At the end of August, my boyfriend and I quit our jobs to move on to new opportunities. Myself in Spain, and him in Maine. We were lucky enough to have two weeks off after ending our jobs and before moving out of our apartment. We have done short camping trips in Michigan in the past, but have always wanted to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and take a longer trip. With our time off we were able to take a 6 day camping trip to two different locations in the Upper Peninsula and to Charlevoix and Nordhouse Dunes in the mitten. One of the most stressful parts about camping for me is not knowing what a site will be like before I get there. You can’t see a photo slideshow of the campsite online like you could with a hotel. I always want to know if there will be space available, how close my neighbors will be, and how far the site is from parking. Though we sometimes make missteps, this time we hit some pretty amazing locations and had a great camping experience with sites that were clean, private, and beautiful. So, here is my guide to camping in Michigan with a chronological sampling of three of my favorite camping destinations ever.
1. The Upper Peninsula – Munising
We spent our first night camping near Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Though the falls were stunning, the campsites we found were nothing special and we moved on after one night there. Our second day in the U.P., we drove to the lovely town of Munising that had a cute cafe with wifi, grocery stores, and camping supply stores. We camped about 30 minutes from town at Pete’s Lake. There were several drive-up sites available near the lake but we chose a walk-up site (really just a few steps from our car) that had a gorgeous view of the lake. Because it was a walk-up site, it was incredibly private and it was wonderful to wake up in the morning to a layer of dreamy mist settling on the surface of the lake.
The third day we ate breakfast a the Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore in Munising. We enjoyed delicious food, caffeinated beverages, and some much needed wifi.
We decided to visit Miners Falls next. The falls were gorgeous, but the viewing point was gated off and I wished that we were able to get closer to the falls.
We then hiked to Miners Castle, a stunning, naturally occurring layered sandstone formation that is part of Pictured Rocks. Though they often say the best views of Pictured Rocks are from the water, we decided not to shell out the cash for a boat tour. I think the view that we had from Miners Castle was just as pretty as any you would get from a boat. We were able to see the rock formations clearly and snap some photos. The cliffs on the shoreline were so beautiful and we made our way down to the beach where we swam in Lake Superior. The water was cold, even in August, but it was incredibly clear and perfectly refreshing.
We spent a second night at Pete’s Lake because we loved the spot so much. We cooked dinner on the campfire and listened to an audiobook together while the sun set.
2. Hill Valley Farm Yurt – Charlevoix
We knew that we would need a little break in the middle of our trip to take a shower and give our backs a break from sleeping on the ground. I am a huge fan of Airbnb, but searching at the last minute for a place to stay in the U.P. yielded very few interesting results. I expanded my search to include the northern part of the mitten, and literally exclaimed out loud when I saw this listing: a gorgeous Yurt near Charlevoix, Michigan.
The Hill Valley Farm yurt was the ultimate glamping experience. We still got to be in the outdoors without running water or electricity but we got a warm cozy bed, a propane stove to cook on, a pump shower and faucet, and a cooler of drinking water. The whole yurt was beautifully decorated with homey touches and fresh flowers on the nightstand.
The amenities were wonderful. We were provided with fresh eggs and honey from the Hill Valley Farm for breakfast along with organic oatmeal, coffee, tea, and maple syrup. After camping for three days it was great to not have to worry about those things and to cook ourselves a big breakfast to get us through the next day.
3. Nordhouse Dunes – Manistee National Forest
This is absolutely my favorite place I’ve ever camped. We’ve been back here time and time again through the last three summers. I love how rustic this campsite is. The views are amazing, it’s secluded, and you can camp basically right on the beach.
This site is a little bit of a walk from the parking lot. Between our car and our tent was about a half mile hike, but we came prepared and, after bringing everything to the site, we didn’t have to walk back to the car for anything else. I have also heard that camping at the popular Sleeping Bear dunes is a longer hike and usually more crowded, which makes Nordhouse dunes a great alternative.
This year we decided to follow the hiking trails further into the dunes and discovered that the long trail is fairly popular for backpackers. We came across several groups and solo backpackers along the path. It was a great place to hike with clear trails and gorgeous views.
To me, the dunes feel like a little beach oasis just three hours from Detroit. One of the complaints that people often have about camping is that it doesn’t feel like a “proper” vacation because it requires physical labor and sleeping on the ground. However, camping on the beach at Nordhouse Dunes always feels like a proper relaxing vacation to me. We take walks on the beach, read books next to the shoreline all day, and light a fire under the stars at night. It’s the perfect place to disconnect and unwind.
If you live in Michigan and have ever thought of going camping, I definitely suggest you take advantage of the great destinations in your state! I never thought that I would enjoy camping. I’m afraid of the dark, creepy-crawlies, and bears; but my boyfriend, who grew up camping, taught me how fun it can be if I just open my mind and prepare properly. Traveling with an experienced camper also helps a lot too! I definitely think everyone should try camping at least once as an opportunity to connect with nature and push your boundaries. Maybe glamping is more within your comfort zone, and that’s okay too!
If you have any questions, or want to talk more about camping in Michigan, drop a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!