Spanning a large portion of the upper peninsula of Michigan, Hiawatha National Forest boasts shorelines of three of the five great lakes. With access to Lake Superior, Michigan, and Huron there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the lakeshore and water. However, the lovely forests are not to be forgotten, and the great lakes are not the only waterways to explore.
The North Country Scenic Trail weaves through most of the National Forest, offering numerous opportunities to stretch your legs. If you are taking a drive in your campervan, the Whitefish Bay National Forest byway weaves along the shores of Lake Superior and connects visitors with the natural beauty and cultural history of the area.
With six historic lighthouses located within the bounds of this National Forest on what is commonly referred to as the United State’s third coast, idyllic day trips in your rig provide spectacular vistas of the great lakes. Inland hiking trails, lakes, and rivers entice RV travelers to enjoy quiet days and nights that quickly grow cool and are perfect for cozying up to a campfire.
With 18 campgrounds located in the National Forest, there are plenty of places for you tuck in your RV. We’ve featured three terrific spots to check out with your camper to discover peaceful forests, pristine rivers, and lakeside beaches that you’ll hate to leave.
When exploring Hiawatha National Forest, you hardly need to leave the pavement with your trailer. Two main state routes traverse Michigan’s upper peninsula, making it easy to travel in your RV. With heavy winter snow and plowing, expect roadwork on your travels. A few of the campgrounds are located off of gravel access roads.
Take unpaved roadways at a slow pace and expect potholes or sections of mud or soft sand. Keep your eyes out for low branches, especially early in the season. Check ahead if you are traveling in a larger RV, as turnaround spots on forest access roads are difficult to find.
With a smattering of towns between the sections of the national forest, as well as historical paths and marked scenic byways, you only have to go deep in the forest if you want to. There are plenty of easily navigable roads to explore with your camper containing only a few hills and a lot of fantastic views.
Bayview Campground will quickly win your heart with its scenic lakeshore on Lake Superior. Located just off of West Lakeshore Drive, this campground has 25 naturally-surfaced sites laid out in a long row, with half of the sites on the lake.
Don’t worry if you don’t manage to reserve one of the campsites with shore frontage. Short trails connect the main road through the campground with easy access to the beach for everyone. Don’t forget to head out from your camper to enjoy the fantastic sunsets over the peaceful waves of the great lake.
Open from May to October, this is a rustic campground that does not offer electric, sewage, or water hookups. The nearest town of Brimley, which is 20 miles east of the campground, has facilities in case you need to empty your holding tanks, but you’ll hate to leave your camping spot under the tall trees that ring each wide site.
All sites come with picnic tables and fire rings. There are water pumps located throughout the campground. Most sites have some slope but none are located on large hills or drop-offs. All sites are also back-in and many are deep enough to hold a large rig.
Located just north of the Mackinaw Bridge, Carp River Campground is a quiet spot you might pass by on your way to Sault St. Marie unless you know it is there. Open May to October, this lovely campground is located on Carp River, which is known for its fishing. The campground borders the river and an old, slightly overgrown trail provides access to its banks.
There are 20 sites that are naturally surfaced. Situated off of two interconnected loops, the campsites are wide, which is great for longer campers. All sites come with a picnic table and fire ring. There are water spigots throughout the campground as well as latrine style toilets and a dumpster. However, there are no electric, sewer, or water hookups, so arrive with your water topped off and holding tanks empty to avoid a trip back to Saint Ignatious.
With hiking trails, a large, grassy day-use area, and a beach, Little Bay du Noc Campground is a hidden gem located along the shores of Lake Michigan. Tall trees surround each of the widely spaced 38 campsites and offer a feeling of deep woods despite the busy lakeshore across the waters of the bay.
The road through the campground is paved, though most sites are surfaced with gravel. All sites are back-in and most are fairly deep and able to handle even large rigs. The campsites come with picnic tables and fire rings, but there are no hookups at this campground. The closest facilities to empty the holding tank on your RV is over ten miles away, so it is best to plan ahead so you can enjoy your time in this lovely park and campground.
The campground does have latrine-style toilets and drinking water on-site. All spaces are fairly flat and though the road through the campground winds scenically through the trees, there are no hills or major obstacles. A registration kiosk is located at the campground entrance.
With over 30 boat launches located through the National Forest, you can enjoy time exploring the great lakes or smaller inland lakes away from your rig. If a quiet paddle is more your style, check out the slow waters of the meandering Au Train River Canoe Trail for a four- to six-hour easy journey. The Indian River Canoe Trail located on the National Scenic registered Indian River is another great option for a paddle you won’t soon forget.
The Hiawatha National Forest is a woodland full of lakeshores. With frontage on three of the great lakes and numerous smaller and idyllic inland lakes, you have your pick of amazing beaches. For some truly spectacular and rarely visited waterfront, take the ferry to Grand Island and enjoy the 13 beachside campgrounds and day-use facility. On the mainland, Bay View campground offers campsites and trails to access Lake Superior and is worth the stop as well.
If you just love to explore in your RV, there are six driving tours that weave through different sections of the Hiawatha National Forest. Top of the list to check out is the Whitefish Bay National Forest Scenic Byway, which offers spectacular views of Lake Superior, forests of northern hardwoods and conifers, and historic stops. If you are fortunate enough to visit in the fall, check out the fall color tour located in the western section.
If you want to stretch your legs and leave your campervan behind for the day, Hiawatha National Forest boasts over 50 hikes to choose from. Short interpretive walks with informative signs on natural history are scattered throughout the forest. Longer hikes will reward you with a chance to enjoy the solitude of this peaceful woodland, waterfalls, or quiet wetlands and lakes. Several long trails such as the North Country National Scenic trail will immerse you in the beauty of the northern forests before you head back to your camper.
If you are looking for fun trails and a lot of riding time, you’ll find over 2,000 miles of forest roads designated for off-highway vehicles in Hiawatha National Forest. That isn’t including all the local routes that connect the forest into a pathway best explored with your ATV or off-highway motorcycle. All OHVs must be registered and trail passes may be needed for some local trails. Be sure to follow all rules and heed signs for closed routes.
The upper peninsula of Michigan is a winter wonderland and the perfect place to explore on your snowmobile. Over 3,000 miles of forest roads, old railroad grades, and trails through the snow-filled woods will leave you plenty of places to explore. Travel across frozen lakes and wetlands, then traverse winding paths through stands of conifers. All snowmobiles must be registered and some local trails may require passes. Follow all posted signs and rules.