State forest campgrounds in Northern Michigan, usually set on pristine land or along sparkling waters, are the bargain hunter’s delight, said Michigan Department of Natural Resources District Supervisor Jim Schreiner.
“I don’t know of a cheaper way to spend a night along a Northern Michigan body of water with access,” he said.
But as with most everything, timing is crucial, said Schreiner.
“Go to a state park during the summer and you’ll be surrounded with lots of people,” he said. “Spend a night at a rustic campsite in a state forest, and you may have it to yourself midweek.”
State forest campground sites begin at $13 per night, per site. A few larger campgrounds, large enough to accommodate RVs, are $17 per night. All of the campgrounds offer a vault toilet and water, but no dumping station or hook-ups for RVs.
There are close to 65 rustic campgrounds in state forests scattered across Northern Michigan.
Schreiner, who enjoys camping in rustic sites, listed some of his favorite state forest campgrounds in Northern Michigan. All are for tent and small trailer use unless otherwise noted.
Platte River offers 26 sites on the river near the Platte River Hatchery just off U.S. 31. In addition to river access, there are hiking and biking trails. It’s scenic with a sense of isolation.
Lake Ann, which is lakeside, offers 30 sites. This popular campground offers good opportunity for boating, fishing, and hiking and mountain biking on Lake Ann Pathway.
Scheck’s Place, located on the Boardman River, offers 30 sites. There’s good kayaking/canoeing, and trout fishing opportunities, and the North Country Trail passes through the campground offering wonderful hiking opportunities.
Guernsey Lake, located on the lake, offers 36 sites, which includes some walkin sites for hikers. Located adjacent to Sand Lakes Quiet Area, ideal for nature observation, hiking, camping, fishing and mountain biking.
Lake Margarethe, located on the lake, offers 37 rustic sites and seven walk-in tent sites. Reservations at this campground are site specific, allowing campers to choose specific campsites. Call 800-447-2757 or visit midnrreservations.com to make a reservation.
This campground offers fishing, boating, and is close to Hanson Hills Recreation Area for ample hiking and mountain biking opportunities. It’s the most popular state forest campground in the state and one of the few to take reservations.
Au Sable River Canoe Camp offers 13 sites; five are designated for canoe-access only. Located on the main branch of the Au Sable River, it offers the perfect overnight spot if you want to spend a couple of days paddling from Grayling. It’s scenic, and one of Schreiner’s favorites rustic campgrounds.
Van Etten Lake is a semi-modern campground with 49 sites overlooking the lake near Wurtsmith Air Force Basevin Oscoda. Campsites accommodate tents and small and large trailers. It’s near Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area which has yearround wildlife viewing, and is not far from the Au Sable River and Lake Huron. Van Etten Lake offers good angling for panfish.
Black Lake, located on the north shore of Black Lake, offers 52 rustic sites. The 35 site upper unit is designated for ORV camping, and 17 lower sites for tent or trailer use. In addition to excellent fishing, there are 38 miles of cycle/ATV trails at Black Mountain Recreation Area on the other side of the lake and approximately 30 miles of separate hiking/mountain bike trails. It’s also close to Ocqueoc Falls, the Lower Peninsula’s only named waterfall, where you’ll find more hiking and mountain biking trails.
Pigeon River offers 19 woodland sites along the scenic Pigeon River. There’s river access, fly-fishing and hiking and mountain biking on the Shingle Mill Pathway, which cuts through the campground. The Pigeon River State Forest is home to the largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi River. They can frequently be spotted near the river.