Located amid the scenic AuSable State Forest of northern Michigan, Rifle River Recreation Area is a nature lover’s retreat. You’ll find some of the best hunting and fishing in the state, as well as excellent kayaking, swimming, and wildlife watching.
The park also has 14 miles of trails for you to explore. The trails are packed with a wide variety of bird and mammal species. Visitors to the park in the winter will find plenty to keep them happy. The park’s extensive trail network turns into a cross-country course, and you can also bring a snowmobile to explore the park.
With four main campgrounds and over 100 sites to choose from, RV campers will have plenty of options to choose from for their rig. And all of the sites are well within walking distance of the park’s main areas. No matter what time of year you visit Rifle River Recreation Area, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
RV Rentals in Rifle River Recreation Area
Transportation in Rifle River Recreation Area
Located in the north of Michigan’s lower peninsula, Rifle River Recreation can be reached by car or RV from Michigan’s major cities, as well as from other cities in the region, such as Chicago.
If you are driving from Detroit, take I-75 north from the city and you will get to the park in around two and a half hours. From Chicago, take US-131 north and you will reach the park in a little over five hours.
Once at the park, you shouldn’t have any issues finding your way to your campsite. The roads are a bit curvy, but are wide enough that you shouldn’t have trouble making it around corners. Do take extra precautions when visiting the park in the winter, as roads can get quite icy, and there is often a decent amount of snow. Those coming to the park in winter should consider snow chains.
Campgrounds and parking in Rifle River Recreation Area
Campsites in Rifle River Recreation Area
There are four main pet-friendly campgrounds, one of which is an equestrian campground. None of the sites have hookups of any kind, except for the sites at Grousehaven, which have electrical hookups. In every campground you’ll find running water as well as vault toilets. The sites all have picnic tables and fire pits.
The campgrounds are within walking distance of the water and boat ramps, as well as the park’s network of trails. At Grousehaven, there’s also a playground within the campground.
Camping is open from April through November. All of the sites can be booked online, and must be reserved at least a day before you plan on arriving. If you plan on visiting during the summer, book well in advance, as these campgrounds are quite popular.
Seasonal activities in Rifle River Recreation Area
The park has plenty to do off the water as well. You’ll find a nice variety of trails that give you a taste of all of the local plant and wildlife. And with 14 miles of trails, you’ll have plenty of ground to explore.
The hiking is excellent just about any time of year, but best from April through October. The hiking is stunning in the fall, when the leaves begin to turn and the birds begin to migrate.
Rifle River Recreation Area was a private hunting retreat. The wooded streams and thick forests make for challenging hunts, and there’s a wide range of species populating the park.
With a variety of streams and lakes, the duck hunting is excellent in the park, as is the grouse and woodcock hunting. Do make sure to follow all state hunting regulations, as laws are strictly enforced. And the park is popular with hikers, so take extra caution.
Before it was a state park, Rifle River Recreation Area was a private fishing and hunting retreat. RV campers will find a wide variety of fish species populating the park’s lakes. The trout are abundant from April through early June. You’ll also find other species such as walleye, bluegill, and perch.
There are multiple small lakes for you to fish on. And each has its own boat ramp, making getting out onto the water a breeze. No motorized boats are allowed on any of the lakes, and you’ll need to make sure you have a Michigan state fishing license. Fortunately, these are available at the park office.
Those who want a more exciting way around the park can bring a snowmobile with their RV and explore the wintry forests at high speed. There are 14 miles of trails for you to cover within the park. And you can still find plenty of bird species, such as red-tailed hawk, during the winter, if you are interested in the park’s wildlife.
Should you want to extend your ride, you’ll be able to connect to trails that lead outside of the park and allow your to explore the forests in the surrounding areas. Do take extra caution, as trails are shared with hikers and skiers.
If you plan on visiting during the winter, you should bring a pair of skis with your rig. The parks 14 miles of hiking trails turn into a scenic cross-country skiing course. The park is still packed with birds and mammals during the winter, so there’s plenty of wildlife to see. And the trails are groomed, so you can focus on skiing and not on wading through snow. The park doesn’t offer equipment rentals, so you’ll need to make sure to bring your own ski gear with in campervan.
Michigan is a popular birdwatching state, with hundreds of species making their way through the state throughout the year. Rifle River Recreation Area is a great place to catch a glimpse of some of the state’s most famous bird species.
There are over 100 species of birds that visit the park every year. You’ll be able to see species such as American goldfinch, red-tailed hawk, great grey owl, and pileated woodpecker, as well as dozens more. Birdwatching tends to be best in spring and in fall, when the birds are migrating. But you’ll still find many species in the park year round.
Take advantage of the local birdwatching societies, many of which produce extremely detailed field guides with information on all the birds in the area.