Find the best Michigan camping in the Upper Peninsula

Few places in the Midwest rival the camping experiences you can have year-round in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pitch your tent, park your RV or base from a wilderness yurt or cabin within minutes of your favorite outdoor adventures. Go climb mountains, seek waterfalls, explore three Great Lakes’ shores, visit world-changing historic places and so much more. 

Top reasons to camp | Types of campgrounds & RV parks | Make reservations | Tips before you camp

Top four reasons to camp in the Upper Peninsula

Why go camping in the Upper Peninsula? Campers say over and over their top reasons for flocking to this northernmost Michigan outdoor playground are to:

  1. Connect with nature. You can hike, bike, paddle or pursue your favorite winter sports in this still-wild wilderness. Listen uninterrupted to bird songs, the wind, waves, wildlife yips and howls, crackling campfires and soothing silence. While camping, you can keep track of time by the sun’s rising, crossing the sky and setting in blazing beauty. Then, gaze up at a dome of stars or watch the Northern Lights shimmer across the horizon. 

  2. Break free from digital technology’s grip. Stash your devices. This is your time to read, draw and write. Be still and listen to all that’s around you — including your camping companions.

  3. Grow closer to family and friends. When you camp with others, there’s more face-to-face time and fewer distractions to pull you apart. You share meals, campfires, stories, songs and the making of memories.  

  4. Improve physical and mental health. Breathe in the U.P.’s clean, refreshing air. Do more physical activity. Relax as your anxieties melt away. You will sleep better. 

Types of campgrounds and RV parks 

The Upper Peninsula offers a range of camping experiences from amenity-filled developed campgrounds and RV parks to glamping, group, rustic and free primitive sites. Most are onsite or a short distance from the U.P.’s favorite things to do including visiting Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula. Point to anywhere on the U.P. map and you can camp nearby!

ADA-accessible, pet friendly and equestrian camping is available

The U.P. strives to welcome everyone to enjoy the vast beauty and adventures this great peninsula provides. Many of its state parks offer ADA-accessible camping options. Over two-dozen campgrounds welcome your leashed pets. Or camp with your horse and go trail riding at Cedar River North Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp and several campsites in the Hiawatha National Forest

Developed campgrounds & RV parks

The Upper Peninsula has hundreds of campsites in modern and semi-modern campgrounds at state, community and private parks. Many of these campgrounds include restrooms with flushing toilets, hot-water showers, electric hookups, fire rings, picnic tables, trash disposal and dumping stations. Some have group camping areas, modern cabins, Wi-Fi, boat launches or marinas, and ranger-led activities. There are specific parks for RVs, too, including at U.P. casinos

Most of these campgrounds are close to popular U.P. attractions. But you don’t have to leave these parks to fill your stay with water recreation, hiking, biking, ORV riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Enjoy wildlife and bird watching, rockhounding, visiting waterfalls, fall color touring and stargazing, too. 

For U.P.-exclusive camping experiences, add these to your bucket list:

  • Straits State Park offers a spectacular view of the Mackinac Bridge and is a convenient base for catching a ferry over to Mackinac Island. It’s also the site of the Father Marquette National Memorial which honors one of Michigan’s earliest European explorers.

  • Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is a well-preserved example of mid-19th-century army life on Lake Superior. Highlights include living history interpreters, exhibits, boat tours to the Copper Harbor lighthouse and spectacular stargazing. 

  • Fayette Historic State Park and Townsite was once a bustling industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron used in building America from 1867 to 1891. Now it’s a well-preserved historic townsite with picturesque white cliffs, ancient cedar forests, a beautiful Lake Michigan harbor and annual festivals.

  • Indian Lake State Park is on the U.P.’s fourth-largest inland lake. Besides swimming, fishing, hiking and paddling, you are a stone skip away from Michigan’s biggest freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-kipi at Palms Book State Park. 

Glamping Campgrounds

Yes, you can luxury camp in the Upper Peninsula! 

  • Paddlers Village Campground along Lake Superior caters to kayakers, canoeists, paddle boarders, hikers and on-the-go outdoor enthusiasts. Stay in a yurt, cabin or safari-style tent with Wi-Fi, electricity, beds with mattresses, a charcoal grill, a fire pit, tables and more. 

  • Au Train Beach Campground lets you access over three miles of Lake Superior beach! Come as a couple or bring the whole family to stay in a Native American-style tepee, yurts and safari-style tents. There are beds with mattresses, tables and a choice of solar lights or electricity. 

Primitive & Rustic Campgrounds

If you are a camping purist, the U.P. has hundreds of remote sites. There is no drinking water, toilets, showers, electricity, fire rings, picnic tables or trash disposal at our backcountry or primitive camping areas. The only way to access them is by hiking or watercraft, and in winter by snowshoes and snowmobiles (where allowed). Popular destinations include Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, the Sylvania Wilderness and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

You can pitch a tent, park a RV or rent a yurt or cabin in rustic camping areas throughout the Upper Peninsula. There are no electric hook-ups and Wi-Fi, but most sites have a vault toilet, drinking water, a fire ring and a picnic table. State forest campgrounds are on lakes or rivers so you can hike, bike, swim, fish and paddle. Most give access to state land for hunting and are close to ORV and snowmobile trails. 

Free Campgrounds

Want to avoid crowds? Get ultra-close to nature? The Upper Peninsula has over a dozen free rustic or primitive campgrounds. Here are four:

  • Hovey Lake Campground | Hiawatha National Forest, Munising | 5 sites, May-October | Toilets available | Birdwatching, paddling and fishing

  • Burned Dam Campground | Ottawa National Forest, Watersmeet | 5 sites, end-of-May through September | Pit toilets, picnic tables and no drinking water | Explore the deep woods, fish and paddle near Mex-i-mine Falls, part of the area’s logging history

  • Sturgeon River Campground | Ottawa National Forest, Walton | 9 sites, mid-May through October | Pit toilets | Near Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness

  • Trap Hills | Ottawa National Forest, Bergland | Dispersed camping, January-December | Pack in water and supplies, pack out trash | Gorgeous scenery makes this one of the upper Midwest’s premier backpacking areas

Make reservations

The popularity of camping in the Upper Peninsula has grown exponentially in the last few years. Make your reservations early to get the dates and campgrounds you want:

  • Michigan State Parks: Visit MiDNRReservations.com or call 1-800-447-2757 to reserve a campsite, yurt or cabin. You also will need to purchase a Recreational Passport to enter the a Michigan State Park.

  • Michigan State Forests: Sites are first come, first served. See the forest’s information kiosk for camping fees and reservation procedures. Forest entry requires a Recreational Passport

  • Hiawatha National Forest: Contact the NRRS at 877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov.

  • Isle Royale National Park: For parties of six or fewer, campsites are first-come, first-served. However, you will need to get a free camping permit at Rock Harbor, Windigo or aboard the ferry, Ranger III. Parties of seven or more (group camping), must make reservations and pay a camping permit fee. 

  • Ottawa National Forest: All camping is on a first-come, first-served basis, with a few exceptions.  Reservations are required for camping at the Marion Lake Campground group campsite. Make reservations at www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: all campsites must be reserved, there is no drop-in camping. Visit www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777. International callers: 1-518-885-3635.

  • Find the reservation and fee requirements at the community, county and private campgrounds listed below. 

Six quick tips before camping in the U.P. 

  1. Prepare for changing weather conditions — they can happen multiple times throughout the day. The three Great Lakes that flank the Upper Peninsula impact the climate. It can be sunny and warm in the morning, snowy and cold in the evening and rainy and blustery the next day. Wear layers and bring waterproof outerwear. In the spring and fall, pack gloves, hats, boots and extra blankets. 

  2. Use bug spray. Summer is insect season, so bring a repellent or permethrin. Mosquito netting is also helpful. Stay on high alert for ticks, checking yourself and your pets during and after camping to prevent tick-borne diseases.

  3. Stay a safe distance from wildlife. Many of our campgrounds share the water and woods with thrilling-to-see wildlife and birds. When camping, keep your distance and never feed wild animals. Practice bear safety protocols, too.

  4. Bring an up-to-date, printed map of the area. There are places in the Upper Peninsula where Wi-Fi, phone service and GPS aren’t available. Print directions and carry a paper map with you. 

  5. Before packing your vehicle, please read these blogs: Eight Things to Know Before You Go to the Upper Peninsula and 8 Easy-to-Do Tips for Sustainable Travel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. These tips will help make your camping trip in the U.P. more enjoyable — and safeguard our beloved land and water.

  6. There are times and conditions when camping doesn’t make sense in the Upper Peninsula. If you don’t want to sleep outdoors, book a room at one of the hotels and other lodgings. You will find amenities and rates to fit your needs, yet keep you close to nature. 

Get outside and play at our campgrounds and RV parks, soon!