Yes, camping is allowed on Michigan state land. Michigan state lands are managed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Existing state laws and regulations in the Great Lakes State allows people to disperse camp (boondocking) on these lands, along with camping in developed campgrounds.
Is Camping Allowed on Michigan State Land?
The Michigan State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that camping is allowed on Michigan state lands. They offer both developed campgrounds for those who want amenities, as well as dispersed camping (boondocking) for those who want to get away everyone.
Developed Campgrounds on Michigan State Land
Michigan State Forests – There are some 140 developed campgrounds scattered throughout the upper and lower peninsulas. Most of these campgrounds are open only during the warmer part of the year, but a few remain open all year round. You are required to obtain a “Recreation Passport” (click here for more info) when entering a developed campground. The State maintains its own map of all 140+ state forest campgrounds (click here to see the map).
Michigan State Parks – The State of Michigan has 110 state parks located throughout the upper and lower peninsulas. Almost all of these parks have developed campgrounds. You can find these campgrounds at the DNR’s website (click here to visit the website).
Dispersed Camping on Michigan State Land
The DNR restricts dispersed camping (boondocking) to state forests only. If you want to camp within state parks, they limit you to either developed campgrounds or designated backcountry camping sites. There are six (6) state forests in Michigan, but are divided out into dozens of “forest management units”.
Rules for dispersed camping on Michigan state forests…
- Campsites must be located more than one mile from developed campgrounds.
- You are not allowed to camp in area where a “No Camping” sign is posted.
- A “Camp Registration Card” must be prominently posted at the campsite for the duration of the stay. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the registration card remains legible. Placing the card in a zip-top bag is recommended (download a copy of a Camp Registration Card here).
- Camping is limited to 15 consecutive nights between May 1 and October 1.
- Camping is limited to 21 consecutive nights between October 1 and May 1.
- After reaching the maximum consecutive nights, you must move your camp at least one (1) mile away in order to get fresh set of consecutive nights.
- A campsite must not be left unattended for a period lasting twenty-four (24) hours or more.
- Campfires are allowed for the purpose of cooking and creating heat, but not for the purpose of burning trash.
- You are not allowed to collect dead and down wood for campfire use. You have to instead bring in your own firewood. [DNR 299.922 (h)]
- Your vehicle(s) must not block the free flow of traffic along roads, but may not be parked more than fifty (50) feet away from a road.
The above rules can be found on the reverse side of a DNR Camp Registration Card, as well as within the list of DNR state forest regulations (click here to download regulations).
Map of Michigan State Forest Lands
The State of Michigan has an online map depicting all state forest land boundaries, as well as locations of developed campgrounds (click here to see the map).