Learn about camping and boondocking in Michigan

Michigan Rest Area Rules

Michigan Rest Area Rules


Is overnight parking allowed at Michigan rest areas? How long can you stay at a Michigan rest area? Is camping permitted at Michigan rest areas? What are the full Michigan rest area rules?

michigan rest area
Rest area in Michigan

Michigan Rest Area Rules

The State of Michigan has not adopted any laws specifically concerning the use of its highway rest areas and roadside parks. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), however, has posted signs in some rest areas with limited rules. In some cases, they’ve posted signs prohibiting overnight parking and camping. But in most other rest areas, they’ve not posted such signs.

Note: A few other privately run websites claim that Michigan has a four hour time limit on rest areas. However, we checked through the State’s laws and administrative rules to validate this, and found nothing. The MDOT has not published any such rules on its website. We poured through numerous reviews and photos posted by travelers on other camping websites and on Google Maps, and found no such rule. We believe the four hour time limit is simply just hearsay, and was copied by other websites without doing any kind of verification.

Michigan Roadside Parks

MDOT operates 85 roadside parks throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. These are small rest areas with picnic tables. Some have restrooms, but most do not. All roadside parks in Michigan are seasonal, opening on May 15 and closing in late October. Roadside parks are small enough that they’re not suitable for medium to large sized RVs. They’re better suited for vandwellers and car-campers. Tent-camping is not allowed at roadside parks.

How Long Can You Stay at a Michigan Rest Area?

Michigan has no official time limits for staying at one of their rest areas or welcome centers. That’s not to say that you can stay there for 24 hours or more. If you remain long enough, a law enforcement officer may eventually check on you.

Is Overnight Parking Permitted at Michigan Rest Areas?

Yes. Because Michigan rest areas are open 24 hours a day, you can arrive at a rest area during night time hours and park overnight for an indefinite period of time. With no specified maximum time limit, overnight parking is effectively permitted.

Can You Sleep Overnight at a Michigan Rest Area?

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 also include overnight sleeping.

Note: Some rest areas in Michigan have signs posted prohibiting overnight parking and camping. These signs are posted very clearly in front of the restroom facility. If you don’t see such a sign posted, you can assume you can sleep in your vehicle overnight.

Is Camping Allowed at a Michigan Rest Area?

Camping is generally frowned upon at Michigan rest areas. However, the Michigan Department of Transportation has not adopted any official rules against camping at a rest area. A handful of their rest areas do have signs posted prohibiting camping. But because the State has not adopted any statewide policy on rest area camping, you should approach this on a case-by-case basis.

Despite the above, many of the State’s rest areas include recreational facilities that would be consistent with camping. Such facilities include picnic tables, children’s play areas, pet areas, scenic walkways, and viewing areas. As long as you don’t extend your camping activities through the night and into the following morning, it’s unlikely you’ll be approached by law enforcement.

If you plan to stay overnight at a Michigan rest area, then you should instead limit your activities to inside your vehicle. Do not put your camping equipment outside, do not roll out your awning, and try to look like someone who is too tired to do much of anything. This way you can demonstrate to a law enforcement officer that you’re here only to rest long enough to continue driving safely.

Listing of Michigan Rest Areas

MDOT publishes a map showing all of its rest areas.

Read Related Articles

4 thoughts on “Michigan Rest Area Rules”

  1. i pulled into a roadside park and fell asleep. i was woke by a cop pounding on my window, HE TOLD ME i could not sleep and needed to go to a hotel/motel if i wanted to sleep. of course there were none nearby – so i had to force myself awake enough to continue driving.

  2. My husband and I have stopped at many rest areas heading to the UP and never had an issue. We usually stop at the larger areas if we need to sleep and only use the roadside parks to eat, have bathroom break, and stretch our legs.

  3. If there is a sign that specifically States no overnight parking or camping, then don’t do it because you will get a cop at your window. You need to make sure to check the entire area to see if there’s one sign in the entire area that says no overnight parking. There’s been times where I’ve seen just one in the entire huge lot, but that pertains to the entire place. If it’s a place where you see trucks stopping and resting, you are more apt to be able to do that with your camper as well. The people who have left responses above did not indicate where these places were, or if there were no signs posted.


Leave a Comment