Michigan is the perfect location for water enthusiasts. The State’s name originates from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, meaning “large water” or “large lake”. Michigan certainly lives up to its name, as it boasts the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world. It’s also a part of the Great Lake region and is bounded by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake Saint Claire. Once you’re in Michigan, you’re never more than six miles from a natural water source!
So if you’re wanting to fully immerse yourself in aquatic nature, Michigan could be the perfect state for you to plan your next camping trip. And, seeing as Michigan is one of the leading states for recreational boating, we’ve compiled a list of the best camping in Michigan for camping, so you can fully make the most of the aqua-possibilities: whether you’re canoeing down a river, or admiring the view of the lake from your tranquil campsite. So whether you’re camping with a hammock or out of the back of a truck, this is the destination for you.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s famous for its geological wonders, namely the stunning multicolored Pictured Rocks cliffs. There are some breathtaking natural rock formations that cannot be missed when you’re visiting this part of the world, such as Chapel Rock and Miners Castle. The rugged beauty of these beaches and coastline make this region entirely unusual, and we would recommend it as the best place for camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
There are three campgrounds available, with drive-in access and many tent sites, in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. With these, you can choose whether you want to camp next to a lake, river or on the beach. We would recommend Little Beaver Lake Campground. If you’re spending your days hiking and canoeing in the stunning scenery of the cliffs and rock formations, we think it’s nice to come home to a break of tranquility. What better way to get this than relaxing by a peaceful lake?
Little Beaver Campground has eight campsites, all situated on a lovely inland lake. Right on-site, there is a 1-mile self-guiding interpretive trail, and just follow a 1.5-mile trail leading out to Lake Superior, to catch a glimpse of the stunning beaches and cliffs. There’s also access for hikers to the North Country Trail, traversing the park for 42.8 miles. In this campground, you can relax with your group after a long day adventuring, with picnic tables, fire grates and tent pads provided at each site. However, one downside of this campground is that large motorhomes or trailers aren’t recommended as the campsites are small and have narrow, hilly road access. The campsites here give you a wonderful feeling of privacy in the great outdoors, as they are all scattered beneath the shade of trees, but the amenities are very basic – they don’t even have a shower. This is a great option for those who care more about location than luxury.
- Location and hiking options
- Picnic tables, fire grates
- Not RV accessible
- Can only pay in cash
- No shower facilities
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, in Benzie and Leelanau counties. Shaped by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago, after the Ice Age, the miles of sand dunes and picturesque beaches are not just stunning to be around. They also offer the opportunity to dive into understanding the diverse terrain and ecology of the dune environment, how it was shaped by its history, and to learn about the natural world and its immense processes. There is also incredibly rare and beautiful nature to be observed, such as the “Petoskey Stone”, a fossilized coral, which has been living in the warm shallow seas of Michigan for some 350 million years.
As well as an interesting geography lesson, there are so many things that will keep you and your party occupied in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can canoe, kayak or tube down the crystal clear waters. Or sit on the shore of perfect white sand, watching the late summer sunset and letting your troubles wash away. In the winter, even more adventures open up. There are opportunities to snowshoe, cross country or downhill skiing, snowboarding, or hiking in the wilderness. There are many camping opportunities in the Park, with three individual campgrounds, and three additional primitive camping areas, making up the Manitou Islands Campgrounds. Our top recommendation would be the DH Day Campground.
The DH Day Campground is not the best option if you’re looking for a full-on “glamping” experience, as this is a rustic campground so offers a primitive camping experience. There are many sites to choose from in this tent- focused campground: 81 to be exact, all located in beautiful woodland, with shared water spigots and vault toilets. It does have free hot showers available for campers – but you’ll have to trek over the Platte River Campground, about 17 miles south along the highway. If you don’t mind a DIY solution, click here for our advice on the best camping showers on the market.
Each campsite has a parking area, picnic table, fire ring, and tent pad. You can also buy firewood on site. The selling point for this campsite really is it’s location. Along the shoreline of the campground, campers can instantly access opportunities for kayaking, fishing, swimming, and canoeing. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail also passes through the site, offering over twenty miles of trail for multiuse: biking or hiking. The campsite is also just a 15-minute walk away from the historic village of Glen Haven. So if you’re looking for a campsite with the most stunning location, and with activities right on your doorstep, and don’t mind roughing it just a bit, the DH Day Campground could be the perfect option for you.
- Restrooms and water facilities
- Picnic tables, fire rings
- Long journey to the showers
- Few amenities: rustic camping
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and encompasses up to 52,000 acres of woodlands and rivers, stretched over 13 miles. Much of the park is totally undeveloped woodland, without roads, powerlines or buildings. The namesake and central attraction to this park is the Tahquamenon River and its waterfalls. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Michigan and is stunningly beautiful. Trust us, you really need to see it, we think it’s one of the most beautiful natural features we have seen in this state. The Upper Falls has a drop of 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. So, to truly be in awe of the magnitude of nature, choose to plan Tahquamenon Falls State Park into your backcountry camping trip. Just down the river, there’s also the equally magnificent Lower Falls. Although they are not as large, they are just as beautiful, with 5 smaller falls cascading around a central island.
There’s an amazing variety of activities to be done in this national park, enough to satisfy any outdoors enthusiast. In the spring and summer, you can go hiking, backpacking, fishing, canoeing – or for the thespians amongst you, this is a famous spot for artists, who go to draw or photograph the picturesque landscapes. If you’re going for this reason, we’d recommend you going in the fall, the colors of the woodland trees are truly spectacular. There are also many opportunities for hunting in the park. In the winter you can also go snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing, along miles of safely marked trails. This is also a perfect photo opportunity moment: the frozen waterfalls are a sight to behold. There are also some amazing wildlife sighting opportunities: otter, deer, fox, black bear, coyotes, porcupine, beaver and mink.
The State Park Campground has all the facilities and amenities to help you to fully enjoy this incredible natural landscape. However, due to its famous beauty, this campground is often very busy, so book far in advance to avoid disappointment. There’s also no water available at the park for RV, so make sure to come with a full water tank. There are bathrooms, showers and a camp store for all the basics you could need, but no full hookup for RV, so we would recommend this as a great option if you’re going to be tent camping. Just don’t forget to bring your Yeti cooler along!
- Bathrooms and shower
- Playground for the young ones
- A camp store for all your necessities
- No Wi-Fi
- No water for RV or hookup
Warren Dunes is one of the most popular places to camp in Michigan, with over one million people visiting every year. So if you’re looking to camp here, make sure you book in advance! Warren Dunes is located along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, in Berrien County. The Park’s popularity is not at all surprising considering the majestic sand dunes and long lakeshore beaches. This is a perfect location to get away, relax with your family and paddle in the waters, and let the stress of everyday life wash off of you, and we think one of the best places to camp in the United States. The Warren Dunes State Park provides 1,952 acres of possibilities. With a rugged dune formation rising 260 feet above the lake, this truly is a great location for being in awe of nature. Not only to observe, and for the amazing views on top, this natural feature also offers recreational activities like hang-gliding. The park also boasts 3 miles of sandy beaches, for kayaking, swimming and canoeing, and six miles of hiking trails.
One of the best places to stay to fully embrace the dunes is the Warren Dunes State Park Campground. Just below the dunes, you’re right in the middle of the action here, it’s only a short romp over the dunes to reach the lakeside beach. However, it’s amazing location can sometimes make this campground a little too popular… in some summer months, you might feel like you’re more at a festival than a relaxing campground retreat. We would recommend camping here in Spring or Fall to avoid disappointment and to escape the crowds.
The Campground can also be a little too expensive for many – especially with an unforeseen additional $9 a day for out of state residence nightly fee, so make sure to budget for any of these unforeseen costs. Also, there’s not a huge amount of privacy with this campground, as there aren’t many trees. There’s only one wooded site – so aim for here if you need a little more exclusivity. However, if you’re camping here, it really is to make the most of the dunes and the activities you can do in the area, so choose this campsite if you don’t mind sharing your space and your number one priority is the location.
- Location is right next to the stunning dunes
- Access to nature trails and right next to the beach
- Open year-round
- Can get very busy and overcrowded
- Unforeseen extra costs
Traverse City State Park is super close to Traverse City, so this is the perfect option for those who are looking for a little weekend getaway, or an easily accessible camping experience. The Park is on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, where you can go canoeing, kayaking, swimming and more. You can also go on a short walk via an overpass to Lake Michigan, so you’re in close reach of the beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters. Many of the other options we’ve shown you have been perfect for location, and are situated right in the heart of the natural phenomena we think you’ll be most interested in. However, the Traverse City State Park offers you the best of both worlds, if accessibility is high up on your list. The State Park campground has over 300 campsites all with full RV hookup. There’s also a stable Wi-Fi connection and good mobile connectivity.
Its ease and accessibility are why we’re suggesting this campground as an option. If you’re looking for a more rugged camping experience, then this definitely isn’t the option for you. It’s a far better option if you’re looking for a good RV park, with full hookups. With its numerous sites, you’re not going to be in for much peace and quiet: you can also sometimes hear some road noise, planes flying overhead and sometimes a train. This is the perfect option for you if you’re looking for the urban camping experience, with the bells and whistles attached.
- Close to Traverse City and easily accessible
- Full hookup for RV
- Good mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi
- Access to Lake Michigan
- Can get loud and noisy with nearby traffic sounds
- Not much privacy
If you’re looking for accessible camping, close to a city, but don’t want to sacrifice the wilderness experience, then the Wilderness State Park could be the perfect option for you. Wilderness State Park is a public recreation area, bordering Lake Michigan, five miles southwest of Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan. The gorgeous state park includes 26 miles of shoreline, swale complexes, diverse forest dunes, wetlands and many miles of hiking trails. So if you’re looking for a diverse ecosystem, with many natural features to behold, all within an easy drive of the city: this could be your next perfect getaway. If you want to use this as your base, and opt for a more adventurous experience – head out to Mackinac Island for a remote and stunning day trip.
We would recommend staying in the Wilderness State Park: Carp Lake campground. This is a well-run state campground, one of the best out of the Michigan State Parks, with all the necessary amenities, such as bathrooms and shower facilities. There’s also full hookup for RV. The campsite is slightly DIY, which could be a benefit or a drawback depending on your perspective. There’s no-one designated to check you in, so you have to check-in via a telephone system. This could be good for you if you’re an independent camper who wants to be able to check-in and leave quickly – but not so good if you want some human interaction and maybe an introduction or some recommendations for what to do in the area. If you do choose to camp with a tent don’t forget to waterproof it first, since it can get wet in these parts, especially in the spring months.
However, with this campsite, you’re not going to get tranquility and privacy, especially in busy seasons. The campsite has over 250 campsites, and with its accessibility to Mackinaw City, it can become overpopulated. However, the campsites are situated in different locations, some amongst trees, so you can choose the campsite that works for you. The beach is also right in the park, so on your doorstep, you have access to multiple different activities such as swimming, fishing, boat launch, and canoeing. The campsite also has great access to hiking trails and biking trails. There’s also a dog beach and a playground, so this is a great option for families.
- Close to Mackinaw City
- Good mobile connectivity
- Full hookup for RV
- Great fishing access
- No laundry facilities
- No Wi-Fi
- Can get busy during the season
Michigan is a beautiful state to plan your next camping trip, namely due to the amazing water features, and waterside locations you can find in this state. We’ve only handpicked for you 6 of our best options, that fully make the most of Michigan’s stunning and rugged coastline, pristine sand beaches and monumental sand dunes. With these we’ve given you a few different options to choose from, to try and satisfy everyone’s needs. If you’re looking to be humbled by the scale and complexity of nature, and observe the magnificent sea stacks and rock formations off the coast, want to be in the heart of nature, and don’t mind a slightly rougher camping experience, then look to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Or if you’re looking for a more convenient camping experience, perfect for RV, and right next to a city, then opt for Wilderness State Park.
For all those water-sports enthusiasts, Michigan will feel like your second home. From swimming to boating, kayaking to fishing, we know you’ll find the right spot for you. After all, Michigan has 64,980 inland lakes and ponds! Because of its unique geography, made of two peninsulas, you are never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake shoreline. So for true immersion in stunning nature, choose camping in Michigan, we know you won’t regret it.