5 Spots to Visit on a Michigan  RV Road Trip

Dec 9, 2020 | Travel & Destinations

5 Spots to Visit on a Michigan RV Road Trip

Michigan has more than 100 state parks and recreation areas and plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun. These are our favorite campgrounds and activities for RVers.

By Robert Annis

It’s no wonder the Wolverine State is popular among RVers. With natural beauty, some of the best mountain biking east of the Mississippi, unlimited hiking trails, and thousands of miles of shoreline along four of the Great Lakes, Michigan’s outdoor activities rival any state in the Midwest. 

Lighthouse and watch tower along lake shoreline set on sandy beach
Big Sable Point Lighthouse | Photo: Robert Annis

Ludington State Park

When visiting in the fall, it’s easy to see why Ludington is one of Michigan’s most popular state parks—the oak and maple trees explode into red and gold, contrasting beautifully with the deep blue of bordering Lake Michigan. But you don’t have to wait until the seasons change to go; this park is gorgeous year-round.

Highlights

Much of the state park’s best scenery can be seen by hiking the Lost Lake, Ridge, and Island trails. Connecting the three makes for a reasonable hike that takes about three to four hours. Be sure to check out the log and stone shelters, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. 

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is only accessible via hiking trail, but it’s worth the effort, especially at sunset. (Just remember to bring a headlamp for the hike back.) Be aware that the 2.5-mile hike to the lighthouse from the state park’s Beechwood campground gets a little more challenging as the dirt trail gives way to sand dunes. 

Kayakers will definitely want to paddle the Hamlin Lake Canoe Pathway, which takes visitors past the Desperation Point sand dunes and into the marshes and bays at the south end of the park. You can bring your own boat or rent one at Dune Grass Concessions.

Getting There By RV

The best gateways to the park are via U.S. Route 31 from the south and U.S. Route 10 from the east. U.S. 31 is the most scenic, as it often follows Lake Michigan’s contours.

Where to Stay

You have several options for camping in the area, and the best place to stay is in Ludington State Park itself. If possible, choose a spot in the Beechwood loop where you’ll be near the picturesque Lost Lake and the trailhead for the park’s most scenic hikes. In addition to the camping fee (starting at $25), you need to purchase a recreation pass, which is $9 for the day or $34 for the year for nonresidents. Book early, as this is a popular spot year-round.

As an alternative, look toward Cartier Park Campground, which is located just 4 miles south of Ludington, on Lincoln Lake, where anglers can attempt to catch bluegill and pike. A small paved trail allows visitors to walk or bike their way around the park.  

Other options: 

  • Poncho’s Pond RV Park
  • Buttersville Campground
  • Starport Marina and Campground
Top of sand tune overlooking lake shoreline
Sleeping Bear Dunes Empire Bluff | Photo: Robert Annis

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Located about a half hour from Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a great spot for either a day trip or a long weekend filled with hiking and paddling.

Highlights

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive winds 7.5 miles through tree-laden valleys and past sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. The road may be short, but expect to spend an hour—or three—on it as you’ll want to make frequent stops for short hikes or to take photos. The most picturesque overlooks have pull-offs with plenty of parking for large RVs. 

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is arguably one of the best rail trails in the U.S. There are a few steep sections along its 22 miles, but the scenery makes the effort worth it. The trail gives way to the tourist town of Glen Arbor for a few miles, before continuing to the Port Oneida Rural Historic District.

The 460-foot Dune Climb can be deceptively difficult as you slide slightly backward with every step up. But the reward is a gorgeous view of Glen Lake, particularly at sunset. 

Getting There By RV

You can reach the park via U.S. Route 31 from the south and north, and M-72 from the east. Both M-72 and U.S. 31 South will take you through Traverse City, which is heavily trafficked during the summer and on weekends. The city is a favorite of tourists in its own right and has plenty of breweries, restaurants, and attractions to occupy all ages.

Where to Stay

DH Day Campground is a popular basecamp for visitors, with easy access to Lake Michigan, the dunes, and the Sleeping Bear Trail. The 88 spots are spread out and separated by plenty of trees. Unfortunately for RVers, there are no hookups, so you’ll need to pack in your water and ration electricity use. You can reserve a spot six months in advance and you’ll need to, as these in-demand sites tend to go fast. 

One of the best options for RVs is the Platte River Campground, located at the south end of the national lakeshore. More than half of the 179 sites have electric hookups, with multiple pull-through options for larger rigs. The campground is clean, well maintained, and perfect for families. It does tend to fill up in the summer and on the weekends, so book early.

Other options: 

  • Indigo Bluffs RV Park & Resort
  • Traverse City State Park Campground
  • Interlochen State Park North and South Campgrounds
Bridge over calm waters with fall foliage on either side
Fall foliage on Keweenaw Peninsula

Keweenaw Peninsula

It takes some extra time and effort to reach the northwestern tip of the Upper Peninsula, but the views and available activities make it worthwhile.

Highlights

If you love to mountain bike, don’t miss the epic single track in Copper Harbor and Marquette. Copper Harbor’s 35 miles of trails are fun and flowy, with several wooden features to keep you on your toes. Marquette has more than 70 miles of single track, with enough variety for all levels of riders. 

Hikers will enjoy the Porcupine Mountains on the western side of the peninsula, which offer challenging terrain and incredible views of both the hardwood forest and Lake Superior. Intrepid adventurers can tackle the 11-mile Little Carp River Trail, which features both fast-moving rapids and gorgeous waterfalls. Day hikers will enjoy the 2.5-mile South Mirror Lake trail with its 1-mile detour to Summit Peak. The 40-foot observation tower allows visitors to see as far away as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Then, there’s the least visited national park in the contiguous United States, Isle Royale, which can only be reached by boat or seaplane. While you can’t take your RV on the ferry—there are no roads on the island, only trails—you should still do a day trip (or overnight tent camping trip) to the park.

Getting There By RV

Driving U.S. Route 41 from the east will take you through the picturesque Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, while U.S. Route 2 from the west sends you through the equally beautiful Hiawatha National Forest. Cell service can be unreliable in the Upper Peninsula, so make sure you have access to offline directions.

Where to Stay

Centrally located within Copper Harbor, Lake Fanny Hooe Resort and Campground sits just a few short pedal strokes from the town’s main trailhead, the local brewery, and several restaurants. Mountain bikers will appreciate the hot showers, while anglers will love the fully stocked trout stream that runs through the property. 

If you prefer to socially distance a bit more, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park offers great fishing and beautiful views of the lake and the Fort Wilkins lighthouse. 

Other options: 

  • Sunset Bay RV Resort & Campground
  • City of Houghton RV Park
  • McLain State Park Campground
  • Twin Lakes State Park Campground
Kayakers in water around rocky sandstone coastline
Kayaking around Pictured Rocks | Photo: Robert Annis

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Most visitors come to see the namesake cliffs on Lake Superior, but Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers so much more, including cascading waterfalls and miles of hiking trails.  

Highlights

The best way to see the famed Pictured Rocks is from the water. Watch as the scenery passes via boat, or paddle a kayak and get up close and personal with the colorful cliffs. Pictured Rocks Kayaking is one of the better local outfitters because they launch from their ship, allowing visitors to see more of the iconic cliffs, while other operators do out-and-back tours.

There are more than a dozen waterfalls throughout Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, most of which are accessible through a brief hike. An easy 0.6-mile walk (1.2 miles round-trip) will get you to Miners Falls, where the powerful water cascades 50 feet down a sandstone cliff. Sable Falls is even easier to get to, with a similarly gorgeous reward. If you’re looking for a bit more exercise and adventure, an 8-mile round-trip hike will take you to Spray Falls, where you can see the water rushing over the Pictured Rocks cliffs into Lake Superior. The remains of a shipwreck lay about 30 feet underwater.

Overlook of sand dunes descending at lake's edge
Grand Sable Dunes near Grand Marais, Michigan, as seen from the Log Slide Overlook

The hike to Log Slide Overlook is one of Pictured Rocks’ most popular activities, giving visitors some of the best views of the coastline. At just under a half-mile round-trip from the trailhead, it’s barely long enough to get your heart rate up, but there are several ways you can extend it to see more of the park. 

Getting There By RV

County Road H-58 is the primary road artery through the park. Taking M-77 from the south will get you to the northeastern gateway to the national lakeshore, while M-94 brings visitors into Munising’s southwestern gateway. You can take M-28, featuring gorgeous views of Lake Superior, from the west. Cell service gets spotty the further west you drive. Be sure to keep your RV topped off with fuel, especially if you’re driving at night, as there are no 24-hour gas stations in the area after you pass Munising.

Where to Stay

Located at the southern gateway to the national lakeshore area, Munising Tourist Park is a great value with an incredible location right on Lake Superior. There are a few tradeoffs—the campground is unpretentious (but there are plenty of sites with hookups, a dump station, and two bathhouses) and there’s some noise pollution from the nearby highway. Sites on the water come at a slight premium, which is well worth it for the sunset views.

Sunset over calm lake waters
Sunset at Munising Tourist Park | Photo: Robert Annis

On the opposite end of the park, Twelvemile Beach Campground offers basic amenities—toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, but no hookups—and is just a short walk from a gorgeous beach. The famed North Country Trail runs through the campground, as well as the much shorter White Birch Interpretive Trail.

If you’re traveling last minute and can’t get a reservation at one of the state park campgrounds, Kewadin Casinos offers a limited amount of free electric hookups in its parking lot. 

Other options: 

  • Hurricane River Campground
  • Jack Pine Lodge and Campground
  • Munising / Pictured Rocks KOA Journey
  • Otter Lake Lodges & Campground
View of Mackinac Bridge from lake shoreline
View of the Mackinac Bridge | Photo: Robert Annis

Mackinaw City

Mackinaw City is the gateway to the Upper Peninsula, but there’s plenty to see and do at the tip of “the mitten.” 

Highlights

Amateur photographers and astronomers crowd Headlands International Dark Sky Park each clear, moonless night to peer into the vastness of space. Be sure to arrive before dusk to stake out the best spot. Not only can you get amazing views of the Milky Way, you can also occasionally glimpse the Northern Lights during fall and winter.

View of starry night sky at a dark sky preserve
Headlands International Dark Sky Park | Photo: Robert Annis

Visiting Mackinac Island is at the top of most visitors’ to-do list, and for good reason; the mix of Victorian architecture and natural beauty can only be found in a handful of spots around the world. Take your bikes but leave the RV on the mainland, as motor vehicles aren’t allowed on the quaint island, designated as a National Historic Landmark. 

If you have kids, a morning spent touring Fort Michilimackinac, a historically accurate recreation of a French fort built in the 18th century, is a must. Each Memorial Day, hundreds of actors recreate the 1763 Fort Michilimackinac battle between the French, British, and Native Americans. 

Getting There By RV

Coming from the north, you’ll cross the Mackinac Bridge. Beware: On blustery days, the wind can push your rig around, making it difficult to stay in your lane. (Be sure to give the drivers around you plenty of space.) If you’re arriving close to sunset, take a brief detour to either Bridge View Park on the north end of the bridge or Alexander Henry Park to the south. Both offer great spots for capturing the 26,372-foot-long engineering marvel against the changing sky.

Van parked overlooking Mackinac Bridge
Roadtrek at the Mackinac Bridge | Photo: Robert Annis

Where to Stay

Wilderness State Park gives RVers the option to spend time near the lake or among the trees in a hardwood forest. Outside the campground, visitors can fish, hike, search for hidden geocache treasure, or just take in the gorgeous surroundings. The park boasts 26 miles of beaches inside its boundaries, including one stretch that’s earmarked for dogs.

Pet-friendly Roberts Landing Campground offers incredible lakefront spots midway between Mackinaw City and Cheboygan on Lake Huron. Roberts Landing also has a huge common area with a large enclosed gazebo and fire pit perfect for gatherings.

Other options: 

  • Mackinaw City KOA / Mackinac Island KOA Journey
  • Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping
  • Mackinaw Huron Shores RV Campground 

RV Trip Guide to Michigan

DestinationsmichiganRoad TripsRV Travel

Robert Annis

After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Robert Annis became an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. Over the years, Robert's byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, Men's Journal, Lonely Planet, and more. If you’re looking for Robert, chances are you'll find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bicycle or hunched over his laptop in an airport bar, frantically trying to make his next deadline.

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