10 Free Camping Spots in Michigan

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Beautiful views of Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

We have a secret to share. Believe it or not, you can find free camping in Michigan. The state is bursting at the seams during the summer months, and most campgrounds fill up 6-12 months in advance. That’s why finding free camping is the best-kept secret. 

Let’s look at where to find free camping in Michigan.

10 Best Spots for Free Camping in Michigan

The beauty of Michigan is that it has all four seasons. Spring, summer, and fall are the best times of the year to camp and enjoy the “Mitten State.” 

While winter camping can present some road challenges and cold, it’s doable in most parts of the state. Campgrounds typically close for the winter, but some of the free spots stay open year-round. 

Here are the 10 best spots for free camping in Michigan. 

Hiking along the shoreline in northern Michigan on a sunny day heading out to a free camping site.

1. Green Road Dispersed 

Green Road dispersed camping is in Free Soil, Michigan. It’s southeast of Manistee and northeast of Ludington, giving you access to all that Lake Michigan coastal towns have to offer.

To get to it, you’ll need to drive on a sandy two-track road that can be challenging if it’s wet. Campers also report low branches along the way in. It’s a great spot for tents or camper vans. You may also take a small travel trailer, but make sure to scout out the area before heading to the campsite since there’s little room to turn around.

Green and orange tents lit up with flashlights and a campfire burning in the background while campers enjoy the night.

Pro Tip: If you want to camp on the shoreline, check out these 12 beautiful camping spots along Lake Michigan.

2. Cooper Creek Road

Cooper Creek Road free camping is also in Free Soil, Michigan. You’ll have more room to maneuver here than at Green Road dispersed area. A 40’ long super C motorhome reported finding a spot about a half-mile down the road once you turn left off Forest Trail. 

Additionally, you have a great chance of seeing wildlife here on the many trails. You can use potable water and a dump station for a fee at the Marathon Station at the corner of Highway 31 and Forest Trail. 

3. Whelan Lake Campground

Whelan Lake Campground is just east of Ludington, Michigan. You can grab a campsite with views of the 13-acre lake. The road getting in is rough, especially when wet, so we recommend a four-wheel drive. 

Campers report level sites and a couple of pull-through options for larger RVs. You can visit the Pere Marquette River nearby for fishing, and Ludington has shops, restaurants, and beaches.

4. French Farm Lake Campground

French Farm Lake Campground is in Mackinaw City, Michigan. It has seven numbered campsites. It’s free; however, you must obtain a permit which you can get at a Department of Natural Resources office. 

The one-lane dirt road going in can be rough when wet. RVs under 30’ long can get in. There is a public city beach within walking distance from the campground. And you can catch a ferry to the famous Mackinac Island from Mackinaw City.

The Mackinaw Bridge stretches over the straights between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and connects the two peninsulas of Michigan.

5. Raco Airfield Dispersed Camping

Raco Airfield dispersed camping is in Brimley, Michigan, in Hiawatha National Forest near Lake Superior. It’s easy to get into, and up to a 44’ long RV will fit. The spot can accommodate around 10 RVs. 

There are two roads labeled USFS3536, but the best one to take is perpendicular to US28. In addition, it’s a great location to explore Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Sault Ste Marie Locks are only 20 miles away.

6. Shelldrake Dam

Shelldrake Dam free camping is in Paradise, Michigan, along the waterways of Lake Superior. A dirt road takes you to the campsites, but four-wheel drive isn’t necessary. 

Campers have reported that the area is best for a small trailer or van. You can find a lot of hiking options in the area and waterways, including waterfalls.

Hammock camping in Northern Michigan as the sun sets over an inland lake.

7. Rhody Creek Trail

Rhody Creek Trail offers free camping in Grand Marais, Michigan. Access is easy from Highway 58. Large RVs can maneuver in the area, although it’s more conducive to smaller rigs. Campers have reported that the sandy road gets softer after rain and may require a four-wheel drive. 

The highlight of this spot is its proximity to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can drive or bike to see all that the lakeshore has to offer.

8. Sturgeon River Campground

Sturgeon River Campground is in Watton in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s in Ottawa National Forest with opportunities for hiking and encountering waterways and wildlife. 

The free campground has nine sites on the river. While this is a dry camping area, you’ll find vault toilets.

A travel trailer in a gravel campsite surrounded by pine trees.

9. Perrault Lake

Perrault Lake free camping is a beautiful lakeside spot in Toivola, Michigan. It has five sites, and it’s big rig friendly. However, campers have reported that the campsites aren’t defined, and it does become crowded. 

Stop at this serene location on your way to Copper Harbor at the most northern tip of the upper peninsula.

10. Boney Falls Basin Campground

Boney Falls Basin Campground is situated on a lake in Cornell, Michigan, a short distance northwest of Escanaba. The campground sits on a large basin created by the Escanaba River. 

It has eight campsites in this free camping spot in the upper peninsula. Campers do report that the area can sometimes fill up quickly. 

What to Know Before You Go

Free camping in Michigan is a great find, but be prepared. Like any boondocking adventure, be sure to scout the roads and campsites before taking your RV into an unknown area.

Pro Tip: We made these 10 RV mistakes so you don’t have to! Read and avoid getting caught in the same predicament.

Michigan’s weather can be extreme year-round, from rainstorms to snow and ice. Two-track dirt roads leading to the campsites can get muddy quickly, and the state has a lot of sandy soil. 

Before you go free camping in Michigan, read reviews for the campsites. Each of the spots we’ve listed links to reviews from other campers. Read through them yourself, as people add reviews regularly. An area may work well one year and change the next.

A young white-tailed deer in the forest during the day.

Make sure to know what wildlife is in the area where you’re camping. Michigan has bears, wolves, moose, and numerous other animals. Also, do your research and know if you’re camping near state land or private hunting land. 

Deer hunting is very popular during the fall months, and it’s important to know your whereabouts when hiking or biking. In addition, we always recommend carrying emergency numbers with you when boondocking.

Other boondocking rules to keep in mind include the number of days you can stay in a free camping spot. Generally, the maximum stay is 14 days, but read the signs when entering the area to learn the specific rules. 

And wherever you camp, practice leaving no trace. Pick up after yourself and leave the campsite better than you found it. Doing so will ensure free camping remains an option for years to come. 

An orange autumn leaf in the shape of the lower peninsula of Michigan held up in front of a glass lake with trees changing color on the shore in the distance.

Take Advantage of Beautiful Free Camping in Michigan

We hope you take advantage of free camping in Michigan. The state is full of beautiful forests, waterways, beaches, and wildlife. Outdoor adventures draw people to the state. From watersports to hiking and biking, you can do it all. And what better way than with a free campsite.

Let us know if you stay at any of the camping areas we listed. We’d love to hear about your experience.

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