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 remote 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 and still remains. If you're interested in roughing it, consider these sites.
 

Shelley Lake Campground - White Cloud

Shelley Lake Campground
Shelley Lake Campground | Photo Courtesy of Ryan Kramer


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 - Grayling

Wakeley Lake Campground
Wakeley Lake Campground | Photo Courtesy of MichiganTrailMaps.com


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 - Mecosta

Tubbs Lake Campsite
Tubbs Lake Campsite | Photo Courtesy of BrickhouseWebsite.com


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 - Munising

Pete's Lake Campground
Pete's Lake Campground | Photo Courtesy of Recreation.gov


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.
 


About the Author: 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.