Mission Statement: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. Good job, guys! The page linked above is very handy for seeing rates and amenities for individual campgrounds in a concise format.
General Camping Information – Camping hints, rules and regulations for state parks and forest campgrounds.
You can even get the MI Camping and Recreation Locator mobile app to find your ideal state park, state forest campground or boat launch.
Reservations: Online reservations for campsites may be reserved up to 6 months in advance of arrival date. Contact the call center at 800-447-2757 for same day reservation. New inventory becomes available at 8:00 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9:00 a.m. Saturday & Sunday
Reservation Fee: There is an additional $8.00 charge per reservation and a $10.00 cancellation fee.
Check in: 3:00 pm ♦ Check out: 1:00 pm
Late Arrivals: Sites will be held for 24 hours past the 3 pm check-in time. If more than 24 hours late, you must cancel the whole reservation and rebook for new desired dates. Failure to do so will result in a no-show with loss of all fees.
Maximum Consecutive Stay: Campers are not permitted to camp for more than 15 consecutive nights in any individual campground. Combined multiple reservations that exceed 15 nights could result in a mandatory reduction of the combined stay so that the 15 night limit is not exceeded.
DNR Reservations page – From this main page, choose your desired park, then choose "campsite" option. From this screen, next to dropdown box, click "More Info/Maps." Click on link under "Campgrounds" section. From here, you can cliick on Campground Map to see site map. If you enter your requested dates and other criteria, then click on "Check Availability" and then click on "View Availability on Maps," you'll see the layout of the campground with available sites marked. If you click on one of the available sites, it gives a complete description, including dimensions, maximum size of vehicle, sunny/shade, etc.
I saw on the General Camping Information page that In November 2013, the Department of Natural Resources will transition to a new, improved campground reservation system (CRS) that manages state park and harbor reservations. Improvements to the Reservation System will result in short-term limitation on advance bookings.
50 Amp Service: While the information on the DNR Reservation System is good, I noticed that you can't tell if there are 50 amp sites unless you click through to actually check date availability. I recommend calling the individual campgrounds to see what they offer because when I was there in the summer of 2011, they were in the process of upgrading electrical service to offer more 50 amp sites (for a couple of dollars more).
Walk-in: While MI state parks are very popular and sometimes hard to get reservations during peak season, some parks do keep a limited amount of sites withheld from the reservations system for use by first-come-first served "walk-in" guests and for emergency purposes, so if you're passing a state park that looks like a stop you'd like to make, take a chance and stop by to see if they have an opening for you that night!
In 2011, all of the state park campgrounds I stayed at had electrical service, but no water hookups at the site. There were sanitation stations at the entrance and this is where you had to fill up your fresh water tanks. There were water faucets scattered throughout the campground, but you couldn't fill your holding tanks from them.
Campsite Amenities and Fees (DNR) – This page gives into on State Forest Campgrounds, as well as State Parks and Recreation Areas, along with type of sites, fees and which campgrounds offer which categories of service:
Full Hook-ups: Direct sewer, water and electrical hookups with 20/30 or 50 amp service. As of 2013, only a few parks offered this level of service. (See below for these listings)
Premium Modern Campsite: More desireable campsite locations, 50-amp electric service, with campground featuring modern toilet buildings, showers, wheelchair-accessible sites and sanitation stations. Some offer pull-through sites.
Modern Campsite: Electric hookups, modern toilet buildings, showers, wheelchair-accessible sites and sanitation stations. Some offer pull-through sites.
Semi-Modern Campsite: There are two distinct options in this classification. The first offers electrical service but no modern toilet/shower buildings. Vault toilets are available on location and water is available from a hand pump. The second option provides modern toilet and shower buildings but no electrical hookups.
Rustic Campsite: Vault toilets and hand pump water. No showers or flush toilets.
Equestrian Campground: Vault toilets, hand pump water and hitching posts for horses.
Michigan State Park Campgrounds with Full Hookups:
1. South Higgins Lake State Park: (Central area)
106 State Park Drive; Roscommon, MI 48653 – (989) 821-6374
1,000 acre park – Higgins Lake to the north and Marl Lake to the south.
South Higgins Lake – Modern – You can’t tell from the campground page that there are full hookup sites available. There are 400 total sites and full hookups are shown on site maps below:
East Campground – 21 with full hookups ♦ West Campground – 20 with full hookups
Reservations Page. After choosing Campsite option – there is no dropdown under Selected Campground to specify Full Hookups. Reservations accepted beginning April 12, but Specific Type starting May 17. You have to choose your dates, and then look for term “full hookup.
2. Hartwick Pines State Park (North-Central)
4216 Ranger Road; Grayling, MI 49738 – (989) 348-7068
Hartwick Pines Modern – 100 total sites
Site Map – 36 full hookup – all are also pullthrough
Reservations: After choosing “Campsite” for type, press “Go” – choose “Hartwick Pines Full Hook-up Campground” under “Selected Campground.” Although reservations can be made starting April 5, you cannot select a Specific Type site until April 26. So you have to choose a date on or after April 26 to reserve sites that have full hookups.
3. Sterling State Park – The only state park on Lake Erie (Southeast area)
2800 State Park Road; Monroe, MI 48162 – (734) 289-2715
Sterling – Modern CG – 256 total sites
Site Map – 77 with full hookups
Reservations: After choosing “Campsite” for type, press “Go” – choose “Sterling Campground Full Hookups” under “Selected Campground." Although reservations can be made starting April 5, you cannot specify a particular site until May 1. So you have to choose a date on or after May 1 to reserve sites that have full hookups.
4. Holland State Park – on Lake Michigan (Southwest area)
Holland Beach Modern CG (35 miles SW of Grand Rapids – 2-1/2 hours NE of Chicago)
2215 Ottawa Beach Road; Holland, MI 48424 – (616) 399-9390
Site map – 98 total sites – 31 with full hookup
Reservations: After choosing “Campsite” for type, press “Go” – choose “Beach Campground Full Hook-ups” under “Selected Campground” dropdown menu. Reservations can be made starting May 1, including Specific Type site.
Michigan's Recreation Passport – definitely the best way to go!
$11 annual fee for MI residents gets them in any campground or recreation area that requires a fee during the year.
$30.50 annual fee for out of state visitors, or they also can pay $8.40 on a daily basis. Unless for sure you're only camping or exploring other MI recreation attractions for less than 4 days (a true shame), the annual passport is definitely the best deal, especially since this or a daily fee is required at all campgrounds.
Additional Fees, Permits:
There was some confusion from campers I talked to about additional fees or permits required besides the fee for the campsite. Here's the way it was explained to me from a representative of the DNR:
Out of State Towed Vehicle Permit: The out of state person must buy a $30.50 annual permit for the motorhome. If you tow a vehicle behind the motorhome, you then pay a one-time $6.30 charge (not per day) that allows use of the towed vehicle for the entire length of the camping stay (even if you renew part way through your stay).
While the $30.50 is an annual permit that you won't have to pay at every park, you will still have to pay the $8.40 charge for the towed vehicle at every state park at which you camp.
The annual permit for the motorhome can be purchased at any campground office and the $8.40 fee for the towed vehicle is collected with your campsite fee upon checkin.
The DNR is committed to making programs and facilities available to all visitors.
Malia's Note: All of the information provided above was compiled in 2013 and was current then. Check links provided for more updated information.
I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: