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Circle the Mitten of Michigan Camping Itinerary

Enjoy a fun adventure Camping in Lower Michigan with this itinerary, which includes camping near Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie.

Michigan is an amazing state to camp in, especially if you want to be near water.  You are never more than 5 miles away from a river, lake, or stream in Michigan.

Of course, the most popular waterways are the Great Lakes, of which Michigan touches four.

clear waters of Lake Michigan as seen from Wilderness State Park

Camping in Lower Michigan Map

This camping itinerary encompasses the lower part of Michigan, so it only touches three of the Great Lakes.  You have to Camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see Lake Superior.

Michigan Adventure Camping

Last summer, we had an amazing trip circling the mitten of Michigan.  We spent half the time along Lake Michigan and the other half along Lake Huron.

This Michigan Camping Adventure Itinerary goes clockwise, starting in the southwest corner.  It can easily be reversed or started from any point along the way.

view of Lake Huron from the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse
Crystal Clear Lake Huron

Best Michigan Camping

Please note: Entry fees or passes are required for our recommended properties. Purchase a Michigan Recreation Passport before your trip.

Lower Michigan Road Trip Itinerary

CampgroundNearby WaterwayThings to Do & See
Warren Dunes SPLake MichiganDunes, Beach
Hoffmaster SPLake MichiganSunset, Muskegon Attractions
Ludington SPLake MichiganBig Sable Lighthouse, River Float
Sleeping Bear NLSLake MichiganClimb the Dunes
Petoskey SPLake MichiganLook for Petoskey Stones
Wilderness SPLake MichiganHike, Stargaze
Cheboygan SPLake HuronPaddle, Beach, Fireworks
Harrisville SPLake HuronBeach, Sunrise
Tawas SPLake HuronWalk Out to the Point, Sunset
Bay City SPLake HuronBike or Hike Tobico Marsh
Port Crescent SPLake HuronBoat to Turnip Rock
Lakeport SPLake HuronBeach, Watch Freighters
Algonac SPSt. Clair RiverWatch Freighters
Sterling SPLake ErieBeach, Fishing
Best Camping in MI

Campgrounds Near Lake Michigan

Campgrounds along Lake Michigan in Michigan are the most popular in the state. Michigan Camping Reservations for state parks open 6 months in advance, so jump on early to secure a camping spot, particularly for weekend camping.

Warren Dunes State Park

Warren Dunes has beautiful sand dunes and a large beach, making it popular, especially with the Chicago crowd. This part of the park has a huge parking area, food vendors, and restrooms.

The park has two campgrounds with over 200 sites. The larger Mount Randall modern campground has two loops with electrical hookups, bathhouses, and a camp store that sells camping essentials and souvenirs. The smaller Hildebrandt campground is for tents and does not have any hook-ups.

Warren Dunes State Park 12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125

Beach at Warren Dunes State Park

Visit the St. Joseph Lighthouse

We recommend that you stop at the Saint Joseph Lighthouse, which is 30 minutes north of Warren Dunes. Parking is at Tiscornia Park, which includes a fee. We found room in the lot for our small motorhome on a mid-week visit.

Take a walk out along the breakwater. There are lighthouse tours available.

the St Joseph Michigan Lighthouse from the breakwater

PJ Hoffmaster State Park

Our favorite state parks along Lake Michigan is Hoffmaster State Park. We love it so much that we served as volunteer campground hosts there in 2023.

Hoffmaster has 297 campsites over four loops. There are two modern shower houses, a large playground, great hiking, and a large visitor center.

The best part of this park is the amazing beach, which is not crowded. The sunsets are so beautiful!

Lake Michigan Sand and Sunset

This state park is located just south of Muskegon, with many bike paths, museums, shopping, and so much more.

Hoffmaster is very popular, so if you cannot get a reservation, try Holland State Park to the south or Muskegon State Park, just a little bit north.

Hoffmaster State Park Campground 6431 Lake Harbor Rd, Norton Shores, MI 49441

Campgrounds in Central Michigan

Ludington State Park

One of Central Michigan’s most popular camping destinations is Ludington State Park. This park has nearly 400 campsites spread out over four campgrounds. The Pines, Cedar, and Beechwood campgrounds are modern, with many of the sites close together. The primitive hike-in tent-only campground is Jackpine.

In addition to the beautiful beach, which is a great place to watch the sunset, there is a lot to do at Ludington. You can float down the river to the lake, fish, hike, bike, and swim. The walk to the Big Sable Lighthouse is worth it as the breathtaking shoreline views.

a view of Ludington State Park out of the portal at the Big Sable Lighthouse at Ludington

The town of Ludington is a fun place to visit. Check out the Maritime Museum or watch the SS Badger, the car ferry that crosses Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, from the lighthouse breakwater.

Ludington State Park 8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431

Sunset over Lake Michigan at Ludington State Park

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a large national park known for its massive sand dunes. The Dune Climb is quite an arduous hike all the way down to the lake and back. Heed the warning of the sign and just take in the expansive views if you are not up for the hike down and up.

Dune Climb warning sign at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Platte River and DH Day are the two campgrounds in the park. About half of the campsites at Platte River Campground have electricity. The sites at DH Day Campground are non-electric and the roads and pads are with packed dirt.

Reservations can be made 6 months in advance for both and are required from May 1 through October 15. Platte River Campground is open year-round.

Check out one or more of the numerous hiking trails and overlooks spread throughout the park. You can also kayak, canoe, go river tubing, go to the beach, view dark sky views, take scenic drives, and explore the local towns.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 9922 Front St, Empire, MI 49630

Sleeping Bear Dunes overlook to Lake Michigan

Take the popular M-22 drive north out of the park and around the peninsula to Traverse City, which is a good place to eat and explore.

Camping in Northern Michigan

When you cross the 45th parallel, you are Up North in Michigan. Here are the Best Campgrounds in Northern Michigan.

Petoskey State Park

The town of Petoskey is quite charming! Views from the waterfront are lovely. Enjoy goods restaurants and shopping.

Petoskey State Park, which is located on the eastern edge of Little Traverse Bay, has nearly 180 modern campsites spread over two loops. Both have easy access to the beach, which is the top spot to look for Petoskey stones.

If you cannot secure a reservation at the state park, consider Magnus Park, which is a municipal campground.

Petoskey State Park 2475 M-119, Petoskey, MI 49770

people looking for Petoskey stones at the beach at Petoskey State Park

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park is a remote park at the top of the mitten along Lake Michigan. This large park has 283 campsites, 250 of those being modern. That number includes 18 full hook-up sites.

View of the Mackinac Bridge from Lake Michigan

Some of the 26 miles of shoreline face west, while the rest face north. The Mackinaw Bridge can be seen in the distance from the north beach line.

The top activities at Wilderness are hiking through the dense forest, looking for an elusive Piping Plover, watching the sunset at the beach, or star gazing at the designated dark sky preserve.

Wilderness State Park 903 Wilderness Park Dr, Carp Lake, MI 49718

Sun Setting over Lake Michigan with Paddle Boarders silhouetted at Wilderness State Park

Mackinaw City

The northernmost point of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan is Mackinaw City.  This tourist town is full of fun restaurants and shopping. It also has a ferry port where you can catch a boat to visit Mackinac Island.

There are extra-long parking spaces to accommodate long RVs on Central Avenue, just east of I-75.

view of the Mackinac Bridge from the shore of Mackinaw City

If you want to cross the Mackinac Bridge and continue your trip, check out our Upper Peninsula Camping Itinerary and our Circle Lake Michigan Itinerary.

Visit Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, which does not allow any cars, is a great day trip. The island has amazing views of Lake Huron. There is also shopping, restaurants, and fudge.

We had a great time biking around the island. You can rent bikes when you ride, but we took our own bikes on the ferry. We rode clockwise around the island and enjoyed beautiful stops along the way. Arch Rock was our favorite stop.

day trip to Mackinac Island

Lake Huron Campgrounds

Please note:  Several state parks on the Lake Huron side of Michigan only provide 20 amps of electricity. Many have two campsites sharing one pole, so you might want to have a long cord on hand.

If you need a place to eat a sack lunch, stop at one of the many state harbors along the lake.  We saw a bathroom at each one we stopped at.

RV parked at the Michigan State Harbor in Port Austin

Cheboygan State Park

Thirty miles southeast of Mackinaw City is Cheboygan State Park. This scenic park has 75 campsites.

Bring a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and explore the shallow areas around this Lake Huron campground. Hike on the well-marked trails to the park’s east side and watch Great Lake freighters go by.

On Friday nights, head to the beach next to the campground and watch the fireworks over Mackinaw City in the distance.

Cheboygan State Park 4490 Beach Rd, Cheboygan, MI 49721

view of the water at Cheboygan State Park on Lake Huron

Northern Michigan Sights

The day we visited the following tourist sites was our favorite day of our Northern Michigan Camping trip.

Ocqueoc Falls

We highly recommend that you detour inland to Ocqueoc Falls State Park, which has the best Waterfalls in Lower Peninsula Michigan.  The big attraction is the falls, which people love to swim in, but the park also has great hiking and mountain biking trails. It gets very busy on the weekend.

a woman Swimming at Ocqueoc Falls State Park

Seagull Point Park

Signal Point Park in Rogers is an excellent place to stop and eat lunch. We parked at the tip of the eastern lot and watched kayakers on the lake.

motorhome parked at Seagull Point Park in Rogers City Michigan

Presque Isle Lighthouses

Take a detour off M-23 to Presque Isle and see the lighthouses. The old lighthouse was built in 1840. Kids will enjoy ringing the giant bell on the grounds.

Pay the nominal fee to climb up both lighthouses. Each has a different, amazing view.

The new lighthouse is not exactly new because it was built in 1870. It is the tallest lighthouse that the public can visit along the Great Lakes.

It is a long climb, but oh so worth it!  Funny story:  When we climbed down the lighthouse, we discovered that the people ahead of us had locked the door behind them, leaving us stuck 100 feet up on the lighthouse platform.  Luckily, more people came up, so we could get out. We laughed about it.

Presque Isle Lighthouse Visit

More Lake Huron Camping

All of Lake Huron is clear water. You cannot go wrong wherever you decide to stop. One-night stays are sufficient for each campground along the eastern side of Michigan.

Harrisville State Park

Harrisville State Park campground has 195 campsites, some lakeside. The draw of the park is the beautiful beach. There are volleyball courts, a playground, and a boat launch.

This park is tucked in along the shore of the resort town of Harrisville. The ice cream & fudge shop across from the park entrance is popular with campers.

Harrisville State Park 248 State Park Rd, Harrisville, MI 48740

a view of the beach at Harrisville State Park as seen from the lake

Tawas Point State Park

Tawas Point is located along a spit of land, creating a bay west of the park. This allows for beautiful sunsets from the campground beach.

Much of the 193 campsites are large but uniquely close together due to pole locations. The campground is grassy with a few trees.

Paddling, bird watching, walking out to the point, and seeing the lighthouse are the top activities at this park.

Tawas Point State Park 686 Tawas Beach Rd, East Tawas, MI 48730

Tawas Point Light House

Bay City State Park

Bay City State Park is in the city, but you feel away from it all when you are in the park. The campground is large, with 189 spread-out sites.

The beach is lovely. We enjoyed riding our bikes around the park and through Tobico Marsh, which has two marsh observation towers.

Bay City State Park 3582 State Park Dr, Bay City, MI 48706

Tower overlooking Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Park

Port Cresent State Park

Port Cresent is a sliver of a park between the lake and M-23. The campground is hilly, with many sites unlevel and close together. The campground has a fun beach vacation vibe.

There are 142 campsites. For a unique experience, reserve a Geodome.

Port Cresent State Park 1775 Port Austin Rd, Port Austin, MI 48467

Port Crescent State Park Campground with GeoDome

Visit Turnip Rock

Drive into the nearby town of Port Austin and boat out to see Turnip Rock. This unique rock that is next to the shoreline looks like a huge turnip with the trees on top as the greenery.

You can rent a kayak for a 4-hour paddle or take a tour boat. We did the latter and got a private tour, which we thought was well worth the expense. Parking for this cute little town can be found at the state harbor.

selfie of a couple on a boat with Turnip Rock in the background

Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

We highly recommend a short trek inland to visit Sanilac Petroglyphs. This historic park has a large collection of early Native American teachings carved in stone. Ranger-led tours are available during the summer. We also enjoyed walking around the beautiful park.

close up of native images at Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park

Lakeport State Park

The southernmost state park along Lake Huron is Lakeport. This large park has 250 campsites spread over two campgrounds. We stayed in a lakeside spot at the north campground.

The beach is primarily small rocks. We stayed up along the ridge and watched freighters out on the lake.

Lakeport State Park 7605 Lakeshore Rd, Lakeport, MI 48059

Lake Huron as seen from Lakeport State Park

Best Camping Near Detroit

Due to their proximity, the last two state parks are popular with the Detroit crowd. If you want to avoid the metro area, then you can skip these parks. If you enjoy seeing Great Lake freighters, stop in Port Huron and at a riverside park near the Blue Water Bridge. Watching the vehicle traffic on the bridge going to and from Canada is also interesting.

Algonac State Park

Algonac is situated along the St. Clair River, which makes it a great place to view freighters. The park has a large natural area home to several threatened species. There are 296 campsites.

The Bay to Bridge Trail goes through the park, allowing great biking and walking opportunities along the river, where you will see more tankers.

Algonac State Park 8732 River Rd, Marine City, MI 48039

Great Lakes Freighter on the St Clair River

Wm C Sterling State Park

Sterling State Park has lagoons on one side and Lake Erie on the other, making it a great place to go fishing or boating. A sandy beach and 7 miles of trails allow for more outdoor fun.

The 256 campsites reserve quickly, particularly on weekends.

Sterling State Park 2800 State Park Rd, Monroe, MI 48162

Clouds Reflecting on Small Lake in Michigan

As you can see, our trip was quite an adventure. Whether your family camps along Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and/or Lake Huron and beyond, we hope this itinerary has inspired you to plan your own Lower Michigan Camping Trip.

collage of images from a Circle the Mitten of Michigan camping trip

Have a wonderful trip!

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