Camping in Michigan, An “In-tents” Adventure

June is National Camping Month! Today, our featured blogger from the Awesome Mitten shares her list of must-visit Michigan camping destinations to help you plan for an “in-tents” adventure.

photo3There’s no better way to explore Michigan than by camping. Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry backpacker or feel more comfortable in an RV, there are an endless amount of camping locations across the Great Lakes state. Every year my sister and I plan out our must-visit camping locations, and it’s a struggle to narrow our list down. While we like to camp year-round, there are a few places we can’t skip during the summer months. It was difficult, but I’ve rounded up my top three favorite camping spots in Michigan.

Disclaimer: southern Michigan is seriously underrepresented in my list. Do you have any suggestions for SMI camping locations?

1. Hiawatha National Forest – Grand Marais

photo1Hiking, kayaking, boating: oh MI! There are so many ways to explore the staggering cliffs, sandy beaches and turquoise shores of Lake Superior along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are quite a few beautiful and rustic campgrounds in the Hiawatha National Forest that provide quick access to the lakeshore. Sites are first come, first serve, so make sure to get to the site early in the day. If rustic camping isn’t your thing, you can stay at one of the modern campgrounds in Grand Marais. Once you’ve set up your nylon home-away-from home, I recommend hiking the Chapel Falls trail to Chapel Rock and beach or taking a guided kayak tour along the shoreline.

2. D.H. Day Campground- Sleeping Bear

Tucked away from Glen Arbor but close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, D.H. Day is the perfect place to camp when exploring the Northern Lower Peninsula. Some of the sites are a little close to each other, but this rustic campground is relatively quiet. The campground offers easy access to Lake Michigan and is close to Sleeping Bear Trails. After you’ve explored the trails and conquered the Dune Climb, swap your hiking shoes for a kayak and paddle down the Crystal River.

photo23. Exploring the Wild Wild West (UP) – The Porcupine Mountains

With 60,000 acres of wilderness area, the Porcupine Mountains are an awesome place to explore yearround. Visitors can hike into several campsites throughout the park (hike lengths vary), and some drive-up campsites are also available. Or, skip the tent altogether and reserve a cabin or YURT! All of my yurt-camping dreams came true a few winters ago, and I’m sure they are as equally cool in the summer. There are tons of different hiking and mountain biking trails to explore throughout the park, it’s hard to choose which area(s) to explore. Definitely visit Lake of the Clouds!

This summer I’ll be visiting (and camping in) Leland, South Manitou, and Ludington for the first time. I can’t wait to camp and explore each area. Do you have any activity recommendations for the areas?

What’s your favorite camping destination? What should I add to my list? Most importantly, what’s your favorite s’mores recipe?

photo1 (1)Jessica Holli is an associate editor for the Awesome Mitten. She has lived in, and loves, both parts of America’s High Five. This Michigan State University alumna is obsessed with the Great Lakes, the color red, and spending as much time as possible outside. When she is not working she’s exercising in Michigan’s natural playground or planning her next adventure.

A Couple, Dog and Eco-Friendly RV Touring the Great Lakes Shoreline

Today, guest blogger Mike Wendland from shares his RV journey across Michigan’s endless coastline. 


Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Blue Water Bridge

When Michigan says it’s the Great Lakes State, it isn’t kidding. All you have to do is start driving the shoreline of the Great Lakes to see that Michigan is the heart and soul of the area.

With the exception only of Lake Ontario, Michigan is encircled by the other four. And when you look at the shoreline, Michigan’s 2,147 miles of mainland shoreline dwarfs the other seven states surrounding the five lakes. Plus, Michigan has another 905 miles of island shoreline. That puts the total at more than 3,000 miles. Next closest is Wisconsin with 802.

With my wife, Jennifer, and our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai, I’m now deep into the Verizon Great Lakes Roadtreking Tour, which will eventually be a 3,500 mile trip along the U.S. shoreline of the Great Lakes. I’ll be documenting the interesting people and places we encounter. We’re driving an eco-friendly Roadtrek E-Trek motorhome, which is 24 feet long and boasts solar power that runs the appliances.

We started under cloudy skies last week in upstate New York and made our way around Ontario, picking up Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, following through Ohio and ending our first leg at the mouth of Lake Erie, where the Detroit River flows into it at the Lake Erie Metropark in Gibraltar Township.

Now we’re on to Lake Huron, starting at Port Huron and making our way up the “Sunrise Side” to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge and over to the eastern UP.

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland - Port Huron

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Port Huron

I love Port Huron. Parked right under the Blue Water Bridge, which leads to the Ontario, Canada city of Sarnia, I marveled at the swift-moving St. Clair River flowing out of Lake Huron.

The river is one of the busiest water routes in the Great Lakes, connecting Lake Huron just north of the Blue Water Bridge to Lake St. Clair, a couple dozen miles downstream. Port Huron’s Riverfront is a mecca for big boat watchers. From Lake St. Clair, the big freighters and ocean going vessels make their way into the Detroit River, which in turn connects to Lake Erie.

But it is also a great fishing river. The fish of choice is walleye, and the river serves as a travel corridor for walleye moving between Lake Erie and their spawning grounds in Saginaw Bay, 100 miles up Lake Huron.

Fish biologists believe walleye treat the whole Lake Huron/Erie waters as one system. Walleye can cruise from one body of water to another in days. The St. Clair River is deep and cold, which also helps in holding walleye.

In all, Port Huron has 17 waterfront areas containing 102 acres and 3.5 miles of water frontage. This includes two public beaches and six parks with picnic facilities. The city has nine scenic turnout sites containing more than 250 parking spaces.

If you can’t get in, make your way north following the signs to Lighthouse Park, right at the mouth of the river. This park has 900 feet of waterfront and beach, and the water is clean for good swimming. But be warned, if you venture out very far, the current is swift, as the river starts flowing right from there.

While at Lighthouse Park, walk a few hundred yards south and tour the historic Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. In 1814, military Fort Gratiot was established to guard the juncture of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River. With a surge of vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800s, the need for a light station to guide vessels into the river became very important.

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland - Blue Water Bridge

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Blue Water Bridge

For food, the outdoor patio of Freighter’s Restaurant offers up great river and bridge views. It’s part of the Doubletree Inn Hotel complex and is right in the heart of the riverfront action, a few hundred yards south of the bridge.

One more attraction: The Thomas Edison Depot Museum is down there, too. The famed inventor lived in Port Huron and worked on a railroad car for his first job from 1859-1863. The museum includes a restored baggage car resting on a short spur of railroad track and has some exhibits about Edison and his early beginnings.

You can easily spend three or four hours in Port Huron. After lunch and looking around, I found the day half over and hundreds more miles for us to cover. So off we set along M-25 up toward the Michigan thumb, hugging the shoreline all the way.

My Great Lakes shoreline tour will continue throughout the next month. Check out the first video of our visits to Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Send me your tips on what we should stop and see! I’m reachable at, on Twitter at @roadtreking, and I’ll be tweeting with the #VZGreatLakes, #vzwmidwest and #roadtreking hashtags.

Have you ever taken a long Michigan road trip? Tell us about it. 


Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who travels North America in a Type B motorhome and blogs at Currently on the road for the Verizon Wireless Midwest Area Great Lakes Tour in a Roadtrek E-Trek motorhome, Mike is driving much of the U.S. shorelines that touch the five Great Lakes. 

Gear Up for Camping Season in Michigan With These Helpful Tips

Summer camping season is just around the corner! Today, guest blogger Rick Kessler of Gr8LakesCamper give us some tips for preparing for your next Pure Michigan camping trip

CampingThis is my favorite time of the year.  With warmer temperatures teasing us that spring is right around the corner, it can only mean one thing: winter is on its way out (knock on wood).  When this happens, my dreams of a summer full of camping can really start to take shape.

For me, camping is as much a part of summer as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie – more specifically, Detroit Tigers, hot dogs cooked over the campfire followed by hobo pies cooked to delicious gooey goodness over the same campfire.

Admittedly, I’m biased, but there’s no better state for camping than Michigan. With more than a thousand public and private campgrounds statewide, Michigan offers something for every type of camper – along rivers, lakes, sand dunes and beaches, overlooking the Great Lakes and in state parks and national forests.

So how do you gear up for camping in Michigan? Here are my suggestions:

Wake Up from Winter!

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.43.50 PMYour tent, RV and gear have been in storage all winter; now’s the time to inspect it, clean it and get it ready for another season of camping.

For tent campers, if you put everything away last fall properly – i.e. not damp – then all you’ll need to do is inspect everything to make sure it’s good to go. For tents, look for tears, rips or holes. Same thing with backpacks and sleeping bags.

For RVers, which I am, de-winterizing the camper is chore I do with a smile on my face. A weekend spent flushing the antifreeze, inspecting for damage and cleaning the RV inside and out only means camping is next on the To-Do list.

Regardless whether you’re a tent camper or an RVer, if there’s any sign or smell of mildew, you must address it. Find the source, determine the extent and clean or replace as necessary.

Plan your Summer!

With the tent, RV and equipment all set, all that’s left is to plan your trip!

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.45.55 PMFor us, where we go depends on what we want to do. If we’re just looking to get away from it all, Michigan has no shortage of private and State Park campgrounds more than capable of letting us disconnect from society and reconnect with each other. But if our trip is more about the destination than the campground, again we’re always able to find a campground close to where want to be.

For private campgrounds, visit the websites for Michigan Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds ( and the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicle and Campgrounds. Both have an extensive listing of campgrounds, including amenities, pricing and other information.

One change for 2014 is the Michigan DNR’s new online State Park campground reservation system. It’s much easier to use, and there’s a photo of each campsite. You’re going to love it!

Have you been camping in Michigan? Tell us about your trip. 

Rick KesslerRick Kessler is the author of the Gr8LakesCamper blog, which celebrates the world of RV camping in the Great Lakes region. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the Gr8LakesCamper blog.