Place to camp

John Becker

Camping is a relatively inexpensive way for students to get out and enjoy the wilderness of the U.P., especially during the summer months. Below is a list of different areas to camp, with varying costs and difficulties ranging from beginner to expert.

Grand Island National Recreation Area, Munising, MI, 906-387-3503

The only way to this secluded island is by private boat or the ferry that runs from the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend to Oct. 9. Ferry tickets cost $15 per person, but tent camping is free whether at random campsites or designated sites, however fires are restricted to the provided metal fire rings.

Perkins Park, Big Bay, MI 906-345-9353

This campground has both full-electric and no-electric hook-up sites for camping, but the real benefit here is the option to rent-a-tent. No hook-up sites cost $15 per night, and tent rental is $20 per night, with a fire ring and picnic table provided. Open May 15-Sept. 15.

Van Riper State Park 906-339-4461

This 1,044-acre campground boasts sandy beaches, trails for hiking and biking and the opportunity to rent cabins. Rustic sites are also available for $14 per night. Because of the large amount of standing water in the region, the opportunity to see moose is high. Take U.S. 41 westward 35 miles out of Marquette.

Hiawatha National Forest

There are many campgrounds in the Hiawatha National Forest. For those who don’t want to make the trip out to Grand Island, Island Lake is the perfect campground, as there is a very close proximity from Island Lake to Grand Island, Wagner Falls Scenic Site and historical lighthouses.

Island Lake

Island Lake is home to a large population of panfish, so anglers can hope for some good game here. From Wetmore, Mich., take County Route H13 south for 12 miles to Forest Route 2268.  Turn right onto Route 2268 and go 2.1 miles to campground sign.  Turn left onto Forest Route 2557 and go 0.8 miles to campground. Sites cost $16 per night.

Another camping area in Hiawatha is

Indian River

Indian River campground rests on a bluff overlooking the Indian River. Camping costs $12 per night. From Marquette, take M-28 east to Shingleton, Mich. From Shingleton, take M-94 south 14.6 miles to campground on the right.

Little Bass Lake

Little Bass Lake is another campground resting under the jurisdiction of the Hiawatha National Forest. Carry-down access for boats makes canoeing popular in this area; powered boats are prohibited adding to the natural setting of the campground. While it’s called Little Bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, Northern pike and perch can all be found in this prosperous lake. From Shingleton, MI, take M-94 south 11.5 miles to M-437.  Turn right onto Route 437 and go 1.8 miles through Steuben.  Just past Steuben, turn left onto Bass Lake Road and go 1.4 miles to campground entrance on right.  Go another 0.6 miles to campground.

Colwell Lake offers campers a good chance to have a lakeside campsite, as a majority of sites are in that location. The fish here is diverse and students can expect Northern pike, perch, bluegill, and largemouth bass. In addition, a wheelchair-friendly fishing pier is available at this site. Open May 15- Oct. 7

Manistee National Forest

Widewaters campground loops between Irwin Lake and the Indian River. Varying from dense forest to open areas, this campground offers a close proximity to multiple lakes for fishing, boating and canoeing. There is a 7-mile trail, Bruno’s Run Hiking Trail, which loops around the lakes as well. Camping costs $16 per night, and the grounds are open May 15-Sept. 30.

McCormick Wilderness

The McCormick Wilderness is it the quintessential backwoods camping experience; no electricity, no motorized vehicles, not even a fire pit. There are only two maintained trails in, lying on opposite sides of the 27-square-mile wilderness, and neither trail covers the entire expanse of rocky outcrops and dense forest. Directions to the White Deer Lake Trail: From Marquette, take U.S.-41 North about 38 miles to County Road 607 and turn right. About nine miles down, there is a sign that says “Ottawa National Forest.” Turn right at the sign into a gravel parking lot. The trailhead is not directly visible from the road, but there is a reverse “C-shaped” trail leading up to the sign-in kiosk. Camping is free, and campfires are allowed unless there is a fire ban; camp stoves are encouraged. County Road 607 is plowed often, but may become impassable for short periods of time following large snowfalls.

Because the wilderness is in such a pristine condition, it’s essential to abide by “leave no trace” principles when camping or hiking. Visitors should pack out everything they pack in. If there are no vault toilets, human waste should be buried in a hole at least six inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source. Fires should be put out, and if there is no fire ring, cooled ashes should be scattered to minimize impact.

Information courtesy of