The Best Back Country Camping Sites in Michigan

Jim DuFresne, author of more than 20 guidebooks and main contributor to www.MichiganTrailMaps.com is a go-to resource for all things hiking and trail-related in Michigan. Today, he fills us in on some of the incredible walk-in campsites around the state.

When the National Park Service renovated its Platte River Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1991 it installed electrical hook-ups in 96 of the 179 sites, a change in previous NPS policy of rustic-only campgrounds. But the designers also added 25 walk-in sites for tent campers where a short stroll leads to a quick escape from this otherwise popular and busy campground. While camping has fundamentally changed over the last few decades, a want for a back woods experience still remains. If you're looking for some peace and quiet in Michigan, consider these for back woods sites:


1. Shelley Lake
This dispersed recreation area in the Huron-Manistee National Forests is north of White Cloud and has eight designated sites spread around the shoreline of this scenic, 15-acre lake of which seven are reached after a short walk of a 50 yards or less. Site Number 3 is located on a point in the southwest corner of the lake where you can pitch your tent with a 180-degree view of the water.
 

Shelley Lake Campground
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Kramer


2. Wakeley Lake
Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area is east of Grayling in the Huron-Manistee National Forests and is best known for its catch-and-release fishery that produces six-pound bass and foot-long bluegills. But the 2,000-acre tract also has a walk-in campground and 30 miles of two-tracks that has become a playground for hikers and mountain bikers. The hike from M-72 to the campground is a third of a mile and the four sites are located in a stand of red pine on a low hill overlooking the lake. Two of them have picnic tables and fire rings.
 

Wakeley Lake Campground
Photo Courtesy of MichiganTrailMaps.com

3. Tubbs Lake Island
Located in Tubbs Lake State Forest Campground, this small island, created when Winchester Dam was built in the late 1950's to create a waterfowl habitat, is a Mecosta County Park reached by driving across a narrow dike. The campground features 12 sites including two walk-in sites. These sites are located at the top of the island in a semi-open area that commands a great view of the surrounding lakes as well as your neighbors below.
 

Tubbs Lake Campsite
Photo Courtesy of BrickhouseWebsite.com



4. Pete's Lake
Located south of Munising in the Hiawatha National Forest, Pete's Lake Recreation Area has 41 rustic sites, including two for walk-in campers. Site Number 7A is a 50-yard stroll from a trailhead at the east end of the campground and features a clear view of the lake. Less than a quarter mile further is Site Number 8A, another shoreline site with even a bit of sandy beach in front of it.

Petes Lake Campground
Photo Courtesy of Recreation.gov


Jim DuFresne is the author of more than 20 guidebooks and the main contributor to MichiganTrailMaps.com, a resource web site for hikers, backpackers, cross-country skiers and other trail users. Among his titles are Michigan’s Best Campgrounds and Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes.