Hello. I’m MCM Writer/Editor Peter Hinterman. You may know me from such stories as “Flint Through the Decades,” “History of Genesee County,” and “Winter Weekend Getaways (Have Some Frosty Fun!)” What you may not know is that I’m also an avid camper/hiker and have been just about everywhere in this great state of ours. Where are Michigan’s best places to camp? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few places that stand out above the rest:
1. Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Nestled in one of Michigan’s best and prettiest areas, this park is an absolute treasure. With over ten miles of picturesque hiking trails, falls and rivers, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. The last time I was there a few years back, the river level was the lowest it had been in years (kinda scary, actually) and I was able to spend some time hanging out IN the lower falls. By the way, I recommend camping at the lower falls, there is much more to do. Take a day, like I did, and hike the path to the upper falls (really great overlooks) and if you’re still feeling fresh, stop at the brewery for a bite to eat. Also, if you are a fan of state history like I am, plan to take a drive to Whitefish Point and visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (bring a jacket, the wind is a bit cold out there).
2. Lake Fanny Hooe Resort & Campground
I camped here on my first trip to the U.P. and it’s still one of my favorites. I went waterfall hunting and made multiple stops before reaching my destination in Copper Harbor. I stayed two nights in Munising and spent the day between visiting waterfalls. I was out early enough that I had every fall to myself. Also, the rock formations on the trails make for some great photos. At Lake Fanny Hooe, the campground was quiet, clean and peaceful. Again, as a history buff I was excited to see Ft. Wilkins (got a story idea or two from there) and do not, I repeat, do NOT miss taking a trek through Estivant Pines. It’s one of the best hikes I have done.
3. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Oooh, boy. What a great place for hiking! You’ll want to be in good shape to tackle some of the trails in, around and above Lake of the Clouds … and the view is worth it. Visiting the “Porkies” and viewing Lake of the Clouds should be mandatory for every Michigander. You will realize (if you haven’t already) that we live in the best state in the nation – no lie. If you are a more rustic type, the park has multiple cabins that are hidden throughout the area and only accessible by walking a mile or more down the trail. Word of caution (and this goes for anywhere along the coast of Lake Superior): beware the black flies. Plan a trip either before or after the first two weeks of July. Once those babies hatch, you will want to be out of there. I am talking about an infestation of biblical plague-like proportions. I was overrun by them with one day of my stay left and just decided to high-tail it outta there. While loading up the Jeep, my arms were covered in sleeves of flies! It all worked out, though. I spent a nice night in Escanaba, instead.
4. Wilderness State Park
This park is a little closer to home and one of my favorite places to camp. Situated nearly 30 minutes from Mackinaw City, it’s just a ferry ride away from Mackinac Island. A day spent at the island is an absolute must. Also, make sure to get some sleep so you are ready to head out to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park and Observatory. If you have any inclination to view the stars, it’s the best place to do so in the entire state (bring your telescope). For the best night sky, you’ll want to be there closer to 1am. My favorite thing about the campground itself is the beach – best beach I have been to in all of my Michigan camping. Perfect floor, perfect water temperature and a great place to find fossils.
5. Lake Michigan Recreation Area (Huron-Manistee National Forest)
This is the sleeper of the bunch. When heading over near Mason County, a travelers’ first inclination is to book a site in Ludington State Park. This is fool’s gold. If you want peace and relaxation, the state park is not for you, especially on a holiday. Too many people, pets and children for me (get off my lawn!) Instead, head north about 30 minutes and book a spot in Lake Michigan Recreation Area in Manistee. The city is not without charm and offers some good eateries downtown. Then, by all means, take a trip to Ludington and spend a day enjoying the park and city. Make sure to canoe or kayak the Manistee River. It’s calm, clear and if you love wildlife, you will see plenty. (It gets weird when about 30 eagles quietly watch you paddle by. Just watching … and biding their time.)
Bonus: Holly River State Park – West Virginia
“Wait a minute,” you say. “That’s not even in Michigan.” Well, can I blow your mind for a second? Holly River State Park is closer to Genesee County than Copper Harbor and the Porcupine Mountains. (Go ahead and check, if you don’t believe me.) Anyway, Holly River is a little state park on the tip of a mountain and only accessible via one-vehicle roads where any slight turn of the wheel means instant doom. That being said, it’s the best campground I have ever stayed at and the hiking trails are second to none (the Escarpment Trail in the Porkies is almost a tie). When I was there, it rained for the majority of my stay, so I wasn’t able to do all the trails – but it’s on my list to head back and finish. The majority of the trails continue up the mountain, so you will want to be in decent shape to make an attempt. Enjoy the rock formations and scenery. Just keep an eye out for bears.
Michigan is, in my humble opinion, one of the Top 5 states when it comes to the great outdoors and a good camping spot can be found just about anywhere in its confines.