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Clear Lake State Park Camping Guide

Are you looking for a quiet, secluded retreat for your camping fun? Consider camping at Michigan’s Clear Lake State Park.

This 290-acre State Park, located within the Mackinaw State Forest, includes an expansive lake with sandy beaches, trails for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowmobiles, and so much more. It offers scenic routes where you will see abundant wildlife, such as deer, elk, black bears, etc.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know for your Clear Lake State Park camping trip!

A couple in a boat on a lake enjoying a beautiful sunset.


Established in 1966, Clear Lake State Park is located in the Mackinaw State Forest, which is composed of 258,000 acres of State-owned land.

Home to a vast array of wildlife, the park is known for its elk population, which can be seen and heard throughout the area.

Elk were native to Clear Lake State Park when they disappeared from Michigan nearly a hundred years ago. Starting in 1918, elk populations were reintroduced to the park, and now they can be found in abundance.

An adult elk. A Clear Lake State Park camping trip could mean an elk sighting.

What to Expect When Camping at Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park features 290 acres of secluded land, with a 133-acre lake available for various recreational activities. The park is inside the Mackinaw State Forest, home to biodiverse wildlife and plant life.

The park covers about two-thirds of the Clear Lake shoreline. The water near the shore is pretty shallow, so it is perfect for letting your kiddos wade around in the water at the 300-foot-long beach. Along with swimming, the beach area offers water skiing, jet skiing, boating, and more recreational activities.

Pets are allowed on your camping trip to Clear Lake State Park, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet long, and their owner must accompany them at all times. Pets are not allowed inside buildings or on the beach.

A dog wearing "doggy saddle bags," on a leash for hiking.


A recreation passport is required to enter all state parks in Michigan, and to access recreation areas, State boat launches, campgrounds, and State trail parking lots.

This passport will cost you $13 for regular vehicles and $7 for motorcycles and mopeds. There is also a commercial vehicle option for $20.

Your recreation passport is valid for one year after purchase, with the option to purchase a two-year passport. If you wait until you arrive at the park to purchase your passport, you will pay a $5 convenience fee for entry.

Michigan State Parks also have guidelines for camping and other overnight lodging fees, so research those fees before you head out!

Clear Lake State Park Camping

Registration and Access

You will not be granted access to the park or any areas within it without your recreation passport, so don’t forget it! It can not be purchased online so you will need to purchase it at the entrance to the park on the day of your outing.

These passports are valid for a year and up to two years, if requested. They are valid for all Michigan State Parks.


Clear Lake State Park Campgrounds has 200 campsites, ranging from small to large, and even a small cabin is available for reservation. Six guests per site are allowed, and there is adequate parking space for six vehicles.

A campground for tent and RV camping.

Campers can spend up to 15 consecutive nights at the Clear Lake State Park Campgrounds and may make reservations up to six months ahead.

The campgrounds have sites for tent camping, RV camping, a combination of the two, and group camping, and there is also a cabin on the grounds that you can reserve ahead of time.

Camping at Clear Lake State Park is available from April through November. Campground amenities include restroom facilities with flushing toilets and showers, electrical hookups, and drinking water.

The campgrounds also offer firewood for purchase for your campfires. The area features a playground, picnic area, horseshoe courts, and more.

Activities and Recreation


A person fishing at a lake.

Fishing is available when camping at Clear Lake State Park, in the 100-foot-deep spring-fed, sparkling clear waters. Several fish species have been added to the lake, but trout and smallmouth bass are your most likely catches.


The campgrounds at Clear Lake State Park include a picnicking area equipped with fire pits, firewood available for purchase, and grills.

Activities to Enjoy When Camping at Clear Lake State Park


Break out the jet skies, water skies, and boats! Clear Lake State Park has two paved launch sites for boating access to Clear Lake. There are canoes, kayaks, and rowboats available for summer rental.

Closeup of a woman canoeing on a lake.


Sunbathe on the 300-foot-long white, sandy beach or take a dip in the crystal clear water. The designated swimming area has shallow spots perfect for small children to wade in and splash around.

Metal Detecting

Camping at Clear Lake State Park is unique because it offers a rarely recognized recreational activity – metal detecting!

When done properly, without causing damage to natural or cultural resources in the park, metal detecting is a fun activity to enjoy at this park. It is important to note that your findings are subject to review by park staff and can be confiscated for an investigation if necessary.

A man using a metal detector on rocky ground.



There are two trailheads in the State Park: Clear Lake Scenic, which is a 48-mile scenic route where you can observe the native and migrating wildlife; and Clear Lake-Canada Creek Nature Trail, which is 4.5 miles long and is available for hiking and mountain biking.

There is access to over 70 miles of hiking trails from the trailheads. The Canada Creek Trail Loop offers 4 miles of trails ideal for mountain biking, but hikers also use them, so caution is important.

Cross-Country Skiing

During the winter months, the trails are available for cross-country skiing, but it is essential to remember that you are sharing the same trails with hikers, cross-country bikers, snowmobiles, and other campers.


The trails are great for snowmobiles when covered in a blanket of snow. Keep an eye out for skiers, hikers, and cyclists.

Relax and Unwind Camping at Clear Lake State Park

Two dogs looking at a wooded setting from inside a tent.

From miles and miles of winding trails with gorgeous scenery to the 300-mile-long white, sandy beaches, Clear Lake State Park has a little something for the whole family to enjoy.

Interested in learning about other state parks to visit? Check out the State Park Camping section of our website!