Grand Traverse Bay is a body of water on the pinkie side of Michigan’s mitten shape, cupped by the Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At the base of this large protected bay, and at the mouth of the Boardman River, you’ll find Traverse City — a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and lakeside vacationers.

Visitors pass through deep green pine forests and rolling hills before reaching the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan. The city’s access to outdoor activities on the water, the dunes, and throughout the nearby state and national forests, plus its proximity to the area’s orchards, vineyards, and breweries, makes Traverse City a camping destination that RVers love to call home—for a weekend or much longer.

Exploring “The Cherry Capital of the World”

The unique sandy soil here makes a perfect home for world famous fruit orchards, hop farms, and vineyards. Traverse City’s central location within this fruit belt has made it a hot spot for wineries, breweries, and apple & peach picking. Cherries are the city’s specialty, earning it the nickname, “The Cherry Capital of the World.” Every year, half a million people flock to Traverse City for the National Cherry Festival in July.

Fall in Traverse City is perfect for apple picking and wine tasting, with a backdrop of autumn colors. In the winter, campers will find snowy-weather activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing, and skiing.

In the summer, campers flock to Traverse City for the National Cherry Festival, the Traverse City Film Festival, and warm days on Lake Michigan. If you’re hoping for a campsite during the National Cherry Festival or Traverse City Film Festival, plan well in advance, because these are by far the busiest weeks.

A camping trip to Traverse City should also include a visit to the towering dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, where you can climb the towers of sand and cut a slick route back down on a sled.

The Best Traverse City Campgrounds for RV Enthusiasts

We turned to RV camping enthusiasts on The Dyrt for the scoop on the best camping in Michigan around Traverse City for RVs.

1. Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park

traverse city campgrounds at a lakeside state park

Image from The Dyrt camper Nancy W.

Just two miles from downtown, the Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park is one of the most conveniently-located campgrounds in Traverse City – and in all of northern Michigan! The urban park hosts 47 wooded acres. The campground’s big draw is its short walk to a beautiful and clean state beach located on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay. Additionally, there’s a walking bridge that crosses the road to the beach.

It’s a quick drive into town, but if you really want to do it right, bring the bikes. The Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) is quickly accessible from the state park, and it provides an easy ride on a paved, well-marked trail. You can take the trail to local shops, restaurants, bars, and breweries, or to more beaches and waterside parks.

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2. Traverse Bay RV Resort

Have you ever looked at a beautiful golf course, with impeccable landscaping and tranquil ponds and streams, and thought “that wouldn’t be a bad place to set up my RV?” Well, that’s pretty much what’s happening at Traverse Bay RV Resort. Located about 10 miles east of downtown, this is one of the more unique Traverse City campgrounds.

While the list of amenities is too long to cover completely, some of the highlights include an outdoor heated pool and spa, complimentary cable TV, a state of the art fitness center, a clubhouse with a library, tennis and pickle-ball courts, complimentary bikes, 12 ponds with fountains and waterfalls, and a free shuttle to the nearby casino.

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3. Timber Ridge Resort

timber ridge resort, family friendly traverse city campgrounds

Image courtesy of Timber Ridge Resort

If you want to sleep a little deeper in nature, head out to Timber Ridge Resort. It’s about nine miles from downtown, but a world away when it comes to open country and forest land. You can reach nearby trails from Timber Ridge, with 60 kilometers of groomed resort trails and the connecting VASA pathway trail system. Bike and hike, or ask about nearby ATV and ORV options.

You can enjoy the tranquility of a wooded landscape, along with some pretty sweet amenities, like the pool, bath houses, laundry, playground, bike park, camp store, and unique equipment rentals. Rent three- and four-wheel turbo bikes, Rad Rovers and fat bikes, and even golf carts for casual evening cruisers. So we’re talking a blend of rugged and refined RV camping here, which pretty much sums up the entire Traverse City camping experience.

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Chris Loud

Chris Loud

Chris Loud has several years experience as a travel and fiction writer. In the last year he has been co-producing a quarterly print and digital literary lifestyle publication called The Boardman Review, based in northern Michigan. Before that, he spent a few years producing and writing for the travel TV shows Coolest Places on Earth, State to State, and Great Escapes. Chris currently lives in Traverse City, Michigan with his wife, daughter, and dog.