Sunset at McLain State Park
Camping is more popular than ever and I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite places to get into nature in Michigan. It is important to note that many of these campgrounds fill up on summer weekends, so definitely try to make reservations early! Unless otherwise noted, campgrounds in Michigan take reservations 6 months in advance and the popular, waterfront sites are very competitive!
When looking for campgrounds for tent camping, I’m looking for:
- Privacy: without a big RV to retreat to, I prefer to have some trees separating me from my neighbors
- View: my favorite campsites in Michigan are usually near a body of water and being able to see it from your site is unbeatable
- Location: we are not the kind of campers that hang around the campground all day. We like campgrounds with activities nearby, whether it be hiking, boating or a town to explore
- Cleanliness: while I haven’t had an issue with any campground in Michigan being unhygienic, the ones that made this list are clean.
- Rustic vs. modern: I don’t need electric service while camping. I have learned that everything I need to power (mainly charging phones and camera batteries) can be powered through the AC adapter in my car or from a battery pack. Modern bathhouses and showers are a plus but I am not opposed to an outhouse. I haven’t been brave enough to try dispersed camping without an outhouse yet.
With those parameters in place, here are my favorite campgrounds in Michigan, in no particular order:
D.H. Day is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This campground started taking reservations a few years ago, before that people literally lined up early in the morning to get a site here and after camping here, I understand why. It is a rustic campground but campers do have access to the showers at Platte River (the modern campground in the park). The sites are big and very private and there is a nice beach located within the campground. When I booked, the only sites available were in the generator loop. With the rules about when generators can be run, it was pretty peaceful. Reservations are accepted from May to October. The rest of the year it is still first come, first served. With online reservations, D.H. Day books up early. You can book 6 months out at Recreation.gov.
Fisherman’s Island State Park is located near Charlevoix. The waterfront sites here are AMAZING and can fit a tent or small trailer. You basically have a small beach on Lake Michigan to yourself. This is a completely rustic campground but the setting is totally worth it! It is very quiet and it’s not too hard to get a site in peak season although the waterfront sites book up early. To book, visit midnrreservations.com.
Like many Michigan State Parks, Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P. is a large park with many campgrounds throughout. My favorite has to be Rivermouth Pines. Located away from the falls where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, this area is off the beaten path and quiet. The sites are well spaced out and some of them are right on the water. The sites in this area are rustic but it is within walking distance to the Rivermouth campground where there is a modern bathhouse. To book visit, midnrreservations.com.
Hoeft State Park, located near Rogers City, is really a hidden gem of the Michigan State Park system. It has a gorgeous Lake Huron beach and is near the Huron-Sunrise trail which is a popular biking destination. The sites are large and spread out with electric service and a modern bathhouse. One of the best things about this park is that is typically pretty easy to get a site and only really fills up on holiday weekends. It is still a good idea to reserve a site ahead of time at midrnreservations.com.
Straits State Park in St. Ignace is the only campground that we routinely return to. It is very close to downtown St. Ignace so it’s very convenient if you are planning on visiting Mackinac Island. But what keeps me coming back to this park are the waterfront, bridge view sites. Even if you can’t get right on the water, both lower campgrounds have great views of the bridge and there is a little bench on the water where you can sit if you didn’t score a bridge-view site. The sites right on the water do not have electric service but Straits has the best showers in all of the state park system. The waterfront sites tend to fill up quickly but are easier to get during the week. To book, visit Midnrreservations.com.
Update 2023: Over the last few years the bridge view sites have opened up for the bigger rigs. What this means is that unless you can score one of those sites, you can’t really see the bridge from your site. Also, this makes the campground feel much more crowded than in the past. The waterfront bridge view sites are still some of my favorites in the Michigan State Park system, but they are harder to get. The sites farther back are the typical Michigan State Park open-field campground and are not my favorites for tent camping.
Located on the tip of Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan’s Pinky Finger), Leelanau State Park is a beautifully wooded, rustic campground jutting into Lake Michigan. Half of the sites are on the water and the other half are tucked back in the woods. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse is walkable from the campground and it is a great base for exploring all that Leelanau Peninsula has to offer. Being that the park is at the tip of the peninsula, it is far from Sleeping Bear Dunes. D.H. Day is probably a better option if you are looking to spend your time in the National Lakeshore. Reservations can be made at midnrreservations.com.
On the Keweenaw peninsula near Hancock, McLain wins the award for best campground view ever. Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, this campground offers a stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset over Lake Superior! The sites are kind of close and don’t offer a lot of privacy, but they do have electric service. Since I’ve been there, they did a major refurbishment of the campground since some of the cliffs had eroded and they lost some of the sites. With the renovation came a new bathhouse which was sorely needed. It’s not a bad idea to book a site in advance at midnrreservations.com
Wilderness State Park, located near Mackinaw City, is one of the biggest state parks in the lower peninsula and has several typical state park campgrounds. A few years ago they added these amazing waterfront tent sites (double letter sites AA, BB, etc). These sites are very private and quiet, except for the road noise you get because they are right at the entrance to the park. What is amazing about these sites is that they sit right on the water so each site essentially has its own private beach. These sites are rustic but there is a modern bathroom at the nearby entrance station. These sites are set slightly off from where the parking is so they are not accessible for any kind of trailer. There are only a handful of these sites so it is best to reserve them early on midnrreservations.com.
Located in Christmas, Michigan not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Bay Furnace is a National Forest Service campground. It is completely rustic with outhouses but the sites are very private and the campground is very quiet. Of course, the park also has a beautiful, rocky beach on Lake Superior which is a great place to watch the sunset at the end of the day. While the campgrounds at Pictured Rocks do now take reservations, they are pretty small and fill up quickly so Bay Furnace is a great alternative. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov.
Located on the shores of Lake Huron, not far from Mackinaw City, Cheboygan State Park is home to a small campground with outdated electrical service that keeps a lot of the big rigs away. Some of the sites in the park are the tightly packed open fields that Michigan State Parks are known for, but the waterfront sites are very private and wooded with private paths to the water. The park is scheduled for an upgrade to the water and electric system which will probably make it more popular, but hopefully, the waterfront sites will be untouched! Reservations can be made in advance at midrnreservations.com.
Jack Pine campground at Ludington State Park is a hike-in campground and one of my absolute favorite campgrounds in the state. Located only about a mile from the parking area along the gravel path to the lighthouse, Jack Pine is one of the most accessible backcountry campgrounds in Michigan. We carried our gear in a wagon but a lot of people get to the campground by bike. Ludington State Park is one of the most popular places to camp in Michigan and most of the campgrounds in the park have cramped, small sites without much privacy. Jack Pine takes a little more effort to get to, but it rewards with quiet and privacy. Reservations can be made in advance at midnrreservations.com.
Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite campground in Michigan? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.