Michigan

The 10 Best Lake Camping Destinations in Michigan

best lake camping michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore // Photo: John McCormick, Shutterstock

Michigan touches four of America’s largest freshwater lakes and boasts 10,000 more beyond that, so you don’t have to look far for fantastic lake camping in the Wolverine State.

Aptly named The Great Lakes State, the majority of Michigan’s borders are carved out by the impressive waters of Lake Michigan, Superior, Huron, and Erie. Believe it or not, the state has so much coast that it boasts the second-longest coastline in the U.S.

With access to so much water, it’s no wonder top attractions in Michigan include kayaking, boating, fishing, and visiting the beach. But the Great Lakes aren’t all there are to see and enjoy in Michigan. Throughout the state, nature lovers can set up camp to enjoy the state’s forests, miles of hiking trails, and wind-swept dunes.

Michigan has over 100 state campgrounds to choose from, but this top list shares the best lake camping in Michigan for your next waterfront adventure.

Related: Michigan National Park Guide: Everything You Need to Know

1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Photo: KY Phua, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Sleep along a lakeshore lined with colorful sandstone formations on Lake Superior.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RVs
  • RV hookups: No

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore encompasses over 70,000 acres of forest and 40 miles of Lake Superior shoreline. This nationally protected park is known for towering sandstone cliffs with colorful layers shaped by the water over thousands of years.

The park offers three small drive-in campgrounds with basic amenities. Reservations are required and can be made six months in advance. Kayaking and hiking are the best ways to explore the many nooks and crannies of Pictured Rocks. Be sure not to miss iconic landmarks like Chapel Rock and Miner’s Castle, and prepare for summer days spent on the beach. Don’t have your own boat? Sign up for an open-top boat tour to see the best of the coastline.

Related read: 12 Epic Airbnb Campsites Around the U.S.

2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Camping
Photo: Delcroix Romain, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Pick from modern or rustic campground facilities just west of Traverse City.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Whatever your camping style, you’ll find some of the best lake camping in Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It offers campers modern, rustic, or backpacking sites immersed in the beauty of Lake Michigan’s ecosystem. Your three choices are the Platte River, D.H. Day, and South Manitou Island campsites. R.V. campers should head to the Platte River grounds to take advantage of R.V. hookups, and walk-in campers can take advantage of the sites on beautiful South Manitou Island.

One of the best things to do in the park is the famous Dune Climb, a challenging hike up a towering sand hill for views of Glen Lake. Those who’ve come for water adventures are free to kayak, boat, and swim in Lake Michigan or along the rivers that run through the park. Other things to do include visiting the historic 1871 lighthouse or old ranger stations.

Related Read: 9 Amazing Places to See Fall Colors in Michigan

3. Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park Camping
Photo: Jacob Boomsma, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Backpack and camp in one of America’s least-visited national park.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Summer
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

The midwest isn’t typically known for rugged adventure, but the Isle Royale National Park is a great place to find it in Michigan. This island national park is tucked away in Lake Superior above the Upper Peninsula, close to Canada’s border. It features 36 first-come, first-serve sites accessible only by water or by foot and is best suited for experienced campers. It’s not only some of the best lake camping in Michigan, it’s some of the best camping in any of America’s 63 national parks. Heck, you may even see a wolf!

All sites have access to a water source and outhouses, and while reservations aren’t possible, campers do need an overnight permit. The best things to do on the island include hiking the Greenstone Ridge Trail, kayaking, and looking out for native moose.

4. Leelanau State Park

Leelanau State Park Camping
Photo: Craig Sterken, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: A quiet, no-frills campground overlooking Grand Traverse Bay.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Wake up lakeside in the rustic grounds of Leelanau State Park. Located on the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, this state park offers campers a rustic camping experience along the rocky shores of Lake Michigan or tucked into the dense woods overlooking the waves. Small trailers or R.V.s up to 25 feet long are allowed in the drive-in sites, and there are also three mini-cabins available for booking.

The top attractions at Leelanau State Park include hunting for Petoskey fossilized stones, exploring the Cathead Bay hiking and skiing trails, and touring the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum – it’s the oldest lighthouse still standing on the Great Lakes. Newport is the nearest city offering local eats and shops.

5. Craig Lake State Park

craig lake camping michigan
Photo: Michigan DNR

Why you should camp here: Camp at one of the state’s most remote parks with six pristine lakes and diverse wildlife.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tent
  • RV hookups: No

Non-reservable, backcountry camping makes Craig Lake State Park an exciting place to set up camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park’s rustic sites allow pets and feature a fire pit, a picnic table, and access to primitive toilets. There are campsites scattered around Teddy Lake, Craig Lake, Clair Lake, Crooked Lake, and Lake Keewaydin.

If rustic camping isn’t your thing, but you’d still like to indulge in a little lake camping in Michigan, the park has reservable lakeside glampsites: two yurts and two cabins. Craig Lake State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts where you can hike, fish, hunt, boat, and go snowmobiling in the winter. The park is in the middle of the U.P., west of Marquette.

6. Ludington State Park

lake camping in michigan
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Popular state park sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Ludington State Park is home to a diverse landscape of idyllic marshlands, scenic shoreline views, and rolling dunes. The park’s main points of interest include the famous beach, the historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse, and the Big Sable River. And human-made Hamlin Lake is also known for excellent fishing and boating.

When planning a camping trip to Ludington State Park, there are three main campgrounds to choose from, each with modern facilities. Take your pick between the Pines, Cedar, or Beechwood grounds; Pines is closer to Lake Michigan while Beechwood is nearest Hamlin Lake. The park is about an hour and a half north of Grand Rapids.

7. Port Crescent State Park

Port Crescent State Park michigan
Photo: Tim Fuller, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: A designated dark-sky preserve with views of Lake Huron.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Just north of Detroit on the tip of Michigan’s thumb is Port Crescent State Park. Campers come from all over the state to marvel at the clear and bright stargazing opportunities and relax on miles of sandy beaches. Visitors can take advantage of Lake Huron’s excellent fishing, canoeing, bird watching, and colorful sunsets.

There are a few different camping options to choose from at Port Crescent. Camp out at the modern campground or reserve a stay in the unique lodgings that include geodesic domes, cabins, and mini-cabins. Reservations for the vacation rentals are possible up to a year in advance and up to six months for campsites. Pets are also welcome, but must be kept on a leash at all times.

8. Fisherman’s Island State Park

Fisherman’s Island State Park michigan
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Wooded campsites with easy access to sandy dunes, beaches, and wildflowers.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents/RV’s
  • RV hookups: No

If you’re looking for rustic lake camping in Michigan, look to Fisherman’s Island State Park. There are 80 sites each furnished with a fire ring and a picnic table. Most of the campground’s sites are in the woods away from the water, but there are 15 along the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Vault toilets are nearby, but that’s about it – there aren’t any modern facilities, showers, or electrical sites.

The park was named after an island that previously existed, but declining water levels have since turned into a peninsula. As winter changes to spring, wildflowers native to the midwest begin to spring up along the shore of Lake Michigan, adding a touch of color to the landscape and creating a great destination for landscape photographers.

9. Pinckney Recreation Area

lake camping in michigan
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Lakes, hiking trails, and remote campsites for a quick overnight from Detroit.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Winter
  • Campsite type: Tents/RV’s
  • RV hookups: Yes

Avid hikers and anglers often choose to set up camp at the Pinckney Recreation Area, where seven lakes and more than 40 miles of hiking trails offer plenty to do and see. There are three campgrounds and backcountry sites, all of which can be reserved.

The Blind Lake campground has tent-only sites, Crooked Lake is known for its rustic camping with few R.V. sites, and Bruin Lake is the only campground with electric hookups. In addition to everything the park offers, the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center is another popular area attraction.

10. Hoeft State Park

lake camping in michigan
Photo: Getty Images

Why you should camp here: Beach camping on Lake Huron for a summer getaway.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer
  • Campsite type: Tents/RV’s
  • RV hookups: Yes

Along the eastern coast of Michigan lies Hoeft State Park, a favorite outdoor destination for summer travelers after a beach vacation. The park’s Ossineke State Forest surrounds a basic campground where thickets of trees shade 42 sites. The grounds offer various amenities such as a public grill out area, boardwalk trails, the world’s largest open limestone pit, and a lighthouse. The state’s famous Huron Sunrise Trail ends at Hoeft State Park, starting at nearby Roger City. It’s about 30 minutes from Cheboygan, making it a very doable overnight or last-minute trip.

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