The Best Camping in Michigan for Sparkling Lakes, Towering Dunes and Everything in Between

Camping is awesome. Obviously, that’s not a revolutionary statement. Especially these days, when the pull of the outdoors seems to be greater than ever.

We love so much about camping. Some of the things that really stand out to us? Well, it’s the type of vacation that doesn’t cost a lot (in fact, it’s unequivocally one of the most affordable overnight options) and is a great bonding opportunity whether that’s with friends, family or a significant other. Camping makes an epic solo trip, too.

You also don’t need a ton of outdoor experience or particularly woodsy skills, just plan to do a little research in advance (this article is a great start), familiarize yourself with the local rules and regulations in the area and maybe pick up a guidebook.

Besides, it’s not like you need to allocate all your PTO or have to travel far to access an awesome campsite. There’s fantastic camping in California, Colorado, Texas, Washington and so many other states across the country—including Michigan, which has some of the most beautiful spots in the Midwest. You’ll find glimmering lakes (and cute little lake towns), under-the-radar beaches and tons of terrific camping spots.

Whether you’re keen to snooze alongside a sparkling lake, dream of waking up next to towering dunes or prefer the quietude of a forest, it’s all waiting in the Great Lake State. Scroll on for the best camping in Michigan to enjoy during the spring, summer, fall and, in some instances, even the winter (if you’re a cold-weather enthusiast who thrives when the temperature drops).


What is the best month to camp in Michigan?

Many in-the-know locals say that August is the best month to camp because of the dry, warm weather, but with its diverse landscape and multiple types of campgrounds, Michigan offers excellent camping options year-round (just make sure to pack appropriately).

What campgrounds in Michigan have full hook-ups?

There are many campgrounds in Michigan with full hook-ups, meaning they have access to sewer, water and electricity. The modern campground at South Higgins Lake State Park and the privately owned Leelanau Pines Campground are just two that offer full hook-ups, and you can find more picks in our roundup below.

Where can you camp in Michigan for free?

Accommodations with full hook-ups and special amenities come with a cost. Nothing too astronomical (South Higgins Lake State Park is $45 and Leelanau Pines Campground is $50 per night, for example), but it’s still something to consider when budgeting for vacation. Prefer to save your money for outdoor gear? Check Campendium for free campsites such as Green Road Dispersed Camping.

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1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Situated on the northeast shore of Lake Michigan and famed for its giant scalable dunes (which are truly a sight to behold), Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also boasts miles of sandy beaches, forested trails, historic farmsteads and fragments of shipwrecks. So, yeah, there’s a lot of ground to cover and plenty of places to camp, from riverside campgrounds with electric hook-ups, showers and modern restrooms to reservable sites for groups of up to 20 people on South Manitou Island.

Where to camp:

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2. South Higgins Lake State Park

Running through the middle of South Higgins State Park is County Road 100.

Head north to the spring-fed Higgins Lake for rowboat, canoe, motorboat and pontoon rentals. Shallower Marl Lake and trails that meander through 700 acres of maples, oaks and pines sit to the south. Now that you've got the lay of the land (and lakes), it's time to expand your knowledge base to the snoozing setups. How does the second-largest campground in the state park system sound? What if we told you it includes traditional and full hook-up sites, plus a mini cabin that sleeps five?

Where to camp:

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3. Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Spanning nearly 50,000 acres of undeveloped woodlands and gushing waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the perfect place to unplug from modern technology and connect to the natural world. Perhaps, bring your sweetie to really reconnect and spend some quality time together or put together a reunion with pals. If you're a parent, it shouldn't be hard to get the kids (even angsty teens) excited about the prospect of trading devices for the rugged delights of backcountry camping. More modern setups and group camps are available, too.

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4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We’re certainly not suggesting you should believe everything you hear (or read), however, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore totally lives up to the hype. Chock-full of sandstone cliffs, sheltered beaches, towering dunes, cascades, lakes and forests, it’s easy to see why this visually arresting area ranks among the most beautiful spots in the Midwest. Besides hiking, kayaking, viewing wildlife and admiring the magical scenery, camping is extremely popular. Be sure to plan ahead because all the drive-in campsites require advanced reservations.

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5. Porcupine Mountains State Park

If you live outside the Midwest, it’s possible Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park isn’t a household name—though it should be. Encompassing 60,000 acres of old-growth forests, waterfalls, rivers and streams, Michigan's largest state park entices travelers with its myriad natural wonders, plus 90 miles of hiking trails. It also has a modern and rustic campground as well as backcountry camping. Basically, there’s something for everyone to explore and likewise just as many options for overnight accommodations.

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6. Wilderness State Park

The perfect name for a wild, rugged designated dark sky preserve that’s prized for its fresh air (seriously, breathing is believing), impeccable stargazing conditions, coniferous wetlands and 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Wilderness State Park in Northwest Michigan has a way of making everyone who visits a convert. Certainly, the abundance of recreational activities—from hiking and biking to fishing and swimming—play a part in that. We’d be willing to bet that the mix of full hook-up sites and walk-in tent-only camping, rustic cabins and bunkhouses don’t hurt either.

Where to camp:

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7. Ludington State Park

You’ll often hear people singing the praises of Ludington State Park’s beaches, sand dunes, wetlands, marshes, forests, extensive trail network and iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse. And it’s all true. It really is a remarkable place full of incredible scenery, wildlife and opportunities for adventure. Staying over isn’t just possible, it’s encouraged! Wondering where to camp out for the night (or, if you’re lucky, longer)? Ludington State Park lets visitors choose between campgrounds, walk-in tent sites and mini cabins.

Where to camp:

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8. Huron-manistee National Forest

Tucked between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Huron-Manistee National Forest sprawls nearly one million acres (for reference, that’s approximately 1,600 square miles). It’s legendary among botanists, biologists and archeologists (and just regular folks interested in those topics). The Huron-Manistee National Forest is also a pilgrimage-worthy destination for hikers, birdwatchers and fishermen. You can even camp along scenic rivers, creeks, lakeshores and, of course, in the woods.

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9. Sleepy Hollow State Park

Don’t snooze on Sleepy Hollow State Park. An unspoiled gem in East Central Michigan and a dreamworld for birdwatchers, it’s home to 228 species of birds. It's not just blue jays and bald eagles that amaze; Lake Ovid is also a haven for waterfowl. Looking to break in your new hiking boots? Miles of trails wind through prairie grasses and woodland forests. Horseback riding, biking, boating, fishing and swimming are other popular pastimes. With 181 modern campsites, staying over is no brainer.

Where to camp:

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10. Albert E. Sleeper State Park

Albert E. Sleeper State Park is another spot with a snoozy, misnomer of a name that’s hiding the undeniable excitement that comes with 723 acres of forest, wetlands, dunes and sandy Saginaw Bay shoreline. It’s also widely regarded as one of the best places in the state to watch the sunrise. Since you’ll be hauling up at one of the modern campgrounds or renting a safari-style, canvas-walled tent, it shouldn’t be an issue to rise super early.

Where to camp:

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11. Leelanau State Park

Past visitors have nothing but overwhelmingly positive reviews of Leelanau State Park. And, from where we’re sitting, that seems totally justified. Perched at the tip of the picturesque Leelanau Peninsula, this 1,550-acre jewel offers a terrific trail system as well as a sandy beach and picnic area. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum is also a drawcard. Of course, we can’t forget about another major selling point—yep, you guessed it—camping at either a rustic campground or one of the mini cabins!

Where to camp:

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12. Warren Dunes State Park

Michigan is certainly no stranger to wind-swept sand dunes. Some of the most breathtaking examples can be found in Warren Dunes State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan in the southwestern part of the state. The dramatic formation, which rises 260 above the water, doesn’t just look beautiful. It also provides spellbinding views and superb hang gliding. Prefer lower altitude activities? Stroll the shoreline, go hiking or pitch a tent at a peaceful, private campground sans electrical service.

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13. Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

Most people venture to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in the northern Keweenaw Peninsula to see Fort Wilkins, which was originally built in 1844 to keep the peace during the wild days of the Copper Rush. The restored army military outpost may be the chief attraction, but it’s far from the only interesting feature of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Be sure to check out the lighthouses in Copper Harbor and the many hiking trails. Instead of trying to pack everything into a single day, spend the night camping on the inland lake of Lake Fanny Hooe.

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14. Fisherman’s Island State Park

Contrary to what its moniker suggests, Fisherman's Island State Park isn’t actually an island at all. It does, however, cover 2,678 acres of Mother Nature’s bounty, including miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Trek inland to explore the rolling dunes, cedar bogs as well as woodland forests. We’d be remiss not to mention the rustic campground. Pro tip: reserve a spot with water views for the quintessential Fisherman's Island State Park experience.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...