Best Tent Camping: Michigan: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Michigan: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Matt Forster
Best Tent Camping: Michigan: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Michigan: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Matt Forster

Paperback(3rd Revised ed.)

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Offering essential details and easy-to-read maps, Best Tent Camping: Michigan presents 50 of the state's best campgrounds for car campers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634042963
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Series: Best Tent Camping
Edition description: 3rd Revised ed.
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 515,042
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

As a native of Michigan, Matt Forster has camped all over the Great Lake State. He’s carried his gear in backpacks, Duluth packs, saddlebags, and car trunks and slept in tents, pop-ups, camper vans, and RVs. He and his wife live in Michigan with their two young children, who are both just experiencing camping for the first time. These days, camping trips often come down to tossing the tent in the back of the car, loading up way too much equipment, and praying for good weather (a necessity with two kids in tow). As a freelance writer, Matt is the author of Backroads & Byways of Michigan (The Countryman Press), Backroads & Byways of Ohio (The Countryman Press), Colorado: An Explorer’s Guide (The Countryman Press), Best Hikes Near Detroit and Ann Arbor (FalconGuides), and a travel app for Michigan’s Grand Traverse region called Up North! Grand Traverse (available on iOS and Android devices).

Read an Excerpt

Holly Recreation Area: McGinnis Lake Campground
Beauty: 4; Privacy: 3; Spaciousness: 4; Quiet: 3; Security: 4; Cleanliness: 5

Key Information

  • Contact: Michigan DNR–Holly State Recreation Area, 248-634-8811,; reservations: 800-447-2757,
  • Open: Aspen Loop, late April–November; late March–November for other loops
  • Sites: 15 semimodern, 144 modern
  • Each site has: Picnic table and fire pit
  • Assignment: Online or by phone
  • Registration: At park office
  • Amenities: Electricity, water, hot showers, modern restrooms, and pit toilets
  • Parking: At sites
  • Nightly Fee: $20 semimodern, $25 or $29 modern ($20 or $24 off-season)
  • Elevation: 1,028'
  • Restrictions
  • Pets: On leash only
  • Fires: Fire pits only
  • Alcohol: Permitted in campground only
  • Vehicles: Michigan Recreation Passport required (see page 8); 2 vehicles/site
  • Other: 6 people/site; 14-day stay limit

Just beyond the reach of the suburbs, Holly Rec offers many Michiganders the feel of Up North without the drive.

Located in northern Oakland County, Holly Recreation Area is nearly 8,000 acres of steep rolling hills and small woodland lakes, the indelible reminders of the glaciers that once covered our humble peninsula. To put that into perspective, the acreage at Holly Rec adds up to 12.5 square miles. The state has turned the area into a showcase park for outdoor recreation. There’s something here for everyone—miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, beaches for swimming, and lakes for paddling and fishing. The park also maintains one of the area’s best disc golf courses. The course has 24 baskets, with routes that allow players to toss for 9, 18, or 24 holes.

Separate from the main park—west of the expressway on Grange Hall Road—Holly Rec also has trails set aside solely for mountain biking. These trails are serious business, with three loops (graded for ability) that add up to more than 23 miles of off-road pedaling.

The main day-use area and the campground are separated by McGinnis Road. If you’re looking for a campground that’s just a short walk away from the swimming beach, this isn’t it. (For that, check out the Metamora–Hadley State Recreation Area.) It’s at least a mile from the campground to the park’s Heron Lake, but what might be an inconvenience for some is a boon for others. You would be amazed at how many of the thousands who visit the park aren’t even aware there is a campground here, which is surprising because it’s not a small campground.

All told, McGinnis Lake has 159 campsites on five different loops. Of those, 144 are designated modern sites, meaning they have electrical service and modern restrooms. The remaining 15 semimodern sites (that is, sites without electricity) are located on the Aspen Loop. These might seem like the best bet for tent campers. The loop, however, is wide open—the campsites back up to some trees, but there are precious few trees between sites, and that can make it feel like you’re camping in a field. The modern sites, with their fancy electrical hookups and paved parking areas, are more expensive, but many of these are located on quieter loops, cushioned from neighbors by the surrounding forest. The Trillium and Oak Loops offer a nice sense of privacy—and both are connected by short paths with the park’s stunning 6.4-mile Holly-Wilderness Trail.

Because the park is so close to urban life, it’s not uncommon for weekends to host a party crowd from time to time. The park is generally good about enforcing quiet hours, but be aware that it can be uncomfortable if you are cursed with inconsiderate neighbors. (Another reason to reserve a modern site.)

The campground, and the entire park, has a remote feeling—which is surprising when you consider that one side of the park butts up against Dixie Highway. When you trace Dixie south on a map, ignoring the M-24 nonsense, you see that the road is an extension of Woodward Avenue. This was once the old American Indian trail that connected the Detroit River with settlements on the Saginaw River. Back in 1831, the French social observer Alexis de Tocqueville and his traveling companion wanted to explore the wilds of America. This brought them to Detroit, where they hired horses. In Pontiac they hired a guide, and with that they headed into the uncivilized frontier.

Tocqueville describes the country in his essay “Two Weeks in the Wilderness.” He tells of small lakes “like a sheet of silver beneath the forest foliage,” of a ground “intersected by hills and valleys,” and of a “deep peace and an uninterrupted silence” (from Two Essays on America, translated by Gerald Bevan). Unfortunately, he also predicted that European settlers would eventually arrive, clearing the forest to make way for homesteads and farm fields. The best part of Holly Recreation Area—a bit of country through which Tocqueville surely passed on his way to Saginaw Bay—is that in some small way the park preserves that sense of deep peace and uninterrupted silence.

Of course, traffic can be heard dully humming in the background, and during the day the beach is packed with families playing in the water, but if you’re looking to experience a bit of the primeval forest, a night at Holly Recreation Area is a good place to start.

Getting There

From Exit 93 off I-75 west of Clarkston, head north on Dixie Highway for 7.2 miles; then make a sharp right onto Grange Hall Road. In 0.4 mile, make a slight right onto McGinnis Road; in another 0.8 mile, turn left (north) to reach the campground, 0.2 mile farther.

From I-75 between metro Detroit and Flint, take the Holly exit (Exit 101) for Grange Hall Road, and head east about 2.5 miles. Then make a slight right onto McGinnis Road, and proceed as above.

GPS Coordinates: N42° 48.994' W83° 31.515'

Table of Contents

Michigan Campground Locator Map opposite page

Map Legend vii

Acknowledgments viii

Preface ix

Best Campgrounds x

Introduction 1

Southeast Michigan 10

1 Holly Recreation Area: McGinnis Lake Campground 11

2 Lake Hudson Recreation Area Campground 14

3 Pinckney Recreation Area; Crooked Lake and Blind Lake Campgrounds 17

4 Port Crescent State Park Campground 21

5 Waterloo Recreation Area: Green Lake Campground 24

Southwest Michigan 27

6 Fort Custer State Recreation Area Campground 28

7 Highbank Lake National Forest Campground 31

8 Muskegon State Park: South Channel Campground 34

9 Pines Point National Forest Campground 37

20 P. J. Hoifmaster State Park Campground 40

11 Tubbs Lake State Forest Campgrounds 43

12 Warren Dunes State Park; Rustic Campground 47

13 Yankee Springs State Recreation Area: Deep Lake Rustic Campground 50

14 Arbutus Lake No. 4 State Forest Campground 54

15 CCC Bridge State Forest Campground 57

16 Fisherman's Island State Park Campgrounds 60

27 Graves Crossing State Forest Campground 63

18 Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground 66

19 Ludington State Park: Jack Pine Walk-In Campground 69

20 Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area: Dispersed Campground 72

21 Peterson Bridge South National Forest Campground 76

22 Silver Creek State Forest Campground 79

23 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: D. H. Day Campground 82

24 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: South Manitou Island, Weather Station Campground 86

25 Wilderness State Park: Lakeshore Campground 89

Northeast Michigan 92

26 Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground 93

27 Jones Lake State Forest Campground 96

28 Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground 99

29 Ossineke State Forest Campground 102

30 Pigeon River State Forest Campground 105

31 Rifle River State Recreation Area: Spruce Campground 108

32 Sawmill Point Primitive Campsites 111

33 Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest Campground 114

Upper Peninsula 117

34 Bay View National Forest Campground 118

35 Bewabic State Park Campground 121

36 Big Knob State Forest Campground 124

37 Black River Harbor National Forest Campground 127

38 Bond Falls Flowage Campground 130

39 Brevoort Lake National Forest Campground 133

40 Carney Lake State Forest Campground 136

41 Courtney Lake National Forest Campground 139

42 Henry Lake National Forest Campground 142

43 Monocle Lake National Forest Campground 145

44 Petes Lake National Forest Campground 148

45 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Twelvemile Beach Campground 151

46 Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: Presque Isle Campground 154

47 Portage Bay State Forest Campground 157

48 Pretty Lake State Forest Campground 160

49 Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area: Clark Lake Campground 163

50 Tahquamenon Falls State Park: Rivermouth Pines Campground 166

Appendix A Camping Equipment Checklist 169

Appendix B Sources of Information 170

Index 171

About the Author 178

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