Michigan is a unique state, especially when it comes to camping. A lot of people tend to focus on camping in the upper peninsula, or U.P., where people associate “wilderness” with widespread cabins and forests.
However, you should never skip out on camping in the lower peninsula, or L.P. because it has a ton of great campsites with unique features too.
In fact, there are dozens of great camping sites in both of Michigan’s peninsulas and this state is ideal for camping because it is surrounded by three of the five Great Lakes.
Only the borders that Michigan shares with Indiana and Ohio are a little shy of campgrounds. The border the U.P. shares with Northern Wisconsin is equally dotted with campsites.
Before you plan your next Michigan camping trip, you should become acquainted with ten of Michigan’s best sites.
Taquemonon Falls State Park
This state park is a jewel in Michigan’s U.P. crown. Known for its amazing and scenic waterfalls, thousands of tourists flock here every year just to see the falls and thousands more stay to camp near the falls.
The state park boasts over forty miles of hiking trails and wooden trestle-style trails built into the landscape for easier foot travel.
If you stay in one of the four campsites in this massive state park, you can choose to stay near one of the Great Lakes, or perch yourself closer to one of the thirteen inland lakes belonging to the park.
Tent camping is standard, but there are a few RV and pop-up camper sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer when camping is the most popular.
Here are the four campsites within Taquemonon Park:
- Hemlock Campground, which is well-suited to RVs because it has a sanitation dump station.
- Portage Campground, which offers tow-behind camper and tent sites.
- Riversmouth Campground
- Camp 33, which is near the upper falls.
Camp offices are in two of the four locations, depending on whether you will stay near the upper falls or the lower falls.
A diner and brewery are located near camp 33, if you don’t have enough camp provisions and you don’t feel like traveling far to get camp groceries or food for the night.
Porcupine Mountains State Park
This state park is affectionately referred to by Michiganders as “the Porkies.”
Tens of thousands of Lake Superior coastline are included in the scenic mountain views of this park, and most of the tent campsites are nestled high up in the mountains. The breathtaking views, the rivers, and Lake Superior itself is what bring the campers here.
If you are the type that likes to “rough it,” there are 63 backcountry campsites here located off the beaten trail.
Be sure to download a park map and always have it on hand before you enter the park so that you can find your way around. Park ranger stations are present, but they are far between.
Wilderness State Park
Mixed campsites that allow tents, campers, and RVs are scattered in Michigan, but at Wilderness you have all of the above options.
There are even tent-only campsites and a campsite with nineteen hookup sites for RVs. There are a dozen-plus campsites within the park, making this Lake Michigan shoreline park a hot spot for summertime camping.
It’s likely to be most packed for Independence Day weekend, and again at the end of summer. Even Michiganders will book far in advance to camp here.
Lakeport State Park
For a unique camping experience that combines camping with beach life, check out Lakeport.
It’s situated on the banks of Lake Huron and contains lots of cozy little cabins for rent in the event that you forgot your tent or there are holes in your pop-up.
Sandy beaches host tourists who stay onsite as well as those who just come to play in the waves. On a clear day you can sunbathe, look out over the lake for miles, fish, swim, boat, etc..
All modern conveniences, including plumbing and electricity, are provided. Additionally, a camp store is present in case you need to pick up sunscreen or snacks.
Sleepy Hollow State Park
If you have little ones and you are concerned with the giant lakes washing them away from the shore, consider camping more inland.
Sleepy Hollow is located twenty minutes north of Lansing, on a much smaller lake.
Here, you can still swim, fish, water ski, jet ski, boat, etc., without worrying about the riptides of the bigger lakes. Like Lakeport, there are plenty of sandy beaches to play, excavate beach treasures, and picnic.
Perhaps the most enticing feature of this campsite are the mobility aids provided for people with physical challenges. You can rent these aids in advance to arriving at the park, and with your campsite reservation.
Along with the state campgrounds and campsites, there are plenty of private campgrounds as well.
Some of these are well-recognized franchise sites that offer several more amenities than just a spot to park your tent or camp vehicle and a pit toilet.
If these sites are a little more appealing to you, the best ones are listed as follows.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp and Resort
Named for the famous cartoon bear, this franchise of campsites boasts a lot of modern conveniences for campers, including plenty of RV sites and hookups.
If the kids get bored, don’t worry. There is a pool, water park, game room, mini-golf, and much more.
Really the only thing that makes this camping is where you sleep at night and whether or not you spend any time on the nearby lakes.
One of Michigan’s southernmost private campgrounds, it targets the camper/RV/pop-up groups of campers.
With 250 sites with hookups, you are sure to get a spot regardless of when you come. More recently, “glampers” have come to “glamp” here with their truly robust coach-style campers and “glamp” equipment.
Activities are limited to outdoor recreation like hiking, swimming in the St. Joseph River, and fishing, but if you are just looking for a very relaxing weekend with only the frills your equipment brings, then you might like it here.
Oak Grove Campground/Chippewa Landing
This private campground is located in the Northwestern region of the lower peninsula. Two big sites exist to which you can paddle up in a canoe up to your chosen spot, or you can drive in and hook up to electricity and plumbing.
There is WiFi, and they do allow pets in the park, something a lot of state parks refrain from doing. Essentially whatever you can do on the nearby river, including tubing and fishing, are the available activities.
It’s a very quiet and peaceful spot, and loud noises are discouraged so that all campers can enjoy the sounds of the surrounding woods and the bubbling sounds of the river.
Camping is typically by membership only, so you do have to purchase a season pass or membership to camp here.
Wa-Wen Camp Resort on Drummond Island
This is camping at its wildest and yet most posh. The island is set up for ATVs and UTVs, golfers, and a half-dozen other activities not generally associated with camping.
You will need to drive your vehicle onto a ferry from the mainland at the tip of the “thumb of the mitten” of Michigan on its eastern shores, and then drive into the resort from the landing point on Drummond Island. While the resort caters mostly to RVs and other camping vehicles, you can set up a tent on your site if you prefer.
In terms of the “posh” camping, there is a shuffleboard, a heated pool, wireless internet and satellite TV, a basketball court, and you can bring your pets for an additional fee.
Swings are available for the kids and a wildly popular activity offered is scuba diving for shipwrecks. Shipwrecks in the Great Lakes region are so common that there are hundreds of ships at rest on the lake floors that are worth the scuba exploration. (You must have either a scuba license or be willing to take a scuba class at the resort before attempting a guided dive.) If you don’t bring a vehicle or tent in which to camp, it’s not a big deal; there are cabins to rent.
This centrally-located lower peninsula campground is very unique. The kids may or may not find its unique features boring, depending on their level of curiosity where history is concerned.
Aside from the 191 mixed RV/tent campsites, Camp Dearborn boasts a short drive to the nearby museum filled with Michigan’s automotive history’
It’s a quiet, out-of-the way, off the highway sort of campground with plenty of things to do nearby if the kids don’t want to hike or play outdoors.
Good Resources for Finding out More About Camping in Michigan
With over a thousand campgrounds in this state, you are sure to find somewhere to camp. Each campground has its own features that you may or may not find alluring. If you want to find out more about the campgrounds in Michigan, there are a number of resources that can help.
- Pure Michigan: Board of Tourism
- Individual city/region travel sites
- State Department of Parks and Recreation
- Federal Park Listings for National Parks in Michigan
- Private park listings
- Automobile club guides to camping in Michigan
- Trip planning sites that offer camping info
If you are just starting to plan your camping trip in this or to this state, there is no time like the present. Private campgrounds are opening earlier than state or federal parks, which might give you an advantage to booking choice campsites.
Keep a close eye on the state and national parks’ websites for information on when the campgrounds in each are planning to reopen for the season.
It also helps to call ahead for updates and availability before you reserve a camping spot as some campgrounds do not check their availability throughout the day and update their sites hourly.
The last thing you want to do is book a campsite online only to find out that it was technically not available when you booked. Then you will have to find a different spot and make a new reservation. It is smart to make all of your campsite reservations a month in advance to your arrival.