Michigan might not be the first state on your list for outdoor adventures, but it definitely deserves a second look. This Midwestern state plays double duty as a coastal getaway thanks to the Great Lakes found to the north, east, and west.
Michigan provides top-rate campsites to create a home base for all kinds of outdoor recreation, from the expected activities like hiking and boating to the unexpected like snorkeling and even ice climbing.
We’ve put together a list of the top campsites in Michigan to launch your coastal Midwestern adventures. From national parks and state parks to local and private campgrounds, read on to see the top campsites in Michigan and the best things to do while you’re in the area.
Best Places to Camp in Michigan
Michigan is home to seven national parks and lakeshores, 103 state parks, and an endless number of local and private parks. We’ve organized our list of the top campsites in Michigan by national parks, state parks, and local or private campgrounds.
Top 3 National Parks in Michigan
While there are seven national parks and lakeshores in Michigan, we’ve listed the top three locations in the National Park system when it comes to camping.
1. Isle Royale National Park
Located off the northern peninsula of Michigan, Isle Royale National Park is an island surrounded by Lake Superior. Known for its seclusion, Isle Royale National Park has opportunities for backpacking, hiking, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and scuba diving.
All recreation on Isle Royale is considered backcountry, and you’ll receive your backcountry permit when you get to the park. There are no formal campgrounds, and backcountry camping is allowed throughout the park. For groups of six people or less, there’s no reservation or fee required to camp here. For groups of seven people or more, you’ll need a reservation and will have to pay a small fee.
2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore paints an iconic Michigan scene. Located on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the sandstone cliffs create unique geologic formations that can be explored from the water. The lakeshore’s scalable dunes, sheltered beaches, and birch forest trails make Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore a must-see Michigan site.
Spend your days hiking, kayaking, and viewing wildlife. Spend your nights at one of the three campsites in the National Lakeshore including Little Beaver Lake Campground, Hurricane River Campground, and Twelvemile Beach Campground.
All campsites in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore require a reservation and are only open May 15 through October 15. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance, and can be made by calling 1-877-444-677 or visiting their website.
If you can’t decide between forests and beaches for your getaway, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the perfect Michigan location for you. Located on the northeast shore of Lake Michigan in the Lower Peninsula, opportunities for adventure are endless. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is worth the trip in all seasons, with swimming, hiking, and climbing popular in the warmer months and trails designed for skiing in the winter when snow conditions are right.
To stay the night, camping opportunities include campgrounds like Platte River Campground, D.H. Day Group Campground, and South Manitou Island Bay and Weather Station campgrounds. To reserve campgrounds at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you can call 1-877-444-677 or visit their website.
Top 5 State Parks in Michigan
Michigan is home to over a hundred state parks, with most of them having camping opportunities. The five state parks listed here provide unique Michigan experiences and a variety of camping opportunities.
1. Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a can’t-miss Michigan classic. With almost 50,000 acres of untouched woodlands and waterfalls, this part was created to preserve one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park has several campsites with a variety of amenities from modern to rustic.
Another gem on the Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains State Park includes approximately 60,000 acres of old growth forests with waterfalls, rivers, and streams. As Michigan’s largest state park, it boasts almost 90 miles of hiking trails, most of which can be found in large wilderness areas throughout the park.
Campground options include both modern and rustic amenities, with the most popular campgrounds being Presque Isle campground and Union Bay campground. Backcountry camping is also permitted throughout the park with proper permits.
3. Sleepy Hollow State Park
If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway from Michigan’s urban areas, Sleepy Hollow State Park might be the perfect location for you. Located half an hour north of Lansing and an hour and a half northwest of Detroit, this state park is easily accessible while still providing access to rivers, fields, and trails. Birding is one of the most popular activities in Sleepy Hollow State Park, with over 228 bird species present. This state park is also known for its modern campgrounds, with 181 campsites available year-round.
4. Wilderness State Park
On Michigan’s northern coast, Wilderness State Park includes 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and over 10,000 acres of protected land. Wilderness State Park is a designated dark sky preserve and is therefore well known for great stargazing conditions. Campground options include rustic tent-only sites, full hook-up sites, and cabins and bunkhouse.
5. Albert E. Sleeper State Park
Located along Lake Huron on the so-called thumb of Michigan, Albert E. Sleeper State Park provides recreation opportunities for all ages. This park includes 723 acres of forest, wetlands, dunes, and shoreline with modern campgrounds and even canvas-walled tent rentals.
State Park Camping Reservation System
For camping in Michigan’s state parks, you can make reservations online at MiDNRreservations.com or call 1-800-44-PARKS. Camping reservations can be made up to six months in advance and lodging reservations can be made up to a year in advance. Most campsites also have spaces available on a first come, first served basis. If you’re camping at a state park, you’ll need a state park pass for your vehicle as well.
Top 3 Private Campgrounds in Michigan
Michigan’s privately-owned campgrounds can provide some great options outside of the state or national park systems. These private campgrounds often have more amenities for visitors of all ages. Michigan has too many private campgrounds to count, but here are a few of our favorites due to their unique amenities and prime locations.
1. TriPonds Family Camp Resort in Allegan, Michigan
Located in southwestern Michigan, TriPonds Family Camp Resort is a favorite for families with kids of all ages. Amenities include a playground, mini-golf course, fishing, hiking, and more. Campsites range from more rustic with hook-ups to rental cabins and everything in between. Reservations can be made online.
2. Detroit/Ann Arbor KOA
Michigan has several KOA campsites, all of which provide several amenities and are generally easy to access. The KOA campsite Detroit/Ann Arbor is a great pick for weekend getaways from Michigan’s urban areas and includes a private lake for fishing and swimming, mini-golf, sand volleyball, scheduled activities, and more. The Detroit/Ann Arbor KOA also offers full facilities for laundry, showers, propane refill, dump station, and a store for groceries and souvenirs. Reservations can be made online.
3. Munising Tourist Park Campground
If you’re looking for a campground in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and can’t get a reservation in one of the national parks, try the Munising Tourist Park Campground in Munising, MI. This campsite has tent sites and RV sites and is ideally located to visit Pictured Rocks, Tahquamenon Falls, and more. Reservations can be made online.
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RV Campsites in Michigan
While many state parks offer RV hookups as well as tent camping pads, we’ve highlighted a few RV only campsites. The Bluffs on Manistee Lake has extra large sites with concrete patios, clubhouse with amenities, and a campsite geared towards seniors. The Rippling River Resort is open year-round with RV campsites and luxury cabins.
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Michigan Scenic Drives
Whether you’re passing through the state or choosing your destination based on the most scenic way to get there, Michigan has some incredible scenic drives. From forests to coasts, Michigan’s scenic highways have something to offer every kind of traveler. Here are just a few examples of the top scenic drives throughout the state.
M-119 between Cross Village and Harbor Springs is known as the Tunnel of Trees. Especially beautiful during the fall, this highway takes you through dense deciduous forests, along the coast of Lake Michigan, and shows views of Lake Michigan from the bluffs. This scenic drive is 20 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, M-28 from Marquette to Munising travels the coast of Lake Superior and leads you to boat tours of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This scenic drive is 43 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
For views of Lake Michigan, quaint coastal villages, and local orchards and vineyards, take the Red Arrow Highway from New Buffalo to St. Joseph. This route provides endless opportunities to stop and check out the local art galleries, antiques, and famous Lake Michigan sunsets. This scenic drive is 27 miles long and takes about 30 minutes to complete, but could fill a full day with activities depending on how many stops you make along the way!
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Best Things To Do While Camping in Michigan
Best Things to do For Seniors
Almost every campsite listed here has something to offer for seniors. While the backcountry camping in Isle Royale National Park may be a bit strenuous for some seniors, most of the state parks include paved trails and easy-access campgrounds. In particular, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great option if you have accessibility concerns because it offers off-road electric wheelchairs to help visitors explore parts of the park that would usually be inaccessible.
Best Things to do For Kids
Michigan is a playground for all ages, with endless activities for kids. Privately owned campgrounds are a good place to start if you’re looking for the most amenities, often including swimming pools, wifi, and family activities. But you don’t have to stick with the campsites that are specifically geared towards families and kids. With the right preparation, kids can enjoy outdoor activities at all of the campgrounds shared in this list.
Best Things to do For Day Visitors
Any one of Michigan’s scenic drives provide a great starting point for day visitors. These drives allow you to experience the natural beauty of Michigan in a condensed time frame, and often connect to cities and towns with other amenities.
Best Things to do For All Seasons
Michigan has fantastic outdoor recreation opportunities for all seasons, but be prepared for cold and snowy weather in the winter. If you’re visiting in the summer, popular activities state-wide include hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and birding. If you’re visiting in the winter, popular activities include snowshoeing and even ice climbing in the Upper Peninsula.
Best Michigan Photographs
Michigan is nothing if not picturesque. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite photographs to get you in the mood for this Midwest coastal state!
Water Activities in Michigan
Water activities of all kinds are core to Michigan’s Midwest coastal identity. Whether you’re on one of the Great Lakes or checking out an inland river, the opportunities are endless. If you’re looking for boat tours, Traverse City and Mackinaw City are popular places to start. Most campgrounds on the lakes offer boat rentals, and swimming is available at most water bodies throughout the state.
For the avid anglers and beginner fishermen, Michigan has more than enough to offer. Popular fishing includes trout, walleyes, salmon, perch, and bass. For information on seasonal fishing throughout the state, check out the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Family Friendly Fishing Guide.
Links to Trail Maps
The Michigan Multi-Use Trails Directory and Map gives information for more than 2,100 miles of trails across the state and provides information for usage by hikers, cyclists, and even horses and snowmobiles.
The Michigan Great Lakes Water Trails Map provides all the information you’ll need to kayak across the state or find good day trips on the water.
Tips to Hiking in Michigan
Proper food and water is important when hiking year-round in Michigan. As always, bring plenty of foods and hydration to refuel and stay safe on the trails. Hiking snacks like trail mix, dried or fresh fruit, and jerky are popular choices for hikers. Always bring more water than you think you’ll need, and be aware of water fountains that can be found on trails in state and national parks.
Links to Campground Guidebooks
For information about camping in Michigan’s national parks, check out the National Park Service’s guide on Michigan.
For information about camping in Michigan’s state parks, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Search can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
If a printed copy is more your speed, FalconGuides Camping Michigan book is a comprehensive resource.