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Camping Leelanau State Park

Flying over Leelanau State Park

Flying over Leelanau State Park

Leelanau State Park is located at the tip of Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan’s pinky finger) and is home to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, 8.5 miles of hiking trails, and a rustic campground. We decided to give it a try this fall and it was a great base for exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes and all there is to see on the peninsula.

The campground has 51 sites with no electrical hookup or modern bath facilities. Outhouses are scattered throughout the campground. About half of the sites are located on Lake Michigan and the other half are tucked up in the woods. The view from the waterfront sites is beautiful but windy. When camping in the cooler months (like during our visit in October) having some trees between you and the water can help keep you warmer. None of the sites are too far from the water and this would be a great campground to enjoy in warm weather!

 

While this campground is on Leelanau Peninsula, it is far away from a lot of the things to do. It is a 10-minute drive from Northport, 30 minutes from Suttons Bay or Leland, and an hour from Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear Dunes. We pretty much left in the morning to explore our favorite places on the peninsula and came back to camp at night. If you are looking for a campground to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes, D.H. Day is probably a better option. But, if you want a beautiful, quiet, rustic campground on Lake Michigan, Leelanau State Park is a great place to stay!

Leelanau Peninsula from the Air

We used our time on the peninsula well. Of course, we flew the drone (see photos above) and then headed down to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Since we have the America the Beautiful National Park Pass, we had to make use of it, so we drove Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive for the first time in a few years. Of course, we did some wine tasting and found a few new favorite vineyards on Leelanau. I haven’t been anywhere in Northern Michigan that I didn’t like and Leelanau State Park did not disappoint! To book your stay at Leelanau State Park, visit MiDNRReservations.com!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Camping Straits State Park

Mackinac Bridge

For the Labor Day long weekend, we headed to one of our favorite campgrounds in Michigan, Straits State Park near St. Ignace. I got lucky and managed to score two waterfront sites for the holiday weekend since we had some family that was camping with us. Straits was the perfect home base since we were planning on walking the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. The campground is right next to the base of the bridge and even has a trail to the bridge walk for campers. From Straits, we also took day trips to Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island (more on those trips in upcoming weeks).

Mackinac Bridge at night from our campsite

The view of the bridge from our campsite

The first time we camped at Straits one of our neighbors walked up to us and told us that he thought we had one of the best views in all of Michigan State Parks and he is not wrong. Being able to see the Mackinac Bridge from the campfire at night is pretty special. The waterfront sites don’t have electricity, so in the past, it has limited them to just tents and popups, but with solar and battery technology, bigger rigs are utilizing them now, which makes them harder to get. It also makes the view from sites farther back in the campground not as good. I booked exactly 6 months in advance (on Fat Tuesday, to be exact) and I wasn’t able to get two sites next to each other, but the sites weren’t too far apart.

Even though it was a holiday weekend and the campground was full, it was a quiet, calm camping experience. We had the last site on the end which is actually very close to where the Bridge Walk starts in St. Ignace. We could hear the announcer and even the Lt. Governor giving his speech before the walk began as we were getting ready at our campsite. We had such a good time, we plan to do it again this year. I have my countdown going for when to book this year’s campsites. Maybe this year we will figure out a shortcut to get from the campground to the base of the bridge for the bridge walk!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Camping at Traverse City State Park

Campsite at Traverse City State Park

With our love of Traverse City, it is surprising it took us this long to camp at Traverse City State Park. The previous summer we had camped nearby at Interlochen State Park, about 15 miles from Traverse City, but this year we decided to try out the park in the heart of the city.

Traverse City State Park is located just east of Traverse City in East Bay Township, across the street from all the bayside hotels. There is a pedestrian bridge that connects that campground to the beach on Grand Traverse Bay. This is a modern campground with several bathhouses and electric service at each site, some of which have 50 amps. For being a city park, the campsites are good sized but are lacking in privacy.

The campground is very close to Cherry Capital Airport so there is a lot of air traffic and early morning you can hear the jets warming their engines. It is also on a busy street with road noise pretty much 24 hours a day and it was near impossible to turn left out of the campground to head into Traverse City. I wouldn’t recommend this campground for tent campers unless you are a very heavy sleeper.

Old Mission Lighthouse

The Old Mission Lighthouse is a 30-minute drive from the campground

The best part of camping at Traverse City State Park is the location. It is about a ten-minute drive to all of the shops and dining in downtown Traverse City or ten minutes to the wineries on Old Mission. As mentioned above, the campground is just on the other side of Munson from the beachfront hotels, which can run over $300 per night in the summer. A campsite in the state park is only $45 for a summer weekend night, granted you have to bring your bed with you, but it is quite a savings to be in the middle of the action.

If you are looking for a campground close to Traverse City with beach access, look no further than Traverse City State Park. If you are looking for a quiet, private, nature-centered camping experience not too far from the city, I would recommend Interlochen State Park instead.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Miners Castle

Miners Castle

Camping Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Runaway Camper at Hurricane River Campground

With campgrounds in Michigan taking reservations six months in advance, it is about time to start thinking about where you want to camp next summer. So, I figured now would be the perfect time to recap some of my favorite campgrounds from last summer!

In 2022, the campgrounds at Pictured Rocks National Lakesure were able to be booked in advance for the first time ever. In the past, I never attempted to camp in the park because the stress of first-come, first-serve campgrounds is too much for me. But, about 5 months out, I looked to see what was still available and I grabbed the last open spot for the weekend in question. All of the campgrounds within the National Lakeshore are rustic meaning there is no electric, water, or sewer hookup and there are vault toilets. There is very minimal cell signal at the campground so do not plan to camp here if you need to be connected.

When I booked the site, it was very unclear to me if I was supposed to go somewhere to check in for our campsite or if I was supposed to print the confirmation email. On our second day, a range stopped by and asked for proof of our reservation. Now, as I’m looking at Recreation.gov, it says to print the confirmation page and hang it from the post at the site.

Au Sable Lighthouse

The site we managed to get was in Hurricane River campground which has 21 sites and is the location of the trail to the Au Sable lighthouse. The trail to the lighthouse starts at the campground and is 1.5 miles each way. It is a flat, easy trail and is a good way to get away from the crowds that can be seen in other areas of the park. In the summer, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a view. Check out the National Park Service website for information about times and cost.

2022 was also the first year that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore charged an entrance fee. Personally, I think this was a long time coming. When we visited the Chapel trailhead in 2020 it was an ordeal to get a parking spot. While I’m not expecting this fee to reduce the visitation at the park, at least it will give the park some money to do upkeep and improve the facilities around the park.

Overall, we enjoyed our weekend camping at Pictured Rocks. We had a wonderful time kayaking in Lake Superior (more on that next week). I’m sure we will be back to this beautiful area in the future. If you are looking to camp at Pictured Rocks, the reservations fill up fast so plan to try to get your spot 6 months in advance at Recreation.gov.

Thanks for stopping by!To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Cold Weather Camping in the Runaway Rangerunner

Runaway camper with attached ARB Room

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After our Disney trip, we decided to take Runaway out for one last trip before the snow came. Of course, when asked where in Michigan I want to camp, I chose Ludington State Park. Ludington is one of a few campgrounds in the state that stay open through the winter with limited amenities. The bathhouses are closed and there is no running water so winter camping is not for the faint of heart.

When we were planning this trip, Chris told me he has no problem with winter camping, but he has no interest in pulling the camper in the snow. So, of course, we drove through white-out conditions on our way through Muskegon. Luckily we were able to drive slow and conditions improved as we started heading north. I think we will watch the weather forecast more closely before we book our next winter camping trip.

Being that it was supposed to get below freezing, we chose a campground that had electricity. Keeping warm at night would drain our battery in no time and no one wants to sleep with a generator running if it can be avoided. Something else we did is we added the ARB tent room to our Maxi Trac awning. This gave us extra enclosed living space which we heated with an indoor safe Mr. Buddy portable propane heater. That room really stayed very comfortable. The hardest part was getting out to walk to the freezing cold outhouse!

If I were to do this again, I wouldn’t bring the Mr. Buddy if we have electricity at the site. It went through more propane than we expected. Next time, we would probably just bring a bigger space heater that we could plug in and save the propane.

One thing we struggled with this setup is how to cook. We didn’t want to bring the stove into the ARB room because it says right on it not to use it in a tent because of the carbon monoxide risk. But it was rain/snowing at one point and we didn’t want to cook outside. We are seriously considering getting another inexpensive awning for the other side of the camper so we would have a covered cooking area if we are using the ARB room.

Big Sable Lighthouse

Since drove through a blizzard to get to Ludington, of course, we had to hike to the lighthouse. We decided to take the Lighthouse Trail from the campground out to the lighthouse. This is the trail we tried to do in 2020 but realized we didn’t have enough time before we had to check out of the campground. Let me tell you, it is much easier to hike through sand dunes when the ground is frozen. Between the sand and the humidity, this was a rough hike in the summer, but it was a great one to do in the late fall!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Cold Weather Camping Pin

Camping Clear Lake State Park

Runaway Camper at Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park is located on Clear Lake in Atlanta, Michigan. A few years ago, I had seen a picture of someone stand-up paddleboarding on Clear Lake and I just had to get to paddle on that water! As you would expect from the name, Clear Lake has crystal clear water and in some areas, you can see straight to the bottom.

Unlike some of the other lakes we camped on this summer, Clear Lake state park doesn’t have any waterfront sites, but we booked site 124, the site closest to the path to the water. In the heat of the summer, this would probably be a very busy area with people going to and from the beach, but in the middle of September, it was perfect! It was a pretty big site and we were able to sit in our site and look out at the water.

Clear Lake State Park connects to the Atlanta ORV route so it is popular with ORVers. This was one of the reasons we chose to camp here after Labor Day. We figured it would be quieter than in the middle of the summer and while we could hear them a little, it wasn’t a nuisance at all. A park rule does state that ORVs are allowed to be ridden to and from the trail and the campground, but they are not permitted to ride freely around the campground.

Clear Lake State Park is located in Elk Country. Over 1,000 elk live in the northeast section of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The elk herd celebrated its 100th anniversary since being reintroduced to the state in 2018. September and October at dawn and dusk are the prime times to view the elk herd. For more information about viewing the elk, visit the Michigan DNR.

One of the big downsides about this campground is that it is in the middle of nowhere. When you’re camping, this is usually what you are going for, but when you forget something, it can be a real pain. We forgot towels and I was really worried we were going to have to go an hour each way to Grayling to go to Wal-Mart. Luckily, the Dollar General in Atlanta had some cheap towels and we didn’t have to make that trek.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Clear Lake Pinterest Graphic Clear Lake Pinterest Graphic

Camping Indian Lake State Park

Campfire at Indian Lake State Park

Indian Lake State Park is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the town of Manistique. The state park is home to two sections separated by the lake. We stayed at the modern campground on the south side of the lake which was originally developed in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration.

There is another campground at Indian Lake and it is one that I can’t find a lot of information about. The south campground is unique in that it is considered semi-modern with vault toilets but the sites have electric service. Unlike the south campground, the west campground is not located on the water. The sites are available first come first serve and are not available to be reserved in advance.

Just like at Interlochen, this was part of my goal for 2021, to camp at less-popular Michigan campgrounds that would allow me to score a waterfront site without booking exactly six months out. We had site 84 which was right on the water and would’ve been perfect for launching the kayak, but it got cold and windy and most of the time we were there, it was not kayaking weather!

Runaway Camper at Indian Lake State Park

The waterfront sites at Indian Lake were beautiful and for the most part, we enjoyed our time at the campground. My only complaint is that the bathhouses could really use an update. Each bathhouse only had one shower for men and one for women. Granted, it was so cold when we visited it seemed like a lot of people were either showering in their rigs or not showering at all because it didn’t seem to get too backed up. I can just imagine this would be really annoying in the heat of the summer!

Kitch-iti-Kipi RaftIndian Lake is the closest state park campground to Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring located in Palms Book State Park. The spring has gotten very popular in recent years since it has been featured on the Pure Michigan billboards all around the state. We tried to visit on a weekend in 2020 and the line to ride the raft across the spring went all the way to the parking lot. Staying closeby allowed up to visit in the evening before the sunset. We only had to share the raft with a few other people. It was a much better experience!

We also took a day trip out to Fayette Historic State Park. It was only about a 45-minute drive from Indian Lake and it was great to see more of the historic buildings open. After visiting in the summer of 2020, Fayette is becoming one of my favorite Michigan State Parks to visit! It’s just a great place to walk around and explore both the history and beauty of Lake Michigan.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Indian Lake Pinterest Graphic

Camping at Interlochen State Park

Sunset Over Duck Lake

In the Summer of 2021, my camping goal was to try less-popular campgrounds in Michigan State Parks that would allow me to get a waterfront site without having to fight for it six months out. This would allow us to launch our kayak right from our campsite! What I didn’t realize when booking this site is that the campground is located on a cliff and it was impossible to launch our kayak from our site. But, it was a great place to watch the sunset over the lake!

Interlochen State Park borders the nearby music camp so peaceful music floats into the campground in the summer. Leaving the park, you are sometimes stopped by a crossing guard helping the students cross the street. The state park is home to two campgrounds: a modern campground on Duck Lake and a rustic campground sits on the shore of Green Lake on the other side of the road. For this trip, we chose the modern option.

We had site 385 and when we arrived I was shocked this was such an easy site to get! It was HUGE! Probably the size of the four sites across the street combined. I think at one point this was a communal area to look out at the water, maybe there were even stairs going down because there was not another site in the campground that was remotely this big. Our little tent and cooking setup maybe took up 10% of the site. If you are thinking about camping at Interlochen, this is the site to get!

One of the best things about Interlochen, and the reason we will probably return next summer, is the proximity to my favorite Michigan town, Traverse City. It’s only a 26 minute drive into Traverse City from here. Yes, there is a campground in Traverse City with a gorgeous beach on Traverse Bay, but it is much more of an urban park. The beach is on the other side of a busy road and the sites are much closer together. I have heard reports that jet engines warming up at the nearby airport wake campers up early. If you want to day trip to Traverse City but still have the quiet, natural campground experience, I recommend Interlochen State Park.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Interlochen Pinterest Graphic

2021: Year in Review

Logan Pass

Glacier National Park in June

2021 goes down as one of our best travel years yet. Despite COVID and all the precautions that go along with it, we were still able to get out there and explore these United States. Yes, my passport has been gathering some dust (that’s the nature of traveling during a pandemic) but I was able to see some sites this year that I have been dreaming about for a long time!

This year started off with a bang, and by bang, I mean snow and a cold snap in Texas.  We tasted Texas wine and visited the home of a former president. Of course, the fun was only just beginning when our connecting flight got canceled and we were stuck in Orlando for two days! This whole ordeal still has me kind of nervous to fly. Not so nervous that I won’t do it, but nervous enough that I build in extra time and buy trip insurance before I get on a plane.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park

Of course, in 2021 we took the biggest trip of our lives spanning three weeks. We visited 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We saw Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier, places I have been dreaming about seeing for myself for a long time. It was a wonderful journey, but I hope I can say that it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I want to continue traveling like that and seeing all the places that make America beautiful!

Disney World 50th Anniversary

I don’t know if I can call the big trip the highlight of the year though, because I also got to be in the Magic Kingdom on October 1 for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. This has been a dream of mine for the last 10 years. It was a whirlwind trip where we had a hotel room we barely saw and got by mainly on caffeine. We also got to see Galaxy Edge in Disney Hollywood Studios. I know it’s not super new, but this was the first time I had seen it. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I have to say, it was so cool! I still have to recap it officially on the blog, so that is all I will say about it for now. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for the details!

Runaway Camper Setup

We took some weekend trips around Michigan in the spring and summer and spent some time in our new mini camper. We finally kayaked out to Turnip Rock and walked across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. We have some big plans for 2022 as well! I can’t wait!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our latest trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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