Serene Walk-in Campgrounds in Pure 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.

Sometimes it seems like you have to drive to the end of the road to escape the summer crowds and find a quiet place to camp.

And sometimes all you have to do is walk 100 feet.

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.

A couple of the walk-in sites are less than 30 yards from where you leave the car and but the majority are a longer walk through the low wooded dunes. Each is unique; site B-8 occupies the top of knoll, B-5 overlooks a pond filled with cattails and wild irises.

The Platte River sites can be reserved in advance through recreation.gov, but the beauty of walk-in sites is that they are often available the day you arrive.

Platte River Campground isn’t the only place offering sites to campers willing to walk. Here are some others:

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.           

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.

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.

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.   

Find more campsites around the state at michigan.org and let us know if you have a camping trip planned for this summer!

Jim DuFresne is the author of more than 20 guidebooks and the main contributor to www.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.

  • Gomzy Decor

    Very well generated list, and yes you were right sometimes we just need to walk 100 feet to find peace. camping=peace :)

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    Good post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Continue the good work!

  • Angela

    We live in IN and would like to come camping in MI, somewhere on the big lake., Michigan or Erie. I can’t seem to find a camp ground on water here we can boat too. We would like full hookup but for sure need electric and water. Can you guide me to any?

  • Linda Allen

    Jim is the best outdoor writer! I used to enjoy his articles in the AA news outdoor section “way back when…” I would recommend checking out his Michigan travel books.

  • http://michigan.org Nancy

    This really is a great site to get an overall view of Michigan. We are coming to visit this Fall and hopefully there will be a lot of color. I’m looking forward to your next update for Fall.

  • http://resortcottages.com/ Rozzario

    Visited Tubbs Lake Island once! that was a memorable journey, my child often refers to any time while taking a tour!