Big Bear Lake State Forest
Guide

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Introduction

The Big Bear Lake located in Otsego County is a beautiful, warm lake that attracts many visitors for a getaway from city life. Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground is isolated, has minimal facilities, and provides a peaceful atmosphere for a holiday. This is a serene spot for nature lovers and RV campers in Michigan.

You will love swimming in the lake, trying your hand at fishing, or hiking through the State Forest to catch a peak of chirping birds overhead. There are also some bigger animals which roam to the countryside, so keep your eyes peeled for elk! There are some trails nearby which are perfect for ORV and ATV riders, while others are better suited for mountain bikers and avid hikers.

There are 30 campsites available on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, which are ideal for tents or small trailers. Only 11 of the sites can accommodate bigger RVs and campervans up to 40 feet in length. The minimal facilities offered for campers include vault toilets and water that needs to be hand-pumped from the well. This means you must bring all your necessities with you. Overall, the Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground is a 20-minute drive outside of Gaylord, MI making it the perfect destination for a weekend to reconnect with nature.

RV Rentals in Big Bear Lake State Forest

Transportation in Big Bear Lake State Forest

Driving

Located 20 minutes out side of Gaylord, Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground is an easily accessible natural getaway. There are plenty of parking spots available, with sites big enough to accommodate 40 feet trailers and rigs. Big Bear and Little Bear lake are surrounded by paved roads, while the campsites are located on compacted dirt. The campsites are rustic, so the land is a little uneven and can be hard to access during the winter months.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Big Bear Lake State Forest

Campsites in Big Bear Lake State Forest

Reservations camping

Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground

The Big Bear Lake State Forest Campgroun is right on the shore of the beautiful lake from which it got it's name sake, allowing campers to enjoy the sound of the calm water while you sleep. You will love waking up right next to the lake for your next adventure.

There are 30 sites available, with 11 being able to accommodate campervans, RVs, and trailers up to 40 feet in length. The campsites, however, are rustic with the amenities limited to a hand pump for water and vault toilets. Make sure to bring your own potable water and that you remove all rubbish from the campsite. Fifteen sites are reservable, while the the other 15 are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

First-come first-served

Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground

Fifteen of the sites at Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground are set aside on a first-come, first-served basis.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Big Bear Lake State Forest

In-Season

Hiking

There is a 2.5-mile trail system from Big Bear Lake connecting Bear Lake Road and the main campground. If you leave towards the east from the main campground, you will find yourself on a 1.8-mile walk on the Eagle Roost Loop. If you leave from the west end of the campground, you will be walking a shorter one-mile Beaver Lodge Loop. Both these routes allow you for a short, pleasant, and easy walk to get away from the day use area and into the quieter wilderness. You will find both of these trails clearly marked so do not worry about needing to bring a map.

On your walk, the path will take you past three ponds where two of them have become homes to beavers. If you take your time, you will be see them busy at work building dams and swimming around the waterways. The best time to see wildlife is early in the morning or near dusk, as that is when the creatures come out and be active.

Fishing

There is a small boat launch located right at the campground giving you easy access for boating and fishing. Big Bear Lake is 350 acres in size with it's deepest point descending to 36 feet. It's relatively small size means the surface remains calm, with winds not making any big waves to make your fishing trip uncomfortable. The sandy bottom is also great as it allows for easy access in and out of the lake.

Fishermen can expect to catch some Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch, and Muskie. If you do not have your own boat, why not try your luck from the banks of the shore? Many fish hide in the shallow section of the lake among the reeds as that is where majority of their insect prey hide.

Swimming

The water in Big Bear Lake is relatively shallow so the temperatures rise to a comfortable tepid in summer months. Many visitors enjoy taking their chairs into the shallows and sitting back in the water with a refreshing drink to watch the sunset. Children can splash about in the sandy shallows.

These conditions make both Big Bear and Small Bear Lakes a favorite destination for swimmers while they enjoy the picturesque nature of the surroundings. The campground is right on the water, making it a short trip to have a dip in the water and cool off in the hot summer months.

Off-Season

Snowmobiling

When the snow falls and transforms the landscapes from a dry, fall forest to the quiet winter sparkling silent forest, the locals and visitors alike head over for their snowmobiling. Even the summer months the trails are popular for ATVs. While most Forest Roads are not open to ORVs or ATVs, there are trails which connect to the Crapo Creek ORV Trail, which is specifically maintained for that purpose. All you need to do is go along the North Branch Route (located north of the campground) to connect to the ORV-friendly trails. This trail is located in Montmorency and Otsego counties, which do allow machines on their trails.

Biking

The Big Bear Lake pathway is a 2.5-mile long route system which is shared by both hikers and bikers who wish to explore the woods. This is a rough forest trail, so make sure to bring your mountain bike in your camping trailer. The trail itself is separated into two loops, which give you a different perspective of the area.

You can always grab your bike and travel along the road to Little Bear Lake and do a circle along the paved roads. There are many trees in the area, so much of your ride is covered from the sunshine in the summer months. There are many spots along the track and road to stop and have a picnic, or just enjoy the view of the lakes.

Elk Viewing

One of the most popular activities in the area, is attempting to catch a glimpse of the magnificent elks. A herd was introduced in 1918, and since then their numbers have been steadily rising. Now they are a beloved tourist attraction in the area. While the most common viewing areas are in the Pigeon River State Forest, there are also chances to see these beautiful beasts near Big Bear Lake.

If you do wish to catch a glimpse of an antlered bull or cow with her calves, the best time to do so is early in the morning or near sunset. Just like deer, this is when they are most active and you have the highest chance of seeing them grazing on the meadows or wandering through the woods. Unfortunately, it is hardest to spot them during high season in the summer months, as this is when they hide away due to the summer hear.

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