If you are looking for great Michigan Upper Peninsula free camp sites for the next fewABOVE. car tripor camping, you've come to the right place! We have 12 free camp sites for you in the Upper Peninsula.
But before we get to free camping, some general points about camping in the U.P.:
These 12 sites are primitive campgrounds in Michigan. This means you must be in a remote area or wild camp without water hookups, electrical hookups, garbage service, and showers. When you're done reading about these campsites, check out this post -Start Wild Camping Like a Pro [16 Questions Answered]- for tips. See too7 principles leave no tracein front of a wild camp.
Many of these sites are located in Michigan's forests and are maintained by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).This page, under "Distributed Camping Terms"gives guidelines to use this land for free.
DNR form/camp registration form to be posted at state forest campscan be found here.
We recommend printing some before heading to the U.P. camping trip.
Always leave pages better than you found them, which sometimes means cleaning up other people's junk. Free camps are routinely closed because they are too expensive to maintain when a lot of people leave their trash everywhere. We recommend taking some kitchen garbage bags and disposable gloves with you.
As they are located in the cold and sometimes harsh UP, these campgrounds are not open all winter. Most are open roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Mistakes! Instead of taking notes about everyone. single. place. to have a swarm of insects - from fly bites to mosquitoes - we say it once! Don't visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula without a few options to keep the bugs at bay.
Here it isspray sem deet* We recommend
Dezpermethrin spray* is for your gear and clothing
Dezportable mosquito repellent* keeps bugs away to 15 feet without spraying or sniffing (so you might want to create steam around your campsite). Optional belt clip. Don't forget to take extra cartridges.
You know what, maybe justinvest in one of them*. Ha!
Don't count on the consistency of cell service in the Upper Peninsula. Most of our sites had poor or non-existent mobile network. Considerinvest in a good amplifierif you depend on the service.
12 Free Primitive Camping Spots in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
French Farm Lake free campsite
GPS coordinates:45.759058, -84.766928
This popular free Michigan campground fills up quickly, likely because it's such a convenient campground near Mackinac Island. You can also bike or walk to Headlands International Dark Sky Park and Lake Michigan Beach Public Access.
The 6 open campgrounds (6 more are barricaded and marked as not campable) are located on a well maintained single track dirt path right on French Farm Lake. You can see some fishermen using the speedboat at the end of the dirt road, but you won't see anyone swimming here because the lake is very swampy.
Sites are large enough to share if needed and are spaced out for lots of privacy.
Aside from makeshift campfires, this free campground lacks amenities, making it a great place to spend some time for a pristine Michigan camping experience. RVs much longer than 25 or 30 feet are likely to have difficulty leveling or even turning.
This free Michigan campground is maintained by the Department of Natural Resources, so you'll need a copy of the DNR form (see above) to post on their website.
Hiawatha National Forest free page
GPS coordinates:46.018146, -84.719897
This is the only free campsite in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, located off I-75 in Saint Ignace, about 25 minutes north of the Mackinac Bridge.
It's a primitive camp in the U.P. offers a single fireplace as the only amenity. Below is a steep trail from the camp to the Carp River.
Although quite close to the interstate, the campground is isolated and the only thing we noticed was the constant traffic noise.
Free Camping on Drummond Island in Lake Huron
GPS coordinates:45°59'41.7"N 83°30'20.4"E
If you're off road and want to explore Drummond Island, you'll appreciate this free Upper Peninsula campground!
Far from all civilization, this primitive camp is located on Lake Huron. You'll likely see groups of jeeps passing by, but otherwise expect solitude. The beach is covered in smooth pebbles rather than sand (woohoo!), but there's very little natural shade at this campsite (booooo!), so bring an umbrella if you don't have an awning in your gear.
There are no facilities at this primitive camp either. However, you can fill up your water containers for free at Sune's IGA convenience store before heading up the trail (there's a tap on the east side of the building).
The Glen Cove Road leading to this campground is 2WD rated. In Glen Cove the road is classified as 4WD and after 2 miles on this 4WD road you will arrive at this free campsite on Drummond Island. However, if you are unable to take the 4WD road to reach the Lake Huron site, please be aware that we also pass many free campgrounds on the 2WD Glen Cove Road, so use caution when entering.
We found the Drummond Island Tourism Association extremely helpful in planning our itinerary and finding free places to camp, so consider stopping there.
Free Camp near Tahquamenon Falls
GPS coordinates:46.641113, -85.126612
This free campground on Michigan's Upper Peninsula is about 15 minutes from Tahquamenon Falls and about 20 minutes from Whitefish Point.
So if you're up for some primitive camping while traveling in the Upper Peninsula, consider free camping here as an alternative to camping at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
The area is actually a large, flat, open area, so any size trailer can find space, but don't expect to feel secluded or find amenities.
The free campsite is located within the State Forests, so be sure to complete and submit a DNR permit. If you don't already have a form when you arrive, try the kiosk opposite the DNR office in Paradise.
Free campground east of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
GPS coordinates:46.6279, -86.09573
This free Upper Peninsula campground is just 2.4 miles from the Log Slide Overlook and Au Sable Lighting Station on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located in the woods near the Pictured Rocks border.
Some of the free camping spots released are like a big field, and you can camp close to others surrounded by tall trees. There are no amenities here, but drinking water is available at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from a threadless faucet.
To reach this campground, turn south on H-58 onto the Rhody Creek Trail (46°38'24.0"N 86°05'41.6"W). About 0.75 to 1 mile down the Rhody Creek Trail you will see clear areas where you can freely camp. The Rhody Creek Trail is a maintained gravel road and a trailer of any size should be able to dock comfortably at this free campground.
Hiawatha National Forest Free Camp near Munising
GPS coordinates:46.354616, -86.503669
This is another pristine, free camping area about 20 minutes from Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It's a small two-lane road in the Hiawatha National Forest.
This is one of those places where we arrive late at night and leave early the next morning. We took the first clean spot we saw as we actually had cell phone service (awesome!) to work with.
The empty campground we stayed in was small, overgrown, would be too bumpy to pitch a tent or a large trailer to easily level, but it had a ring of fire, although it was littered with rubbish. So it's not the best, but it's still a free and cool place to sleep.
You can find better places by exploring more - based on satellite imagery, places look bigger, smoother and cleaner.
To get there, turn onto 94/28 and when the road forks - turn right. You'll soon start to see clean empty campsites.
Hovey Lake Dispersed Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest
GPS coordinates:46.291, -86.701
Hovey Lake Dispersed Campground is a free campground in the Hiawatha National Forest on the Upper Peninsula, operated and maintained by the United States Forest Service. It is about 30 minutes from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Each of the five campsites are located on Lake Hovey and are separated from each other by trees, giving you some privacy. Don't bring a bathing suit as Lake Hovey is not suitable for swimming, but if you want to go fishing you can use a non-motorized boat.
As for the facilities at this primitive campsite, each site has a fire pit and picnic table. There are toilets downstairs and hand-pump water is available, although it may not be potable. A few miles Buckhorn / USFS 2254 is a cottage with free wifi if you need it.
This free campground is located on the east side of Lake Hovey. GPS coordinates are correct, but Google Maps will likely point south on Blueberry Lane. Instead, turn south onto Hovey Lake Road/USFS 2473, which is just ¼ mile east of Blueberry Lane. Drive for less than a mile before turning right onto USFS 2367 toward Hovey Lake Dispersed Campground.
Kemping Moose Rapids
GPS coordinates:46.457504, -88.073439
Moose Rapids Campground is a free primitive campground located about an hour west of Marquette on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Of the 10 or 12 sites here, 2 are riverfront with beautiful views, some are shifters and can accommodate larger RVs, and most are smaller sites carved out of trees.
Champion City maintains this campground with a suggested donation of $5.00 per stay (optional) and they do a great job. There are clean and stocked door pots, picnic tables, a water pump and all areas were mowed and in good repair during our stay.
We enjoyed this campground and it was very peaceful as we were only there with one other camper.
Sturgeon River Campground in the Ottawa National Forest
GPS coordinates:46,57, -88,656
Sturgeon River Campground is a free USFS campground in the Ottawa National Forest on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There are 9 large sites along the river with enough space and greenery for some privacy.
As far as amenities go, this is a primitive campground. There are picnic tables and a restroom, but you won't find garbage or water services.
To reach Sturgeon River Campground from the M-28, turn north on FR 2200 in Sidnaw. After about 5 miles you will see signage and a free campground on your left.
Camp Sparrow Rapids in the Ottawa National Forest
GPS coordinates:46.504776, -88.94735
Sparrow Rapids Campground is another USFS free campground in the Ottawa National Forest on the Upper Peninsula. There are 6 locations with paths to the East Branch Ontonagon River.
There are picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms at this primitive, free campground, but no other amenities like water or garbage collection services. Although we never saw it, we were told there was a roadside park with fresh drinking water 2 miles away. Consultations in the nearest town of Kenton can help.
Larger motorhomes shouldn't have a problem finding a place to camp if they're set up to dock. After turning north off the M-28 onto NF-16, turn left onto Forest Service 1100 and drive approximately 4 miles before you see the campground on your left.
Free Camping at Lake Perrault on the Keweenaw Peninsula
GPS coordinates:47.029353, -88.731405
Looking to camp on the Keweenaw Peninsula, especially if it's free? Its place is Lake Perrault.
It's a primitive campground in the northern part of Michigan, so don't expect more than clear areas, fire rings, and a few picnic tables. Some sites are right on Lake Perrault, while others are higher up in the woods with a little more seclusion.
As it is not a loop, anything over 40 feet should not go down to this free camp area as it is quite tight when turning.
Finding your way to the free campsite at Lake Perrault is a little tricky and Google Maps isn't particularly helpful. From the M-26, turn to these coordinates:47.028587, -88.725228. This is the only road off the M-26 near the lake. Then follow the road to the lake and you will see the campsites.
Ottawa National Forest Free Area near the Porcupine Mountains
GPS coordinates:46.70982, -89.76244
This freely distributed Upper Peninsula campground is located in the Ottawa National Forest, right on the border of Porcupine Mountain State Park.
There are several fire pits and picnic tables set out, and some campsites offer more privacy than others among the tall pines of the Upper Peninsula.
Larger motorhomes should have no problem accessing this free campsite as it is on a gentle gravel road off the South Boundary Road.
I hope some of these free Michigan Upper Peninsula Campgrounds will help you save some money on your next road trip or UP. camping trip! It's a great way to save money, get away from the crowds, and enjoy the area.
If you need tips on setting up camp or getting away from the amenities, check out some of the related posts below orSUBSCRIBEto receive new posts directly to your inbox.
As always, thanks for reading!
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- Raco Airfield Dispersed Camping. Hiawatha National Forest. ...
- Hovey Lake Dispersed Campground. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. ...
- Boney Falls Basin Campground. ...
- Perrault Lake. ...
- Sturgeon River Campground. ...
- Rhody Creek Trail. ...
- French Farm Lake Campground. ...
- Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Boondocking is legal in many parts of Michigan, particularly in the sparsely populated upper peninsula. Michigan has plenty of wide-open spaces, but unlike some states out west, most of it is not government-owned, and there are more restrictions.Can you camp anywhere in the Upper Peninsula? ›
Most are onsite or a short distance from the U.P.'s favorite things to do including visiting Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula. Point to anywhere on the U.P. map and you can camp nearby!Is there any BLM land in Michigan? ›
Michigan does not have BLM land but plenty of forest service land. Most of these public lands are located in the northern half of the lower peninsula and through the upper peninsula. If you are really looking to get away from it all look in the upper peninsula (the UP) as it is very remote.Can you sleep in your car in Michigan state parks? ›
"Yes. There are no rules or laws against sleeping in your vehicle while at a Michigan rest area. And because there is no maximum time limit, that would be also include overnight sleeping. Note: Some rest areas in Michigan have signs posted prohibiting overnight parking and camping."Can you camp on state land in the upper peninsula of Michigan? ›
Yes, camping is allowed on Michigan state land. Michigan state lands are managed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.Can I live in a camper on my own land in Michigan? ›
The State Law concerning mobile homes, says that "travel trailers" and "camping trailers" are not to be used as permanent residences, but can be lived in on your property for short periods as emergency shelters.Can you camp for free in Pictured Rocks? ›
Free Camping East of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Some of the cleared free camping spaces are like a big field and you may be camping near others, all surrounded by tall trees. There are no amenities here, but drinking water is available at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from an unthreaded spigot.
Backpacking or car camping (also known as dispersed camping) is permitted on state forest land as long as your site is located more than one mile from a state forest campground. It's free of charge.Where not to set up camp? ›
Avoid camping near lone trees, mountaintops, high ridges and other likely lightning targets. Find a site away from low-lying places that could fill with water during a flash flood, such as valleys, canyons and banks of small, shallow rivers.
Dispersed camping is allowed in a one-mile perimeter away from campgrounds and 100 feet from any stream. Don't sleep on the side of the road – it's usually illegal. To prevent resource damage, keep your campsite within 150 feet from a roadway. Bring plenty of your own water, or have a way to treat it.Can I pitch a tent anywhere in Michigan? ›
In Michigan, one can freely engage in dispersed camping on any public land that is supervised by the USFS – United States Forest Service. On these lands, dispersed camping is broadly allowed, with the exception of areas where this kind of activity is explicitly forbidden.Can you camp anywhere in Pictured Rocks? ›
Vehicles and trailers must stay on the delineated campsite parking area. Any extra vehicles will have to park elsewhere in parking lots. Two tents are allowed per site, or two sleeping hammocks (or one of each). One tent must be on the tent pad, and the other must be within 6 feet of the pad.
Boondocking is a fun and fantastic way to enjoy the best of RV camping anywhere, at any time—no electric, sewage, or water hookups required! And Michigan is rapidly becoming one of the most popular places for boondocking, with lots of great RV options both free and paid in the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.How much does it cost to camp at Tahquamenon Falls State Park? ›
Campsite Rates* run from $16 to $25 per night. Special off-season rates for Winter Camping. Campground map and general information on the Tahquamenon Falls campgrounds at this DNR site.