Michigan RV & Camping: Time, Dates & Rules (With Examples)

Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in the country for camping and spending time in nature.

Michigan touches 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, which is only a small portion of its charm.

However, because it is so far north, beautiful warm weather can be short-lived.

Does this mean that the camping season is shorter in Michigan?

Peak Camping Times:

Traditional peak camping season in Michigan spans from June to August.

Trying to get a camping reservation during peak time and finding it difficult?

Weekends can be very busy in Michigan and are booked weeks in advance, sometimes even months.

Don’t fret, though! Mid-week, many spots open up that you will be able to take advantage of.

Can you go RVing in Michigan Outside these Dates?

However, just because June to August is peak camping time in Michigan, it is not the only time you can go!

Yes, some campgrounds offer all-year camping in Michigan despite the weather.

If you intend to go camping during the winter, you will want to make sure that you are prepared to brave the elements, as Michigan is often below freezing during the winter months.

This may require you to camp in your RV or camper rather than a tent.

Where Can you Camp for Free in Michigan?

Camping is fun, but camping for free is even better!

However, be warned, if you choose to camp for free, you could be giving up some of the amenities that you would get in a campground that you pay to stay at.

Some free options in Michigan include:

  1. French Farm Lake Campground: this is near Mackinaw City and is very popular.
  2. Green Road: located near Manistee, enjoy the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.
  3. Hovey Lake Campground: located in the upper peninsula, enjoy Hovey Lake at this gorgeous site.
  4. Sturgeon River Campground: another gorgeous location in the upper peninsula, this campground is situated on Sturgeon River and is accessible to all types of campers.

How to Prepare to Stay at a Free Campground:

As mentioned, free is great! But there is a reason that places cost money, and that is so that they can upkeep their luxuries and amenities.

Some things to be ready for when taking advantage of a free campground can include:


Water is sustainable for life, and you will need it! No matter if it is to drink, do the dishes, wash your hands, or anything else.

Some people don’t realize how much they use water until it’s gone!

So when you go to a free campground, it is wise to plan if they do not offer a source of water.

You should bring jugs of fresh water when you go to make sure you have what you need.


Less necessary, but still important is power.

Free campsites won’t offer you a power hook-up, so you will need to plan ahead.

In a previous article, we went over generators and the etiquette required when camping near others and using a generator.

Please read our article on Campground Generators to learn more about alternative power sources while camping!

Waste Management:

Waste management: something we try not to think about but needs to be considered.

When you are at a free campsite, you will likely not have a place to dump trash or wastewater, so make sure you can handle all that this entails.

Can you Camp on Public Hunting Land in Michigan?

Having a rustic camping experience can appeal to a lot of campers out there.

This is where you camp in the woods on a site that is not a designated campsite.

Michigan is a hot spot for hunting, so if you intend to hunt in the woods, you might wander into public hunting land.

So the question remains: can you camp here?

Most public hunting land in Michigan is labeled as a “No Camping Zone.” This is not only to preserve the land, but it is in place to keep campers safe.

When camping in Michigan outside of an established campground, you need to ensure your rustic campsite is not in a state park, state recreation area, state forest, or state game area.

Camping Rules & Regulations in Michigan:

Depending on where you camp, the rules in Michigan can vary.

However, there are some universal rules you should be aware of:

Advanced Booking:

One of the most important things when trying to secure a campsite in Michigan is to book it in advance.

Campsites in Michigan can be booked up to six months in advance.

If you are trying to book a site at a state park, the availability begins from Monday to Friday at 8 am and Saturday/Sunday at 9 am.

Like cabins, lodges, or other permanent sites, some options can be reserved up to a year in advance.


Rates can be significant when you are booking your vacation.

As much as we would like to think it doesn’t, money matters.

Each campsite holds a different rate, so it is a good idea to call before booking and see what kind of charges and fees you might incur.

Park Hours:

If you are camping at a campground, it is a given that you expect to stay overnight.

However, your guest is not as lucky. If you are in a campground, Michigan limits guests to stay up until 10 pm.

Similar to a hotel, you should also be aware of your check-in and check-out times to reduce the chance that you will be conflicting with another camper.

Recreation Passport:

In Michigan, you can pay to obtain a recreation passport to get you into any state park.

This is something that you can buy when you register your vehicle and will save you paying to get into the parks each time.

Waste Fees:

If you are not staying at a campground, you cannot use their waste facilities without paying a fee.

This not only means waste from your RV but trash as well.

However, if you need to, you can pay to utilize these services at the nearest campground.

Other Regulations:

There are other state regulations that you should be aware of when camping in Michigan.

These include:

  1. Alcohol: alcohol can be banned at certain parks, so it can be a good idea to check that you are available to drink where you stay.
  2. Firewood: firewood is a necessity on any camping trip. Make sure you know the firewood policy and don’t bring out-of-state firewood to Michigan.
  3. Events: events held at campgrounds can sometimes require a permit. If you intend to use public facilities, make sure you have all your documentation in place.
  4. Pets: your furry friends are welcome while camping as long as you adhere to the proper leash laws and don’t take them to the beach in non-pet areas.
  5. Hunting/Fishing: hunting and fishing are allowed as long as you have the proper licenses and are in an area where you are authorized to do so.
  6. Fireworks: Fireworks are not permitted in Michigan State parks for safety reasons.

If you have any further questions about camping in Michigan, there are great resources on the Michigan State Website that can answer any additional questions you might have.

You can also call your intended campsite directly and ask more specific questions.

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