Learn about camping and boondocking in Michigan

Dispersed Camping in Michigan

Dispersed Camping in Michigan


Michigan is not well-known for dispersed camping, but there are definitely some picturesque places for free camping and boondocking in the Great Lakes State. While dispersed camping in Michigan still remains elusive for many, we’ve put together a list of ten (10) boondocking sites that may interest you…

dispersed camping in michigan
Dispersed Camping at Bock Road, Au Sable State Forest, Michigan

Dispersed Camping in Michigan

The following campsites were selected based on our own experiences camping there and based on popularity with other boondockers…

Bock Road

(GPS 44.232524, -84.657665) – Au Sable State Forest – This is an isolated area where very few people camp, so be prepared for plenty of alone time. The road in is quite sandy and soft. A 4WD vehicle is required, or at least wood boards or tracks to help you get unstuck. It’s well-used area for off-road vehicles and fishing. Michigan state land rules apply here, meaning a maximum of 15 nights, or 21 nights between October 1 and May 1.

Marzinski Horse Trailhead & Campground

(GPS 44.22542, -86.16242) – Huron Manistee National Forest – This is a free, developed campground. While horseback riders use this area frequently, you don’t have to have a horse to camp here. It’s also popular campground for RVers and van dwellers. This campground is buggy, expect lots of mosquitoes, but also plenty of fireflies too. Maximum of 14 days stay.

Luzerne Horse Trailhead & Campground

(GPS 44.58597, -84.29064) – Huron Manistee National Forest – This is a free, developed campground for horseback riders, however it is not required to have a horse to camp here. It’s a popular campground for RVers and van dwellers too. This campground is noted for its thick, dense canopy of trees with lots of shade. There is a noted issue with gypsy moths here, which are known to cause itching and rash if you come into contact.

Green Road

(GPS 44.08561, -86.41265) – Huron Manistee National Forest – This dirt road runs for about 2 miles through a small portion of the Huron Manistee National Forest and provides several small boondocking sites. These sites are too small for large RVs, but still suitable for vans, pickup truck campers, and even small trailers. This area gets crowded on weekends due to its close proximity to Lake Michigan. It’s free camping, while being just a couple miles from the beach.

Whelan Lake

(GPS 43.91047, -86.15748) – Huron Manistee National Forest – This is a small lake nestled within the national forest. There is fishing here, and the lake is swimmable. While the campsite can be difficult to find, you still won’t find any shortage of nearby campers or off-road vehicles. This is dispersed camping in Michigan at its finest! Even though this is water front camping, it’s actually not that buggy, though you will still want to bring your favorite mosquito repellent. It’s best accessible from the east by taking Walhalla Rd to Aspen Rd.

Sulak Campground

(GPS 43.92460, -86.01289) – Huron Manistee National Forest – Located along the south side of the Pere Marquette River, this is a small campground with 12 campsites, all free for 14 days of stay. This is a very popular campground, and you should plan to arrive mid-week in the afternoon if you want to find availability. By the evening, this campground fills up. Make sure to also bring plenty of mosquito repellent.

Condon Lakes West

(GPS 43.75751, -85.90021) – Huron Manistee National Forest – There about six campsites located on the west bank of Condon Lake. These sites are suitable for small to medium sized RVs and vans. It’s another very popular campground, but completely free. You’ll want to arrive mid-week, in the late morning or early afternoon to find an open site, otherwise you may be out of luck. GPS coordinates for the campground access road is (43.75468, -85.90410).

De Cheau Lake

(GPS 45.03178, -84.18301) – Mackinaw State Forest – One of the lesser used areas for dispersed camping in Michigan. It’s on Michigan state land, thus Michigan state land rules apply. The roads can be rough, but it’s still suitable for any size RV or vehicle. Great place to take kids for swimming, fishing, and kayaking. There is a boat launch and restroom facilities.

French Farm Lake Campground

(GPS 45.75738, -84.76691) – Mackinaw State Forest – Free camping close to Mackinaw City, there are six campsites here, with the first four being suitable for large RVs. This is a very popular campground, so you’ll want to get here early in the afternoon to secure a site. It’s on Michigan state land, thus Michigan state land rules apply. It’s one of the prettiest campgrounds for sunsets!

Horseshoe Lake (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.46200, -86.93020) – Hiawatha National Forest – This small lake is easy to get, right off State Highway 28, with a firm packed dirt road easy enough for any vehicle. It’s on national forest land, so it’s free camping. There are only two sites on the lake front, with a third site back in the woods. All three sites are “smallish” suitable for small to medium sized RVs. Enjoy blackberries and blueberries growing in the wild.

Hovey Lake Campground (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.288597, -86.698681) – Hiawatha National Forest – This is a free campground located on the banks of Hovey Lake. It’s dispersed camping in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula. There are only four sites here, all with picnic tables and fire rings. There is a restroom facility as well. The road in is easy enough for any vehicle, though the sites can handle only small to medium sized RVs. Stay away from the lake, it’s full of leeches, and make sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellent.

Haymeadow Creek Campground (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.02072, -86.85749) – Hiawatha National Forest – A free campground with 5 sites, each with picnic tables and fire rings. There is also a restroom facility. The national forest will often close up this campsite due to presence of black bears, so make sure to check with the national forest for closures. What makes this campground is popular is that it has a 1/2 mile hiking trail to Haymeadow Creek Falls.

Sturgeon River Campground (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.57029, -88.65596) – Ottawa National Forest – This is a small campground, completely free to stay. There are only seven campsites here, and they do fill up fast. You’re advised to arrive early in the day if you want to secure a site. Otherwise, access is very easy for any vehicle. Most sites can only accommodate small to medium sized RVs, but we found at least one site that could handle a long rig. Mosquitoes are a problem here, so bring lots of repellent.

Sparrow Rapids Campground (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.50475, -88.94700) – Ottawa National Forest – Another free campground offered by the National Forest Service, Sparrow Rapids has six campsites, all large enough for full sized RVs. The road in is very easy, suitable for any vehicle. Enjoy the sounds of Sparrow Rapids as they wash along the East Branch Ontonagon River. Verizon cell signal is pretty good here. Make sure to study a road map when getting here because Google’s directions will get you lost.

The Clearing (Michigan Upper Peninsula)

(GPS 46.89123, -89.09722) – Private Property – This is located on land owned by Timber Resource Group (TRG), a logging company. However, people have been known to boondock on their lands frequently. This particular area is within a clearing. If you feel up to it, you can likely get away with camping here, as long as you stay out of the way of logging trucks. In the winter, this area is popular with snowmobile riders.

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Parks and Recreation Areas - State Land Rules - Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2014

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