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We first stayed at Alpine Campground this summer and we ended up staying twice on two separate trips. Both times we needed a place to rest for a night on our way to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and later to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. We think we discovered something special.
The campground is on a beautiful property. It is a bit dated and our pull thru sites where just long enough for our 35’ trailer and truck to stay connected. Sites were grass, a little un-level but were very spacious. These pull-thru sites were water and electric only (30 amp) and the water pressure was a little low. There is a convenient dump station on the way out of the park.
But the sweet owner who opened this park years ago with her husband made the stay a gem. She and her three small dogs went out of her way to make there way around the park on her golf cart and check-in with her guests.
There are full hookups sites back in the trees and there are also some great group camping sites down by the river. Some even looked like the had water and electric at them. There were tents also setup on the perimeter of the grounds.
Where we may have found some small things at a different park a bit disappointing, the charm of this park made this a special place to stay and dream of years gone by. We look forward to visiting again.
I only stayed for one night but it was incredible! The waterfalls are remarkable. Stay for more than one night because there is so much to do.
TL;DR: VISIT THE SYLVANIA WILDERNESS
I absolutely fell in love, head over heels for this place. This Cedar "Campground" as The Dyrt calls it is just a campsite within the larger Sylvania Wilderness. The wilderness actually has a couple dozen different sites to choose from. The Cedar campsite we stayed at is one of two in fairly close proximity (Cedar 1 and Cedar 2). Other than that, you can't see another campsite at all from Cedar and I think that might be true for the rest of the sites as well. This is rustic, backwoods camping for sure. The only "luxuries" you're provided are a wilderness latrine that both Cedar campsites share and a fire ring at each site as well. You can either hike to your reserved site, or you can do what we did and paddle. I believe all the campsites in the Sylvania Wilderness are accessible by water.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving to the wilderness is the aroma of pine and cedar and hemlock trees galore. It's an unforgettable smell and it immediately brings you to a state of calm. The second thing I noticed once I got out of the car was how quiet it is. The wilderness is pretty far off the beaten path (duh, it's the wilderness) so there's nothing at all to hear other than the wind blowing through the trees and the calls of the animals. I think that's what shocked me the most. Then, we brought the kayak down to the launch and Clark Lake revealed all it's beauty to us. It is a stunning view. Photos and words simply do not do it justice. You truly have to come here to experience it first hand. Between the smells, sounds and sights, I was hooked from the start.
The paddle from the canoe launch on Clark Lake to the landing at Cedar 1 was about 20 minutes (30 minutes when the wind was howling). As far as things to do, we were busy for 4 days straight. There's miles and miles of trails to hike. There are trails that go around the lakes and trails that go into the wilderness. The fishing up there is fantastic. Loads of smallies! And by far my most favorite thing to do was paddle around all the lakes in the wilderness and take in the beauty and serenity.
We were there in early September (Labor Day weekend) and it was pretty chilly. I think it was unseasonably chilly, but just be prepared for any weather conditions at this time of year. My biggest complaint of the whole trip was we woke up pretty dang chilly most mornings, but that was on us for not planning that properly.
I cannot recommend the Sylvania Wilderness enough. This was my first time here, but I will be back again and again.
The Michigan State Forest Campgrounds continue to delight us. For $15 a night you can experience camping like I did as a child – simple, unelectrified, and in beautiful outdoor locations. Lots of space in between most sites gives you a good deal of privacy. In mid-October, we woke up to full on winter one morning, so be prepared for anything in the shoulder season. Also, the entrance to this campground is not for low clearance vehicles…it is full of HUGE flooded potholes (small ponds really). Not recommended for 2 wheel drive, low clearance vehicles.
Getting to Big Lake leads you through some marvelous pine meadows and wetlands with browsing deer and pheasants. The North Country Trail (long distance backpacking trail) winds through this part of the UP, and the Big Lake campground would make a perfect starting or ending place for a section hike. Within 10 miles back on the highway is a large gas station/convenience store and café where you could get a hot meal or stock up on a few essentials.
Opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling or fishing abound in this area, so plan to bring your gear with you. There is a small craft launch right in the campground to access the lake, which as it turns out isn’t very big when you compare it to nearby Lake Superior. I imagine that this might be a popular deer hunting campground during rifle season. Bathrooms are simple pit-toilets, and water is accessible year-round with the hand operated well pump.
I did a 3 day/2 night hike during peak color, starting at the Lake Superior Trailhead. I was warned the Lake Superior trail was muddy when I checked in, and the ranger was not joking - I was grateful to have trekking poles to help balance on logs, branches, roots and rocks to try to keep my boots as dry as possible in the parts of the trail that were submerged.
Campsite LS-14 had a lovely location on the lake, but was very muddy/previously submerged with water. It immediately abuts site LS-13. There was a wooden platform to put my tent on, but I had to bolster the corners so that it was big enough for my tent poles to have something to rest on. If I had gotten in before dark, I might have seen the small area near the trail side of the site that had higher, dryer ground. There is supposed to be a bear pole for these sites, but the group at the other site said there wasn't one. In hindsight, I think there probably was, away from the campsites, but since I had a canister, I didn't go looking for it after dark. The Lake Superior trail continued to be muddy until you got close to the Big Carp River mouth.
Campsite BC-8 was a big upgrade - very large site, a little patch of open sky over the fire pit, easy access to the river for water. The big trees provided good shelter from a minor storm and high winds overnight. This site is right alongside the trail, but separated from the cabin and next site by a good distance. The hike out from here up the Big Carp River trail to Lake of the Clouds is a somewhat longer trek with a bit of elevation gain, but nothing too intense in my opinion.
Who knew this park out in the middle of nowhere would have camp sites! I have been visiting the falls for years as it is one of the most beautiful (and little known) places in northern Wisconsin.
I didn't realize until recently that Iron County actually has first come-first served camp sites at a variety of amazing locations at or near the North Country Trail. This park is not on the NCT but a short drive from Mellen.
The camp sites are rustic. No potable water, but the quality of the water from the river is good for filtering. There is a vault toilet in the parking area. There is 5 sites to choose from, all in a heavily wooded area. What this camp site lacks in amenities, it makes up for in sheer natural beauty. The falls may be accessed from a long set of stairs climbing down to see the lower falls. You can also take a shorter set of stairs down to a platform to see the upper falls. If you are willing to climb a little (it's not difficult or dangerous) you can get down to the base of the first drop and look down at the top of the 2nd drop.
There is so much to explore and enjoy here! It can get buggy in the summer heat so be prepared with lots of repellant. Oh, and the road in is all dirt and gravel.