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.

Trail Running: How to Hit Your Stride on Michigan Trails

Michigan’s landscape offers the perfect setting for trail running. Thinking of getting out and hitting the Michigan trails? Todd Scott, avid runner and Detroit Greenways Coordinator of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance fills us in on what you need to know.

Photo credit: Greg Sadler Photography/sadlershots.com

Running can get pretty tedious. Having a rocking playlist on your iPod can help, but it’s not nearly as good as taking things off road.

Trail running is one of the fastest growing participation sports in America – and for lots of good reasons: It provides a more varied, more scenic, and less stressful option for runners of all abilities. Plus, trails have fewer traffic lights to stop at!

If you run with a dog, they probably will appreciate being in the woods as well.

There are a variety of trail types that offer many benefits to runners.

Michigan rail-trails are great for steady, relaxed, out-and-back running. They usually have a smoother surface (asphalt or crushed stone), so unlike hiking trails and mountain bike trails, you won’t have to worry about rocks, roots, and other trip hazards.

In addition, many rail-trails offer amenities like water and restrooms.

Thinking trail running is something you’d like to try? Here are answers to a few questions you might ask yourself first.

Do I need special trail shoes?

Probably not. Off-road trail shoes typically provide more foot and toe protection, more tread, and are more stable. However, those features come with the price of added weight. They are unnecessary on Michigan rail-trails and even on most singletrack. Unless you’re going on longer trail runs over rougher terrain, you can probably get by on your typical running shoes.

Can I run the trails in the winter?

Photo credit: Greg Sadler Photography/sadlershots.com

Winter trail running is a blast. The woods and hills can help block the winter to keep you warmer. Running in light snow or packed snow can make your run more challenging but the winter scenery usually makes it worthwhile.

And when the snow gets too deep, you always can break out the snowshoes.

Are there trails near me?

You bet. Michigan leads the nation with 2,478 miles of rail-trails and greenways and has hundreds more miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

To find trails throughout the state, start by visiting the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) Trails Finder at www.michigantrails.org/map. MTGA also prints a Michigan Trail Directory which you can get a copy of by sending a self addressed stamped ($0.61 or 2 first class stamps) business envelope to:

MTGA Trail Map
PO Box 27187
Lansing, MI 48909

One final reminder! Please be a courteous trail user by sharing the trail (and keeping the iPod volume down.) Don’t be shy about flashing a smile or a “hello” to others enjoying the outdoors on Pure Michigan Trails.

Todd Scott is the Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. He’s also a crazy ultra-runner and has completed five Leadville Trail 100 runs.