Everything You Need to Know About Michigan Camping

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A hammock glows between two trees camping on the water in Michigan.

Summer is the perfect time to explore Michigan’s lakes and forests. Michigan is a destination that can sometimes fly under the radar because of its north-central location in the country. But you may be surprised to learn how much it offers. We’ll let you in on everything you need to know about Michigan camping.

Keep reading to find out! 

Is Michigan Good for Camping? 

Due to its proximity to the Great Lakes, Michigan has excellent camping options. You’ll find forested and lakeside stays in the state’s upper and lower peninsulas. Campsites range from private campgrounds to state parks.

Outdoor enthusiasts come from near and far to experience Michigan waterways, hiking trails, and unique landscapes. In addition, Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula offer peaceful destinations without the hustle and bustle of city life. 

When Is the Best Time for Michigan Camping? 

Late spring to early fall is the best time for Michigan Camping. If you’re planning to swim or do water sports, The warmest lake water temperatures are generally in July through September. May, June, and early October can be great months to escape the crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures for outdoor adventures. In addition, October is when the leaves change color. Planning your camping trip around a color tour in Michigan is something you’ll remember for years to come.

Can You Camp for Free in Michigan? 

It is possible to experience free Michigan camping on some state-owned forest service land. You can find free boondocking options in the Huron National Forest. However, don’t expect an overwhelming amount of free camping spots. Most of Michigan’s land is privately owned or protected, so getting free camping requires planning.

How Do I Find Campsites in Michigan?

There are many private campgrounds and state parks in Michigan. Apps like Campendium or AllStays are helpful tools to narrow down your search. In addition, Midnrreservations.com allows you to search for campgrounds based on the type of RV or camping equipment you have for state parks. The Pure Michigan campaign also offers help finding campsites.

How Do I Reserve a Campsite at Michigan State Parks?

Reserving campsites is easy. Michigan State Parks have an online reservation system where you can book and track all of your trips. It’s essential to secure your site early. State parks get booked six months in advance. Our advice is to grab your spot when the booking window opens. There is a little more flexibility if you’re looking to stay at a campground in the spring or fall, but anything from June to August will go fast.

How Much Does It Cost to Camp at a State Park in Michigan?

The average nightly cost at a Michigan State Park is $38 per campsite. However, fees differ depending on the park. You’ll find options from $20 and over. More rustic campgrounds typically charge less. Some state parks in the Upper Peninsula are without hookups but have some on-site amenities. 

The Most Beautiful Campgrounds in Michigan 

Michigan camping is magical. From sunsets over Lake Michigan, hikes in the Upper Peninsula, and fishing with the famous Mackinac Bridge in view, you can land some beautiful campsites. We’ve identified a few that made it to the top of our list, and we think you may like them too. 

Take a look!

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park sits on about 50,000 acres in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It gains you access to the Tahquamenon River and waterfalls. The Upper Falls are 50 feet high and 200 feet across, with a maximum flow of over 50,000 gallons per second. They’re a must-see, and you’ll have a front-row seat at the state park’s campground. Campsites have 30 or 50 amp service, and the campground has a dump station.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a breathtaking natural wonder. The colorful sandstone cliffs tower above Lake Superior. Seeing them from a boat tour is the way to go. You’ll also find beaches, dunes, climbing opportunities, waterfalls, and various inland waterways in the area. Pictured Rocks Lakeshore has three rustic, drive-in campgrounds with no hookups.

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park sits on Lake Michigan in the Lower Peninsula. It offers stunning views of the lake and a wide variety of water sports, including swimming, fishing, kiting, and more.

The beach is just steps away from your campsite. The quaint, historic town of Ludington is also a short drive away. In addition, there are miles of hiking trails, dunes, and forests to explore in the area. Be sure to book your campsite in advance, as this is one of Michigan’s most popular state parks. 

Go Out of the Way for Michigan Camping 

Michigan camping is worth it and then some! Even though Michigan may be off the typical RV path for most, we highly recommend going out of your way to camp here. The unspoiled nature of Michigan outdoors draws you in and leaves you wanting more. 

Are you ready to go camping in Michigan? If so, be sure to tag us in some photos during your trip. We would love to hear about your experience and any new tips you might have to share. Happy camping! 

1 comment
  1. Nice article. Michigan has thousands of acres of both state forest and forest service lands that is open to free camping. These are most prevalent in the upper half of the lower peninsula and the upper peninsula (da’ Y’up). You can obtain maps at most DNR offices or on line from the DNR web site. To camp for free requires the display of the 14 day free camp permit, also available to print on line. It is best to camp at a site that has been camped at before and as usual keep it clean carrying out waste and trash. Major forests that are popular are the Federal Hiawatha, the Ottawa, the Huron Manistee . The state forests are Copper Country, Escanaba and Superior in the UP and the Mackinaw, Pere Marquette and Au Sable in the northern lower. Also boondock style US forest service campgrounds and state forest campgrounds for a small fee is some very nice areas on lakes, rivers and wildlife preserves. The lower part of Michigan is primarily private land but does contain some Federal, State and local government camping opportunities… Happy boondocking.

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