Michigan is rife with opportunity for outdoor adventures, including some of the best camping in the United States.
Touching four of the five Great Lakes, the state has more than 3,288 miles of freshwater shoreline plus more than 11,000 inland lakes. All this in addition to 20 million acres of forest just waiting to be explored.
Divided into two by the Straits of Mackinac, both the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula and long, slender Upper Peninsula (often shortened to the UP) boast a diverse collection of terrain and natural beauty as well as countless camping opportunities.
Whether you prefer tent camping at a secluded rustic campground or RV camping in a bustling RV Park, the Wolverine State has you covered. Same goes for free camping, overnight backpacking, winter camping, and so much more.
Here are 33 of the best places to go camping in Michigan.
- Tent Camping in Michigan
- RV Camping in Michigan
- Free Camping in Michigan
- Winter Camping in Michigan
- Gear You’ll Need
Best Tent Camping in Michigan
Looking for the best rustic camping in Michigan? The Mitten State literally has hundreds of campgrounds that are perfect for tent camping. But we’ve picked out a few of the most peaceful, secluded, and scenic that Michigan has to offer.
Here are 11 of the best places to go tent camping in Michigan.
Home to some of the best camping in Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011.
With three individual campgrounds plus a spacious group camping area, there’s plenty of room to spread out. The rustic D.H. Day Campground is popular among tent campers while the Platte River Campground has a mix of tent and RV sites (some with electrical hookups). Three additional primitive camping areas make up the Manitou Islands Campgrounds.
Use these Michigan campgrounds as a homebase for exploring the miles of sandy beach, peaceful forests, and historic villages, and the island lighthouse.
The wild beauty of the colorful sandstone cliffs and rugged Lake Superior beaches make Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore one of the best places for camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Three drive-in car campgrounds are available (Little Beaver Lake Campground, Hurricane River Campground, and Twelvemile Beach Campground). All campsites are rustic without any hookups, although all three campgrounds do have sites spacious enough for RVs up to 36 feet or vehicle/trailers up to 42 feet. Some backcountry camping is also available for backpackers.
In addition to camping, there are a variety of scenic sites to visit as well as hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Kayaking is another popular way to explore some of the more remote lakeside cliffs, although beginners should use a guided kayak tour as the waters can be dangerous.
Over one million people visit Warren Dunes State Park each year – and for good reason. It’s one of the best places to tent camp in Michigan, bar none.
The state park has two campgrounds, a modern campground with RV hookups and flush toilets and a semi-modern campground with rustic campsites better suited for tents, plus a spacious group camping area. All campsites are just a short walk to the beach. Note that Warren Dunes is one of the most popular campgrounds in Michigan – so book early for the summer months.
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, this state park is also popular for swimming, metal detecting, and picnicking. The large sand dunes (including Tower Hill, the tallest in the park) are ideal for sandboarding for those up for the thrill.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to two waterfalls of the same name: the powerful upper falls, notable as one of the largest in the eastern United States, and the less dramatic but equally beautiful lower falls.
The first of the state park’s two campgrounds, the Lower Falls Campground, is set alongside the Tahquamenon River near the lower falls. It’s the more modern of the two with hot showers, flush toilets, and portable water as well as electrical hookups for RVs. The Tahquamenon Falls Rivermouth Unit is much more rustic and private.
In addition to visiting Tahquamenon Falls, there are over 50,000 acres of largely undeveloped wilderness to explore. Fishing on the shores of Lake Superior in nearby Whitefish Bay is another popular activity.
Camping in the Upper Peninsula just doesn’t get much better than Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, notable as Michigan’s largest state park.
Located in the northwestern reaches of the Upper Peninsula, this popular Michigan state park campground consists of several rustic camping areas in addition to a more modern campground with RV hookups. Or, choose from several cabins or yurts if you prefer glamping over camping.
Although it can be hard to tear yourself away from the beautiful Lake Superior shoreline, more than 35,000 acres of old-growth forest plus nearly 25,000 additional acres of wilderness are waiting to be explored. Don’t forget to stop by Lake of the Clouds, notable as one of the most beautiful (and most photographed) natural features in the entire Upper Peninsula.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Traverse City, Traverse City State Park is perfect for those that prefer an easily accessible, amenities-filled tent camping experience.
Set on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, a long, narrow offshoot of Lake Michigan, the state park is most notable for its large campground. Open all year round, even for winter camping, the campground has more than 300 campsites all with RV hookups.
If camping on Lake Michigan is what you’re after, you’ll love the short walk (via an overpass) from Traverse City State Park’s campground to the sandy beach and clear blue waters.
Huron National Forest is a favorite Michigan camping destination for those exploring the eastern side of the Lower Peninsula.
With 14 developed campgrounds, there’s plenty of room to spread out. The largest and busiest of these is Mack Lake Campground near Mio while the smallest and quietest is Gabions Campground near Glennie. But this unique wilderness is perhaps best explored by primitive camping in one of several dispersed camping areas, such as along the Au Sable River.
The Huron National Forest is also popular for OHV riding thanks to the miles of winding trails designated for motorized use. There’s also nearly 250 miles of non-motorized trails reserved for hiking, birdwatching, and more.
Located in the western half of the Lower Peninsula, Manistee National Forest is home to some of the best campgrounds in Michigan.
These include 15 developed campgrounds, numerous camping cabins, and the ability for dispersed camping almost anywhere (with restrictions near the shore of Lake Michigan and alongside certain river corridors). Lake Michigan Campground near Manistee and Hungerford Campground near Big Rapids are two of the most popular.
Don’t forget to check out must-see attractions like the Nordhouse Dunes and Briar Hill (the highest point in the Lower Peninsula). Hiking is also abundant. A 23-mile hiking loop combines portions of the Manistee River Trail and North Country National Scenic Loop into a popular multi-night backpacking trip.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find better place for Michigan tent camping than that at Waterloo State Recreation Area.
The third-largest park in the state, this recreation area is notable for its 11 lakes spread out over a vast expanse of forest and wetlands. Popular activities include horseback riding, bicycling, and hiking as well as fishing, boating, and swimming in the lakes. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular in the winter.
Campers have a choice between four campgrounds with over 400 campsites total. Two of these are modern campgrounds with RV hookups and amenities. The others are an equestrian campground for horses and a rustic campground for primitive tent camping. Several rustic cabins are also available.
Located at the top of the Lower Peninsula, just minutes from Mackinaw City, Wilderness State Park provides year-round camping facilities in a rustic environment.
Much of this public recreation area runs along the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan making it the perfect place for swimming in the summer months. But it also contains huge swaths of dunes, forests, and wetlands sprinkled with hiking trails. The entire state park is a dedicated wilderness area as well as a dark sky preserve.
Wilderness State Park offers a single large campground with 250 campsites. Most have full RV hookups although there are a number of primitive walk-in tent sites. A handful of camping cabins and rustic bunkhouses are also available.
Not to be confused with the town of Houghton in the Upper Peninsula, Houghton Lake State Forest Campground is actually located on the shores of Houghton Lake in the central part of the Lower Peninsula.
The largest inland lake in the state, Houghton Lake is a very popular spot for fishing, boating, and other watersports. The area surrounding the lake is also home to miles of hiking trails.
As for this campground itself, it offers 50 campsites for tent camping. Some accommodate small trailers and RVs (no larger than 40’). Flush toilets and potable water is available.
Best RV Camping in Michigan
Most of the campgrounds above welcome RVs in addition to tents. Some even have RV hookups and dump stations. But we wanted to round up the best RV parks in Michigan for those that prefer a less rustic, primitive RV camping experience with the most amenities possible.
Don’t have your own RV? We’ve partnered with Outdoorsy and RVshare to help you find the best RV rental for your Michigan RV camping trip. And don’t forget to check out our popular guides: renting your first RV and buying your first RV for more information.
Here are 10 of the best places to go RV camping in Michigan.
Traverse City KOA is one of the best places for RV camping in Michigan for exploring the Northern Lower Peninsula.
Although it’s located in the town of Buckley, this KOA is just a half hour drive to Traverse City and the beaches of Lake Michigan. It boasts a laidback, relaxed camping atmosphere with 119 total campsites, including spacious pull-thru sites for large RVs. A large grassy space for tent camping as well as several rustic camping cabins are also available.
Additional amenities include a swimming pool, mini golf course, dog park, and on-site bicycle rentals. The most popular nearby attractions include the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and Grand Traverse Bay. Many visitors make the Traverse City KOA their home base for fishing the seemingly endless surrounding lakes and rivers.
For a rustic RV camping experience in a peaceful wooded setting look no further than White River RV Park & Campground.
Located in West Michigan, this popular RV park is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the shores of Lake Michigan, Silver Lake Sand Dunes, and the vast wilderness that is Manistee National Forest. Those traveling with children might also be interested in visiting nearby Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park.
As for the campground itself, White River RV Park has 229 total RV sites with full hookups, including dozens of pull-thru sites for large rigs. All this in addition to a rustic tent camping area, cabin rentals, restrooms with hot showers, a heated swimming pool, and much more.
Another fantastic Michigan KOA, the Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island KOA serves as an excellent homebase for visiting the upper tip of the Lower Peninsula.
In fact, a walking/bicycling trail connects this KOA with nearby Mackinaw City. Or, take a free shuttle from the campground to the island ferry terminals to visit scenic Mackinac Island and surrounding islands. Or just soak up the sun at the KOA’s own heated pool.
All told, this popular Michigan campground has a huge assortment of full utility RV sites, grassy tent camping sites, and a variety of camping cabins.
Harbortown RV Resort is located in southeast Michigan, roughly midway between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.
This family-friendly Michigan RV park has 250 full service campsites, including pull-thru sites for large RVs, plus cabin rentals. But the additional amenities are where it’s at. These include an arcade, mini golf, go karts track, ice cream shop, heated swimming pool, and even weekly themed celebrations during the summer months.
Outside of the campground, visitors enjoy strolling through downtown Monroe or relaxing on the beaches of Lake Eerie (just minutes away). Other options include taking a day trip up to Detroit to check out top attractions like the Henry Ford Museum or Detroit Institute of Arts.
Another excellent Michigan campground near the western edge of the state, Poncho’s Pond RV Park is set in a large grassy area around the titular pond.
The RV Park has over 250 total campsites. Most of these have full RV hookups. Pull-thru sites are available for large RVs. Tent sites are also available, many of which also have water and electrical hookups. Well-maintained amenities, including a heated swimming pool and hot tub, are also offered.
Poncho’s Pond RV Park is located just outside of the town of Ludington. It’s a short drive to Lake Michigan where you can enjoy the gorgeous beaches and towering sand dunes. Other nearby attractions include Manistee National Forest, Big Sable Point Lighthouse, and more.
Yet another top-notch KOA to RV camp in Michigan, the Munising/Pictured Rocks KOA is ideal for visiting the Upper Peninsula, including the rugged shores of Lake Superior.
Just minutes from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, many visitors make this popular RV campground their homebase for exploring the colorful cliffs, unique rock formations, and massive sand dunes that make this beautiful area so special.
The KOA campground itself has a staggering assortment of full-service RV sites, grassy tent camping areas, and camping cabins. Like most KOAs, there are also a wide range of amenities, including campground-wide Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, and a playground to name just a few.
RV camping in the Upper Peninsula doesn’t get much better than the City of Houghton RV Park.
Located on the outskirts of Houghton smackdab in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, it’s the perfect staging grounds for your Upper Peninsula camping trip. Don’t forget to visit the Keweenaw National Historical Park.
Do note that with just 22 RV campsites, it’s important to make reservations early. Do so and you’ll enjoy the stunning lakeside location along Portage Lake and close proximity to Houghton’s quaint downtown.
Considered by many as a must-see destination in Michigan, Holland Beach State Park pulls in nearly 2 million visitors each year.
There are two campgrounds in the state park. Both are suitable for RVs with full hookups in many spots. Unfortunately, no pull-thru sites are offered. Tent camping and cabin rentals are also available.
In addition to camping, Holland State Park is famous for its beachside location along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan as well as its proximity to Lake Macatawa. Don’t forget to check out the Holland Harbor Light, known locally as Big Red. It’s one of the most iconic lighthouses in Michigan.
RV camping in Michigan doesn’t get much better than Camp Lord Willing RV Park near Monroe, Michigan.
Not only is its location ideal for exploring southeast Michigan, including Lake Eerie, but it’s also one of the best campgrounds near Detroit. It features around 100 campsites with full RV hookups. The peaceful wooded setting near a small fishing pond is perfect for year-round relaxation.
Thanks to its close proximity to Detroit, many RV campers stay here while visiting Michigan’s largest city. Exploring sleepy downtown Monroe is another must while staying here.
Looking for a classic Michigan camping experience without leaving behind the comfort of your RV? Covert/South Haven KOA has you covered.
Like most KOA campgrounds, it offers a ton of amenities. A swimming pool, snack bar, dog park, two fishing ponds, rock climbing wall, and trampoline basketball are only the tip of the iceberg. Then there’s the wide range of camping options, including full-service RV sites, tent camping sites, and cabin rentals.
The Covert/South Haven KOA is located in the southwest corner of Michigan just minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to beachside fun, this area is known for its wineries and microbreweries. A nearby 34-mile bike trail is perfect for family fun of all ages (the KOA even offers bicycle rentals!).
Best Free Camping in Michigan
Finding free campgrounds in Michigan is easier than you might think – you just need to know where to look. We’ve rounded up some of the best free campsites for both tents and RVs.
Note that most free Michigan campgrounds are secluded and remote. Many require dispersed camping (or RV boondocking) without any amenities or facilities. Our guide to free camping breaks down primitive camping in more detail.
Here are 7 of the best places to go free camping in Michigan.
1. Whelan Lake
The Whelan Lake area is undoubtedly one of the best free campsites in Michigan.
Part of the Manistee National Forest, this area is located on Whelan Lake near the Pere Marquette River. It’s also popular for canoeing and fishing in addition to camping.
Whelan Lake is dispersed camping at its finest. There are roughly 13 campsites, a few of which are accessible to smaller trailers. There are no amenities – and that includes no toilets. The road into the camping area is dirt and can be very rough, especially after it rains.
You can’t beat French Farm Lake when it comes to boondocking in Michigan.
Unfortunately, due to its close proximity to Mackinaw City, this free camping area is often overrun and crowded during the summer. It’s also a popular party spot for locals so it’s not exactly quiet. But it is free. And visiting in the shoulder seasons, or even in winter, warrants a much more peaceful atmosphere.
There are roughly 6 marked campsites. The road in is dirt and is often rough (and very sandy in certain spots), although small trailers can make the trek. There are no amenities – and that includes no toilets and no trash. So, make sure to pack out what you pack in to ensure this beautiful Michigan camping area stays open for years to come.
Camping at Shady Brook Park in the town of Bloomingdale is a special experience.
Located in a sleepy town of less than 500 people, this free camping area is situated just outside of town past the city park. The city encourages campers to register at the city hall, although it’s not required. Free Wi-Fi is available a short distance away at the public library. A primitive bathroom is available on site.
Make sure to respect this camping area and the residents of the town. Not many areas still offer free camping in such an easily accessible, small town setting – so don’t ruin it for others down the road.
Dispersed camping is abundant in Hiawatha National Forest.
One of the wildest stretches of land in the Upper Peninsula, this national forest is home to a number of modern campgrounds in addition to its dispersed offerings. The appeal of dispersed camping here is simple. Not only is it completely free, but it’s a great way to get away from others and find your own private patch of woods to call home for a few nights.
Another one of the best places to free camp in Michigan, McKinley Horse Camp is open to all campers, not only equestrians, despite its name.
This camping area is located smackdab in the middle of the Huron National Forest in the Lower Peninsula. Hiking and horseback riding trails are plentiful. In fact, the 200-mile long Shore-to-Shore State Horse Trail passes just nearby.
McKinley Horse Camp isn’t the only place for free camping in Huron National Forest. The bulk of the national forest is open for dispersed camping if you know where to look (the Au Sable River Primitive Camping Area is another backcountry gem).
6. Hovey Lake
A little difficult to find, the extra effort is well worth it as Hovey Lake is home to some of the best camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
This free campground is also located in the Hiawatha National Forest, but it’s especially beautiful setting warrants a closer look. With just 4 campsites total, it’s worth arriving early to secure a spot, although usage is light even in the middle of the summer.
Hovey Lake is notable for its peace and quiet. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing campground in Michigan. Easy access to the lake makes this a prime spot for canoeing and fishing, although the water is too shallow for swimming. Despite its free status, pit toilets and running water are available.
Dispersed camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula doesn’t get much better than Paint River Forks Campground.
This lightly used dispersed campground is a little over 10 miles from the town of Iron River. It has a handful of small pull offs that can be used for camping. A few have picnic tables and fire rings, although there are no toilets (not even pit toilets), trash cans, or other common amenities.
In addition to the peaceful camping, Paint River Forks is an excellent place for fishing and canoeing thanks to its location at the converge of two of the Paint River’s primary forks.
Best Winter Camping in Michigan
Despite the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, winter camping in Michigan is a complete possibility.
With the right winter camping gear, including a four-season tent, cold-weather sleeping bag, and winter tent heater, winter camping in Michigan is downright enjoyable. Our guide to camping in winter has even more tips on how to stay warm and dry
Here are 5 of the best places to go winter camping in Michigan.
Among the very best locations for camping in Michigan, winter or otherwise, Muskegon State Park is a paradise for outdoor lovers.
Two rustic campgrounds offer plenty of space for secluded tent and RV camping. Not all the campsites are open during the winter, only around 20 total. This is in addition two rustic camping cabins and a yurt, also open for winter use. Do note that the normal facilities are shut down for the off-season, so prepare to use a pit toilet or bring your own camping toilet.
Muskegon State Park has proven popular among winter campers over the past several years with many visitors flocking to the park for the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well as ice skating at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex.
If you can handle winter camping in the Upper Peninsula, there are few better places to visit than Sturgeon River Campground.
Located in the Ottawa National Forest, this small, secluded campground is ideal for winter camping thanks to the ample opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The area is also well suited for snowmobiling, although motorized vehicles are not allowed in the nearby Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness.
Also remember that this is primitive camping at its finest. This means few, if any amenities, beyond a pit toilet, so plan accordingly.
Open to campers all year round, Algonac State Park is one of the best places for winter camping in the far eastern reaches of the Lower Peninsula.
This popular Michigan campground is notable for its location right alongside the St. Clair River, the international boundary between the United States and Canada. Many campers enjoy watching the international freighters and cargo vessels pass by.
This winter campground is noteworthy because it actually keeps some services and amenities open all year-round. For example, it provides electrical hookups for RV camping during the winter. It also keeps its semi-modern bathrooms open. You can even get potable water from the nearby headquarters no matter the season.
Enjoy the peace and quiet of winter camping at Fort Custer State Recreation Area in the central region of the Lower Peninsula.
The campground is open year-round to intrepid campers of all breeds. Not only do they welcome tent campers, but the recreation area is just one of a few public campgrounds in Michigan that provide electrical hookups year-round for RV campers.
Why go winter camping at Fort Custer State Recreation Area? In addition to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, it’s one of the most popular locations for dog sledding in Michigan.
Cold-weather camping in Michigan doesn’t get much better than Jordan River Pathway.
One of the most popular overnight backpacking destinations in the Lower Peninsula, this 19-mile loop tail is also ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months.
Although there are multiple places to camp along the trail, the best place is at a walk-in campground about midway around the loop. Known as Pinney Bridge State Forest Campground, it offers around 15 rustic tent campsites.
Gear You’ll Need for Camping in Michigan
Make the most of your Michigan camping trip by packing the proper camping gear.
Of course, a top-quality camping stove (or for backpackers, a lightweight backpacking stove) is also essential. Check out our camping recipe ideas, especially our favorite make-ahead camping meals, for great meal ideas for your Michigan camping trip.
If you’re brand new to camping or don’t want to buy your own equipment, another option is to rent all your outdoor gear from Outdoors Geek.
Outdoors Geek offers a variety of rental packages from tent rentals to complete backpacking packages to high-end glamping equipment and so much more!
Find Other Great Campgrounds Near You!
Looking for great places to go camping in another state? Here are some of our most popular state camping guides:
- Best Camping in Arizona
- Best Camping in California
- Best Camping in Colorado
- Best Camping in Florida
- Best Camping in Georgia
- Best Camping in Illinois
- Best Camping in Iowa
- Best Camping in New Jersey
- Best Camping in Ohio
- Best Camping in Oregon
- Best Camping in Texas
- Best Camping in Utah
- Best Camping in Virginia
- Best Camping in Washington
- Best Camping in Wisconsin
Let us know if you have any more questions about the best Michigan campgrounds!