Tag: Sleeping Bear Dunes (Page 1 of 2)
Back in 2019, we managed to score a campsite at one of Michigan’s most popular campgrounds right when they were first available to be booked in advance. Of course, I’m referring to D.H. Day Campground and when we first set up camp, we understood the hype around the campground. First of all, it is located in the amazingly beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Second, the campsites are big and private and the campground is quiet. Third, it is located in a great spot to explore all the fun things on Leelanau.
With campgrounds being closed longer than normal due to COVID, we didn’t attempt to get a prime summer reservation in 2020. Instead, we waited until late in the season when the campground goes back to sites being available on a first come first serve basis. This was Halloween weekend and I was nervous the campground was going to be busy and we were going to have a hard time getting a spot. Well, snow was on the forecast, and being a rustic park there is no electric service to heat up your campers in the freezing temperatures. When we pulled in there were maybe only three or four other sites that were occupied.
We did what any D.H. Day loving camper would do in that situation and we took one of the coveted and near impossible to reserve in the summer waterfront sites. It was very cold and the wind was strong so it was hard to enjoy the beach, but on the other side of the dune, it was a wonderful campsite. We discovered that many sites in this section involve some dune climbing to reach so there are only a few that are accessible to RVs or trailers. Those sites would be AMAZING for tents, though.
If you have been struggling to get a site at D.H. Day, try going offseason. It will be even quieter than in the summer and you may even be able to score a waterfront site. If you go in the fall you’ll also be treated to a show of fall colors on Leelanau. You’ll just need to bring extra blankets and maybe some hand warmers to keep warm.
While in Sleeping Bear Dunes we had to hike the Empire Bluff Trail (top). The last time we had been to the park, we tried the Alligator Hill trail and it did not live up to Empire Buff. I have heard really good things about the Pyramid Point trail and we will have to try it next time but I just needed another chance to soak in that Empire Bluff view before I try another trail that may or may not be better.
To try your hand a reserving a site at this very popular campground, visit Recreation.gov. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.
Camping seems to be the thing to do this summer, to get away from the crowds and get into nature. With so many new campers, I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite places to get into nature in Michigan. It is important to note that many of these campgrounds fill up on summer weekends, so definitely try to make reservations early!
When looking for campgrounds for tent camping, I’m looking for:
- Privacy: without a big RV to retreat to, I prefer to have some trees separating me from my neighbors
- View: my favorite campsites in Michigan are usually near a body of water and being able to see it from your site is unbeatable
- Location: we are not the kind of campers that hang around the campground all day. We like campgrounds with activities nearby, whether it be hiking, boating or a town to explore
- Cleanliness: while I haven’t had an issue with any campground in Michigan being unhygienic, the ones that made this list are clean.
- Rustic vs. modern: I don’t need electric service while camping. I have learned that everything I need to power (mainly charging phones and camera batteries) can be powered through the AC adapter in my car or from a battery pack. Modern bathhouses and showers are a plus but I am not opposed to an outhouse. I haven’t been brave enough to try dispersed camping without an outhouse yet.
With those parameters in place, here are my favorite campgrounds in Michigan, in no particular order:
D.H. Day is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This campground only recently started taking reservations, before that people literally lined up early in the morning to get a site here and after camping here, I understand why. It is a rustic campground but campers do have access to the showers at Platte River (the modern campground in the park). The sites are big and very private and there is a nice beach located within the campground. When I booked, the only sites available were in the generator loop. With the rules about when generators can be run, it was pretty peaceful. Reservations are accepted from May to October. The rest of the year it is still first come, first served. With online reservations, D.H. Day books up early. You can book 6 months out at Recreation.gov.
Fisherman’s Island State Park is located near Charlevoix. The waterfront sites here are AMAZING and can fit a tent or small trailer. You basically have a small beach on Lake Michigan to yourself. This is a completely rustic campground but the setting is totally worth it! It is very quiet and it’s not too hard to get a site in peak season although the waterfront sites book up early. To book, visit midnrreservations.com.
Like many Michigan State Parks, Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P. is a large park with many campgrounds throughout. My favorite has to be Rivermouth Pines. Located away from the falls where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, this area is off the beaten path and quiet. They are well spaced out and some of them are right on the water. The sites in this area are rustic but it is within walking distance to the Rivermouth campground where there is a modern bathhouse. To book visit, midnrreservations.com.
Hoeft State Park, located near Rogers City, is really a hidden gem of the Michigan State Park system. It has a gorgeous Lake Huron beach and is near the Huron-Sunrise trail which is a popular biking destination. The sites are large and spread out with electric service and a modern bathhouse. One of the best things about this park is that is typically pretty easy to get a site and only really fills up on holiday weekends. Its still a good idea to reserve a site ahead of time at midrnreservations.com.
Straits State Park in St. Ignace is the only campground that we routinely return to. It is very close to downtown St. Ignace so it’s very convenient if you are planning on visiting Mackinac Island. But what keeps me coming back to this park are the waterfront, bridge view sites. Even if you can’t get right on the water, both lower campgrounds have great views of the bridge and there is a little bench on the water where you can sit if you didn’t score a bridge-view site. The sites right on the water do not have electric service but Straits has the best showers in all of the state park system. The waterfront sites tend to fill up quickly but are easier to get during the week. To book, visit Midnrreservations.com.
Update after visiting 7/24/2020: Over the last few years the bridge view sites have opened up for the bigger rigs. What this means is that unless you can score one of those sites, you can’t really see the bridge from your site. Also, this makes the campground feel much more crowded than in the past. Some of that might just be that people are fleeing to nature this summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to get up there next summer and see if its calmed down at all. As of right now, I no longer recommend this campground for tents unless you can get one of those bridge view sites!
Hartwick Pines State Park is located near Grayling. The park has one modern campground and even has a few full hookup sites for the big rigs. But even with all of that, the sites are private and the park was very quiet when I visited. It also has a recently renovated shower house with some of the nicest showers in the state park system. The park has many hiking trails, a logging museum, and a lake for paddling or fishing. This campground worked out well for us as the first stop on our UP road trip, allowing us to do some of the drive on Friday night. Sites can be reserved at midnrreservations.com.
In the Keewenaw peninsula near Hancock, McLain wins the award for best campground view ever. Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, offers a stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset over Lake Superior! The sites are kind of close and don’t offer a lot of privacy, but they do have electric service. Since I’ve been there, they did a major refurbishment of the campground since some of the cliffs had eroded and they lost some of the sites. With the renovation came a new bathhouse which was sorely needed. While this isn’t the most popular campground, its not a bad idea to book a site in advance at midnrreservations.com
Wilderness State Park, located near Mackinaw City, is one of the biggest state parks in the lower peninsula and has several typical state park campgrounds. A few years ago they added these amazing waterfront tent sites (double letter sites AA, BB, etc). These sites are very private and quiet, except for the road noise you get because they are right at the entrance to the park. What is amazing about these sites is that they sit right on the water so each site essentially has its own private beach. These sites are rustic but there is a modern bathroom at the nearby entrance station. These sites are set slightly off from where the parking is so they are not accessible for any kind of trailer. There are only a handful of these sites so it is best to reserve them early on midnrreservations.com.
Located in Christmas, Michigan not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Bay Furnace is a National Forest Service campground. It is completely rustic with outhouses but the sites are very private and the campground is very quiet. Of course, the park also has a beautiful, rocky beach on Lake Superior which is a great place to watch the sunset at the end of the day. Bay Furnace is one of the only campgrounds in the area that takes advanced reservations. The campgrounds at Pictured Rocks do now take reservations, but they are pretty small and fill up quickly so Bay Furnace is a great alternative. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov.
Located on the shores of Lake Huron, not far from Mackinaw City, Cheboygan State Park is home to a small campground with outdated electrical service that keeps a lot of the big rigs away. Some of the sites in the park are the tightly packed open fields that Michigan State Parks are known for, but the waterfront sites are very private and wooded with private paths to the water. The park is scheduled for an upgrade to the water and electric system which will probably make it more popular, but hopefully the waterfront sites will be untouched! Reservations can be made in advance at midrnreservations.com.
Jack Pine campground at Ludington State Park is a hike in campground and one of my absolute favorite campgrounds in the state. Located only about a mile from the parking area along the gravel path to the lighthouse, Jack Pine is one of the most accessible backcountry campgrounds in Michigan. We carried our gear in a wagon but a lot of people get to the campground by bike. Ludington State Park is one of the most popular places to camp in Michigan and most of the campgrounds in the park have cramped, small spaces without much privacy. Jack Pine takes a little more effort to get to, but it rewards with quiet and privacy. It was closed in 2020 due to high water levels, but as of summer 2021, it is open again and sites are filling up fast. Reservations can be made in advance and midnrreservations.com.
Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite campground in Michigan? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
I have always heard people talking about the D. H. Day campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes, but it has always been first come first served. I have heard stories of people lining up for hours just waiting for someone to leave. So, when I heard that National Park Service announced that they were going to begin accepting reservations for this popular campground, I began checking weekly to see if the website was up. After several months of delays, the website was up and I was able to secure a campsite for a weekend in August.
D.H. Day is the rustic campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes. There is no electricity and there are outhouses instead of bathrooms (just as camping should be, in my opinion). Because of when I booked, all of the loops were full, except the generator loop, meaning campers are allowed to use generators in camp during the day. Since we don’t spend a lot of time at our campsite during the day, this wasn’t a problem for us, but I did notice this seemed to be the loop with the bigger rigs.
After camping at D. H. Day, I totally understand the hype. It is a gorgeous campground, right in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The sites are good sized and have a separated from each other. The campground also has a beautiful beach (top). My only complaint is that our site was very close to the outhouse (left) and it did not appear that way on the map, or I wouldn’t have booked it. If you are a camper, I highly recommend D.H. Day campground as a home base for exploring Sleeping Bear and all the Leelanau Peninsula has to offer! If you are thinking about camping at D.H. Day, I highly recommend booking in advance at recreation.gov because sites do fill up fast!
Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
This past summer, we took a weekend camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Located on Lake Michigan, just south of Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the most beautiful places in the state! Usually, when we visit the dunes, we head for the Empire Bluff Trail, which ends in one of the best lookouts in the state. This time, we decided to try something different and hike the Alligator Hill Trail, one of the most popular trails in the park.
Although longer than the short Empire Bluff Trail, Alligator Hill was an easier hike. It was a gradual uphill for most of the 1.3 mile hike to the lookouts. By avoiding the intermediate and advanced trails and stopping at each of the lookouts, this hike is 4.1 miles round trip, but much less strenuous than climbing to the top of Empire Bluff. The view from the overlooks was nice, but it didn’t compare to the striking sand cliff at Empire Bluff.
After hiking Alligator Hill, I have some recommendations for hikers at Sleeping Bear Dunes. If you are looking for a fairly easy day hike, with some nice views, you can’t go wrong with Alligator Hill. If you’re up for something a little more strenuous with absolutely amazing views, hike Empire Bluff. I was glad we hiked the Alligator Hill trail, but the next time we’re at the dunes, we will go back to Empire Bluff instead!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to read more about our weekend at Sleeping Bear Dunes! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
We had a warm up a few weeks ago that had me thinking spring was on its way. But, today its supposed to snow, so I’m sitting here thinking of summer and working on planning our summer camping trips. We are planning another week long summer road trip, but instead of heading north, we are going South to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We also have weekend trips planned to Port Crescent State Park (on the tip of Michigan’s thumb), Wilderness State Park, and one night at the hike-in Jack Pine Campground at Ludington State Park. We are also planning on camping somewhere for the solar eclipse that is coming in August. It looks like it is going to be a busy summer and I’m hoping that being better about planning, we will make better use of those precious summer weekends!
About the Photo:
This photo was taken on our last trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes for the National Park Service 100th Anniversary. It had been a while since we’d done Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive since it was closed when we visited the park in March. The first stop on the drive gives you a breathtaking view of Glen Lake. Because it was a free admission day, it was tough to squeeze in and get a shot, but it was totally worth it!
Nikon D3100 with 18-55 kit lens, handheld
August 28, 2016