state parks and national shorelines, there are a vast number of trails for hiking and biking. This diverse area has everything from dunes and forests to wetlands and beaches, making it perfect to explore for just about everyone.
Huron-Manistee National Forest
This is one of the largest national forests in Michigan. There are 15 different campground in 9 cities that are located on national forest grounds. Most of these site have accessible drinking water, and there are no RV spots for water, sewage, or electricity. Depending on which area of the forest you choose to set up camp, there is much to do. Some popular activities include river tubing, nature watching, rock and mineral searching, hiking and biking, and horseback riding. Motor vehicles are allowed on designated trails so bring your ATVs, quads, and dirtbikes. It is estimated that around 4 million people visit the forest every year.
One nice part about this forest is that you are not completely restricted to designated camping areas. As long as the area is not marked as no camping, and you follow the rules of the forests, you can set up primitive camps just about anywhere. Some of these restrictions include no camping within 200 feet of water adn no camping within 400 feet of the shoreline in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area.
Traverse City State Park
If you are looking for the activities of a tourist town, balanced with the basics of camping and nature, then consider Traverse City State Park. This is a smaller state park, stretching over 47 acres with about a quarter mile of shoreline. This park features heated bathrooms, rental cottages, and firepits. Nearby, you can find boat rentals, fishing charters, wineries, casinos, and a variety of shops. If you happen to be up here during Cherry Festival, you won’t want to pass on the opportunity to stop in. Local growers have everything from chocolate covered cherries, to cherry syrup and cherry jam. Even though you can’t camp right on the shore, you are only a couple hundred feet away from the water across the road. This is a year round campground, so feel free to pack warm and explore the winter activities as well.