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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.
Union Bay is the only “modern” campground in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, offering around 100 fully-reservable, electric sites with access to a modern bathroom and shower house. The lakeside sites, as you can imagine, are the most popular and spacious, and most often booked 6 months in advance. If you come after leaf season, you can have the place to yourself. However, the winds off the lake can be powerful and the numerous campsites on the upper level offer a bit more protection, if somewhat more cramped.
The boat launch is right next to the campground, if you plan to get out onto the big lake. The outdoor adventure opportunities in the park are endless, from hiking, biking, and paddling in the spring through the fall to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. But, bring your muck boots if you come in the fall or spring, as the trails and campground is wet and full of mud.
As a designated wilderness, motorized recreation is not allowed within the park, so your walk in the woods remains undisturbed. Backpacking is very popular here and backcountry camping sites are numerous, and reservable (get your permit at the Visitor’s Center). The park offers cabins and yurts, some of which are only accessible by trail which and heated by a wood stove making a winter adventure more attractive. There is also a downhill skiing area located within 3 miles of the Visitors Center.
The bathrooms at Union Bay are modern and comfortable with individual unisex shower units accessible via an outside door. The laundry room has 1 washing machine and 2 dryers(be sure to run the dryer on high). Water is available at several spigots throughout the campground, and the sewer dump station is right on the way out of the campsite to take care of that business when you leave.
Be sure to drive or hike up to the Lake of the Clouds overlook and trail network. The glacially carved escarpment offers a priceless view of what the locals call “the Porkies” and makes the long drive to get here worth it.
The closest town of significance to Union Bay is Ontonagon, 18 miles away, so plan ahead with supplies. Just outside the campground is a small, privately run, campstore where you can get ice cream, ice and a few other food items, and lots of tourist trinkets – just look for the oversized black bear.
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.
This was our first time camping in Michigan and we loved being so close to Lake Superior. We're used to MN state parks, so we found the campsites in MI to be a bit small and too close to each other. The fire ring for the site behind ours was very close to the bed area of our camper. Our spot was campsite #98. There's not a lot of shade or vegetation between campsites in that row, but it was easy walking distance to the modern restroom/showers and Lake Superior. Next time we would like to camp along the lake. The trail around Lake of the Clouds was well worth it!
You can't beat the Porcupine Mountains if you're looking for wilderness experiences in Michigan. Union Bay is a nice campground to use as a base camp for lots of day hikes in the area.
It can be busy and weekends are louder with kids, dogs, loud neighbors, etc , just like most state parks. Weekdays tend to be quieter even when busy.
Many sites are quite close together and there isn't much privacy in those. Some sites have odd sizes and shapes so be prepared to adjust your rig on the site to get best placement and be level (back in vs. sideways, etc ). Also consider having leveling blocks with you.
Sites in bottom loop offer great views and access to Lake Superior. But even the upper loops are a short walk to awesome shoreline and amazing sunrises.
Bathrooms are clean and showers have good design, although shower heads could use some maintenance.
Staff working the office seem to really know their stuff about hiking the area, so check with them for ideas in addition to the Visitors Center.
If you want the wilderness feel of the Porkies but modern amenities at the end of the day, this is the place.
Note that cellular service can be extremely weak if you don't have a booster.
We tent camped. It’s crowded and it’s close quarters but it’s the Porkies and it’s what we expected. Screaming kids, barking dogs, loud partiers, RV’s that never shut their lights off and those light obscure the night sky views…this park had all of that. We expected it and unless you are early or late in the season, you should too. Our site had a major flood and the mud afterwards was pretty intense. The storm was predicted to be so bad that the very kind Park Ranger came by to go over the take cover procedure just in case. Some people had to move sites because of the flooding afterward. They were accommodated. On the other hand this park has magnificent trails, a really nice camp store with souvenirs, wood and ice cream. The walk to the lake was short and Lake Superior was as majestic as ever. The bathrooms were as clean as busy bathrooms could be. People were adhering to state mandated mask wearing rules. I love the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park so this was a fine but average place to rest my head after enjoying the park.
Perfect spot for exploring Porcupine Mountains
Hi, all. So, everyone’s been traveling haven’t they? Us spontaneous no planning SOB’s are SOL. My family could not find anywhere to stay and this was the very last campsite on the map in the state of Michigan. We thought F it. We will pay 30$ for electricity and a shower… honestly worth it for the shower. But definitely not a destination spot if I do say so myself. If you can, PLAN your camping. I’m from MN and am not used to having to reserve your campsite. Plan ahead and get the best of the best. Although, we did have weird luck camping at smaller lakes outside of pictured rocks for free.
I absolutely loved campsite 28 in the Union Bay Campground. You sit right next to Lake Superior overlooking the water! Between you and the water is a beautiful large rocky beach area that spans the shoreline for miles. Especially because you also get a wonderful view of the sunset as well. At night we laid out on the rocks and watched the stars! All night long you hear the waves crashing into shore. It was so peaceful.
It is hard for me to look for other campsites at different campgrounds because of how much I loved this spot. This site is hard to beat!
Not to mention how beautiful the rest of the park was. Mountains, waterfalls, and thousands of acres of forest. I will be coming back for another visit.
Beautiful family campground on the North ashore of Lake Superior. It has RV, tent and back country sites as well as cabins and yurts for rent. Many amazing hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls to explore near by. Campground has large clean bathrooms and showers and a nice camp store. It is also pet friendly and has WiFi, but no playground. We stayed at site 82 which had a partial view of the lake and backed the tree line. It was a nice site. I gave this campground 4 out of 5 stars because some of the sites were a little too close together but overall a great campground and we will be back!