Michigan’s natural features might look different depending on where you are in the state. Campers, however, get to experience all the best of the state’s rolling sand dunes, crystal clear lake water, speckling pine forests, and streams and rivers criss-crossing through two large peninsulas. Campgrounds in Michigan can get you to see more of that natural wonder, any time from the snow-swept winters to the sandy and clear summers. With the largest state park and state forest system in the U.S. as well as the longest freshwater shoreline of any state, country, province, or any other political subdivision in the world, Michigan, it can be argued, is best experienced through its campgrounds. But how do you choose a site in a state so rich with camping?
The Dyrt Campers’ Favorite Campgrounds in Michigan
If you’re looking for some help narrowing down the countless campgrounds and environments the Great Lake State has to offer, The Dyrt community is here to help. With numerous campers having plenty of experience at campgrounds in Michigan, read on to find their top recommendations for spots to pitch your tent.
Wilderness State Park offers campers the chance to camp as close as possible to the scenic Upper Peninsula of Michigan while still staying in Michigan’s “mitt.” In addition to spacious campsites, 26 miles of shoreline and beach, and the beauty that Michigan’s North Country has to offer, Wilderness State Park is also a designated dark sky preserve. So you can count on little to no artificial light pollution, unobstructed views along the lake, and incredible stargazing —even with a chance to catch the famous Aurora Borealis.
“Wilderness State Park is one of my favorite campgrounds in northern Michigan. There are plenty of trails to explore and of course some Great Lakes State waters! Also, Wilderness opened a dark sky park this past year as well. If you want to explore some gorgeous dark night skies in Northern Michigan, I suggest checking it out!” —The Dyrt camper Amy G.
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With multiple waterfalls and trails that take you to the nearby Lake of the Clouds scenic area, the Presque Isle area of Porcupine Mountains State Park is a water-lover’s favorite in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The semi-rustic campground has 50 sites, with limited RV accessibility, no showers and non-flush toilets.
The Lake of the Clouds is a picturesque body of water located between two large ridges, with stunning overlooks accessible by hiking or a short drive. It’s one of the top destinations for those visiting the Porcupine Mountains State Park. Hikers, climbers and swimmers alike will rejoice at being close to Lake Superior while also being able to enjoy relatively large mountains for the region.
“A gem of the great lakes – Porcupine mountains wilderness area is truly amazing!! I recommend a few nights backpacking so you can stay at both presque isle and the lake of the clouds area of the park. Late summer early fall is a nice time to visit.” —The Dyrt camper Ashley Y.
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At Ludington State Park, there’s hiking, biking, an historic lighthouse, a river, an inland lake, sand dunes, and like many of the best campgrounds in Michigan, miles of shoreline from Lake Michigan. The state park has four campgrounds with over 350 campsites. There are also backpack sites available for those looking for more seclusion. There are 30 miles of trails for outdoor activity that are exciting enough to rival the nearby Huron-Manistee National Forests.
“I loved this campground – Having never been to Michigan before, this campground shows how beautiful the state is. The campground was lovely and beautiful. You can ride bikes, you can kayak, you can walk some trails, float down a river, or go to Lake Michigan. There are also sand dunes and a lighthouse within walking distance of campground.” —The Dyrt camper Kelly L.
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For those looking for a quick escape from Traverse City, Platte River Campground is just about 30 miles away and loaded with Michigan’s best outdoor activities. Unlike some campgrounds in Michigan, which offer the majority of their beautiful scenery at the hike-in sites, Platte River Campground is well suited for both RVers and car campers looking for stunning views, with tent sites, back-in and pull through sites, as well as some remote hike-in sites.
The big draw is access to the river, for canoeing and kayaking, but also the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many people visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes will choose Platte River Campground because it’s quieter and a little further from the major tourist spots of the National Park, but still close enough for easy access to all that Sleeping Bear has to offer.
“The campground offers all sorts of educational programs that will be enjoyed by all ages. The rangers are helpful and nice, they are always ready to answer any questions you may have. The facilities are clean and well maintained and the campground has a great layout. This is definitely my number one choice when in the area!” —The Dyrt camper Misty D.
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Fishermen’s Island State Park is situated along 6 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan. Most of the spots offer lots of space with nicely wooded sites that can get you close to the beach in no time. However, if you can manage to snag one before they’re all reserved, the beachside sites are some of the best in the state. Lots of privacy, steps from the lake, and still plenty of shade from trees.
“This is our favorite campground in Michigan. We don’t usually like camping at state parks because they get so crowded, but this one is different. There are several sites right on Lake Michigan. Many sites provide a great deal of privacy, and you get our own stretch of beachfront. Reserve your site early- all the good spots on the lake get booked right away.” —The Dyrt camper Kelly K.
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Dispersed along a 55-mile stretch of the Au Sable river are 102 rustic campsites. Within the Huron-Manistee National Forest on the western side of lower Michigan, the Au Sable river is known as one the best brown trout fisheries east of the Rocky Mountains. A good number of the sites are located on dam-formed ponds along the river, allowing for easy access to swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. There are several canoe and kayak rental places nearby. The fees are low at $10, and reservations are needed between May 15th and September 30th.
The campsites are spread out, so it’s smart to consult a map and get directions for each individual campsite or camping area. Also note the accessibility for each site. Some are walk in or boat in only, and some sites require high clearance vehicles to access the parking areas.
Here is some insight from The Dyrt camper James D. “Our campsite was right along the AuSable River and we kayaked in. We went kayaking for a full day and loved it! There is no potable water so bring a filter, no toilets so bring a shovel, and it is pack-in pack-out. There was a campfire ring at the site.”
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One of the most popular destinations in all of Michigan is Tahquamenon Falls. Located on the eastern side of the Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior, Tahquamenon Falls is a colorful, year-round blasting force of water that never disappoints in person. Luckily, you can camp near the falls too at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, making it one of the more popular campgrounds in Michigan. There are multiple campgrounds available, with rustic to modern options. Prices vary between $20 and $32 for campsites. There are both drive in and walk in options. In the state park and along the river, you’ll find solid canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and more.
Check out what The Dyrt camper Lisa P. said about camping at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. “The sites were quite generous in size and we felt like we had adequate privacy; we tent, so it’s kind of a must. Of course the main attraction itself, the falls, can be heard late at night, right from the campground; it’s amazing. Do you kayak? It’s a must! They provide a slide/railing to easily Portage your kayak down to the water, and from there, paddle to the island for a different perspective of the upper and lower falls! Trust me!”
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The North Gemini Lake State Forest has a small, 17-site campground close to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s quiet and peaceful, and located right on Gemini Lake for boating and fishing. The sites are rustic, with vault toilets available and a well hand pump. It’s mostly set up for tents, but small trailers are permitted. This is one of those secret gem campgrounds in Michigan, in the already lesser-traveled Upper Peninsula.
Here’s what The Dyrt camper Magy C. said about the North Gemini Lake State Forest campground. “This campsite was awesome! We camped right on the lake and due to how small the campsite is… No reservations. You self-register when you arrive. The campsites were nice and flat, not too many trees, and amazing view of the lake.”
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Calling all ATV and ORV campers! Black Lake State Forest Campground has a section specifically for ORV camping. In total, the campground has 52 rustic sites, with 35 designated for ORV camping. All sites allow for tent and camper trailer use. The Black Lake State Forest is located in the northern part of lower Michigan, north of Onaway, and south Cheboygan. Ride ATV trails nearby, or get out and bike or hike. You also have lake access, so it really has a ton of variety.
This was what The Dyrt camper Jayne W. had to say about the Black Lake State Forest Campground. “This beautiful campground has 2 parts, the upper which is geared to people with quads and dirt bikes, large sites close to trails, lower is right on lake, very nice water is great for swimming, shallow way out and nice and sandy. This is strictly a rustic campground with outhouses and one water spigot in each level (upper/lower).”
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- Tahquamenon Falls State Park Camping, Paradise, MI
- Mackinaw Campgrounds, Mackinaw City, MI
- Indian Valley Campground, Middleville, MI
- Yogi Bear Campground – Michigan, Grayling, MI
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