Mitten-shaped Michigan plays the role of warm handshake for many an RVer who finds themselves east of the Rocky Mountains. From quaint small towns where private RV parks and sleepy diners welcome travelers from all over the continent to the winding backroads that connect them. Whether you’re getting lost in the loneliness of the Upper Peninsula, want to get a “see it to believe it” firsthand look at the revitalization that big city Detroit is currently experiencing, or just looking to bask in the long gorgeous campus greens of Ann Arbor, there’s more to do in Michigan than you may realize…and for those accustomed to the forested, big sky experiences of camping out west, the Great Lake State promises some of the most rustic, “real” camping in the Eastern United States.
When it comes to choosing where and how you’ll navigate the state, there are few better swaths of highway to highlight than the slow rolling, farmland and forest trails carving their way through the Lower Peninsula’s northwestern corner.
You’ll find fishing charters galore and soaring bald eagles shading the waterways below all summer long. With autumn, the leaves take their turn and everything grows a little sleepier as kids head back to school and parents put away the constant festivity of the warmer months. Winter transforms the lakeshore into a Frozen-esque display of ice as the waves of Lake Michigan seem to freeze in place, and spring breaks heavily with slow-thawing Michiganders and out-of-state travelers alike, ready to cast their lines into some babbling brook or hunt for edible mushrooms.
Regardless of what time of year it is, assuming the clouds participate, there are few sunsets that can quite match watching that glowing god of an orb in the sky settling down behind Lake Michigan, toes in the sands of the mighty hills of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore…but be warned, while watching the sun’s slow descent or driving these backroads is a perfect piece of cake, if you decide to make the trek down over the dune to the water, be equally prepared for one of the most difficult return climbs of your life.
RV Camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Should a rustic vibe–where the maples and pines sway above while the birds play good morning and a nice campfire takes precedence over modern conveniences–be your primary goal, you’re in luck. Sleeping Bear Dunes offers two campgrounds suitable for RVers. Platte River Campground holds RV sites with electrical hookups (though some sites are more or less only suitable for tents.) Alternatively, D.H. Day Campground provides additional sites, including a few sites which allow generator use. All sites are “reservation only”, though same-day reservations can be made if spots are available.
If sharing your trail mix with the raccoons and fighting off the mosquitos isn’t exactly your idea of glamping, there’s a private RV park by the name of Indigo Bluffs, just outside of Empire, Michigan, that will keep you within a few minutes drive of the park while still offering amenities like running water, plenty of room for the big rigs, and even a pool.
RV Camping Near Traverse City, Michigan
While a bit of a haul from the National Lakeshore itself, Traverse City–and more specifically the neighboring Leelanau Peninsula–are home to the sort of small town charm that many an RVer finds every bit as desirable to experience as the many natural features the State of Michigan has to offer.
There are dozens of private RV parks that fill in the gaps from Traverse City, all through the Peninsula, and set back behind the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Traverse City State Park and Duck Lake Campground, part of Interlochen State Park, are two public options if you can’t get into the National Lakeshore campgrounds or just want to be a little farther east. Leelanau State Park puts you only thirty minutes from the greying piers of Leland, where a historic fishing town promises seafood, cold drinks and more memorabilia than you can stick to the side of a fifth wheel.
Whether you’re looking for a little civilization after descending from the Upper Peninsula, but don’t want the hassle of the big city life that the southeastern corner of Michigan promises, or you just need a place to get away for a little while, Sleeping Bear Dunes is packed with activities that can leave you absolutely out of breath, or simply breathless from the beauty. If you’re the RVing type, you can have as much of the two as you’d like.