Wilderness State Park | Outdoorsy

Wilderness State Park
Guide

Introduction

Located on the shores of Big Stone Bay in the massive Lake Michigan at the northern edge of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Wilderness State Park is a dream come true for those looking to experience unspoiled nature in a beautiful setting. What started out as a state game area in the early 1900s eventually developed into the park we see today. The name is quite fitting for this undisturbed park, and at nearly 11,000 acres, its the biggest one in the Lower Peninsula. Visitors will be spoiled with 26 miles of shoreline to explore, charming wildlife, a vast trail network, and an abundance of other outdoor recreation opportunities available at the park. Whether you seek thrilling outdoor excursions or just a little rest and relaxation during your sojourn, you are in for a treat when you park the RV at Wilderness State Park.

The park is situated amongst pine and hardwood forests with carpets of wildflowers coming to life in the spring and breathtaking fall foliage being the focal point in the autumn. After a long ride in the campervan, visitors can stretch their legs along over 35 miles of trails, or take the routes at a faster pace via mountain bike. Beautiful beaches await swimmers and sunbathers, and if you prefer to be on the crisp water rather than in it, you can head out for a paddle along the coastline. Winter usually brings cooler temperatures and snow, and with it, winter sports enthusiasts.

No matter what time of year you visit Wilderness State Park in your motorhome, you will be treated to spectacular views in pure nature. When you visit between April and November, you can park your rig in one of the three RV- and trailer-friendly campgrounds.

RV Rentals in Wilderness State Park

Transportation

Driving

Wilderness State Park is the biggest park in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and it's also one of the most northern parks in this part of the state. Although the park may leave you feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere, you're actually just a few minutes away from civilization. Located in Emmet County just eight miles away from Mackinaw City, the park is a stone's throw away from major routes like I-75 and US-31. Mackinaw City is the closest place to grab a bite to eat, stock up on supplies, and gas up the RV before heading into the park.

Those coming from the south should have no trouble accessing the park, even those with big rigs or those hauling trailers. If you're coming from the upper peninsula, you'll have to navigate the somewhat daunting Mackinaw Bridge. With two lanes in each direction, the bridge isn't as scary as it seems, and even those with large vehicles will be able to enjoy the view while driving the connection.

The park entrance is located on Wilderness Park Drive which is accessible from both US-31 and I-75. Most of the main points of attraction in the park can be found off of the main park road, including the campgrounds, trailheads, and the boat launch. Additional parking can be found near the park headquarters, near the boat ramp, and along various hiking trails throughout the park. The park is extensive and roads do not cover most of the wilderness area, so bringing a good pair of hiking boots or a bicycle is recommended.

Although the park remains open for recreation year-round, winter weather may cause roadways to become icy in and around the park, so check the local weather forecast before heading out.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Wilderness State Park

Campsites in Wilderness State Park

Reservations camping

St. Ignace / Mackinac Island KOA

In the beautiful north woods of the Straits of Mackinac, St. Ignace/Mackinac Island KOA offers modern bathrooms, a camp store, an updated play area and gameroom, improved full hookup sites, and much, much more! Conveniently located near the waterfront town of St. Ignace, Michigan, St. Ignace/Mackinac Island KOA offers the best of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, land of pristine forests and stunning lakes. Free rides to the Mackinac Island ferry are accessible on-site. St. Ignace/Mackinac Island KOA also features a miniature golf course, an off-leash playground for your pooch and a snack bar. The swimming pool is open seasonally. Have a big rig? No problem, as there are the 80-foot-long pull-through sites.

Mackinaw City / Mackinac Island KOA

Beautiful Mackinac Island is just a free shuttle ride away. Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island KOA is your perfect RV base camp for exploring this impressive part of Michigan, with sites like Colonial Michilimackinac and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse nearby. There are many, many miles for hiking or bicycling, bird watching, and more. You can even rent a bike from the campground, and then enjoy the heated seasonal pool when you get back. Or, drive a couple of miles to relax on a Lake Michigan beach. There’s a dog park on-site, too! Pull-through sites can accommodate rigs up to 70 feet, and there are restrooms and laundry facilities on the grounds.

Lakeshore Campground

The Lakeshore Campground is divided into two sections: East Lakeshore and West Lakeshore. East Lakeshore offers 75 RV- and trailer-friendly sites and there are 71 more sites available at the West Lakeshore Loop. All sites are outfitted electric hookups, and various sites throughout both loops offer scenic lakefront views. Maximum length restrictions vary, so be sure to look for this before booking a site.

There is a picnic table and a fire pit at each site, and restrooms and potable water can be found nearby. Guests will be close to a playground and lake access, making for a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. Your furry friends are allowed to stay at this campground too, so long as they are kept leashed at all times. The campground is open from April through November, and reservations can be made online in advance.

Wilderness State Park keeps its campgrounds up to date. Because of this, construction occurs frequently. Be sure to check on the park website to make sure the campground you wish to reserve is available during your stay.

Pines Campground

As the name suggests, Pines Campground is located in a wooded area just south of the Lakeshore Campground. 100 RV and trailer friendly sites are located in this loop, all of which are outfitted with electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. Maximum length restrictions vary by site, so keep this in mind while booking. Restrooms and potable water can be found nearby, along with a dump station, extra parking, and a playground for the kiddos. Pines is a pet-friendly campground and is open from April through November. Reservations can be made online in advance.

Wilderness State Park keeps its campgrounds up to date. Because of this, construction occurs frequently. Be sure to check on the park website to make sure the campground you wish to reserve is available during your stay.

Sites A-R

As the newest campground in Wilderness State Park, this loop also offers the most modern facilities. These 18 sites are the only in the park to offer full hookups, and they are also slightly more spacious than the sites in the Pines and Lakeshore Campgrounds. Guests will also find a gravel parking pad, a picnic table, and a fire ring at each site, but should note that there are no restrooms available in this loop. Additional parking and various trailheads can be found nearby. This pet-friendly campground is open from April through November, and reservations can be made online in advance.

Wilderness State Park keeps its campgrounds up to date. Because of this, construction occurs frequently. Be sure to check on the park website to make sure the campground you wish to reserve is available during your stay.

Alternate camping

Rustic Cabins

Those hoping to get out of the RV for a night or two while still enjoying all that Wilderness State Park has to offer should consider renting one of the cabins. Six rustic cabins are situated throughout the park, each offering a unique experience. Stay by the shore of Lake Michigan, or venture out into the backcountry woods. Guests should keep in mind that these cabins are rustic with a capital R and have no plumbing, heating, or electric. However, each cabin is equipped with a wood stove, bunk beds, tables and chairs, and countertops. Outside guests will find a picnic table, fire pit, and a charcoal grill, along with an outhouse and a water pump. The cabins are open year-round and can be reserved online in advance.

Primitive Tent Sites

If you're hoping to sleep under the breathtaking night sky while at Wilderness State Park, there are plenty of tent-only sites available. Twenty-five rustic walk-in sites are located near the full-hookup campground on the east side of the park. Some sites are bigger than others, so if you're camping with a group consider renting a few of the larger sites. Vault toilets and a large parking lot are located near the hike-in sites. If you're looking to kick your camping experience into high gear, there are also two backpacking campsites located along the overnight hiking trails.

Seasonal activities in Wilderness State Park

Off-Season

Hiking

Visitors to Wilderness State Park may enjoy the modern RV camping facilities and the beautiful lakeshore, but the main draw of the park is the extensive trail network. With roughly 38 miles of terrain to trek, you could spend days exploring the forest. Over 11 miles of the North Country Trail carves its way through the park before extending all the way to both North Dakota and New York. For a shorter hike, check out the Pondside Trail. Situated near the Pines Campground, this quarter-mile loop is outfitted with interpretive signposts so you can learn a little more about the area as you hike. To beat the crowds, take to the trails during the off-season -- you'll also be treated to beautiful wildflowers or some stunning fall foliage when you visit during the spring and autumn.

Mountain Biking

There are over ten miles of mountain biking trails in Wilderness State Park, so don't hesitate to attach to bikes to the back of the Sprinter. The paths are mostly flat and easy to navigate, so even the beginners in your group can hit the trails. For a long ride, you can combine Old South Boundary, Old East Boundary, and Sturgeon Bay Trails along with part of the park road to make an eight-mile loop through the center of the park. Keep in mind that biking is only allowed on certain trails.

Cross-Country Skiing

The fun never ends at Wilderness State Park, not even when the dog days of summer are over. Once a healthy layer of snow covers the park, the trails are transformed into cross-country skiing routes. Visitors will find over six miles available and groomed for this nordic sport with trails varying in difficulty. Parts of the Nebo Loop are maintained throughout the winter and provide an easy but hilly landscape to ski on. If you'd like to hit the trails for more than one afternoon, cabin rentals are available during the winter months, though the campground remains closed until spring.

In-Season

Fishing

With so much water surrounding the park, there's plenty of good fishing to be had at Wilderness State Park. The name of the game here is fly fishing, so don't forget to pack the waders, reel, and bait along in the Airstream. Those looking to reel in some small-mouth bass for dinner will have their best luck around Waugoshance Point in the far west of the park. There is a parking lot about 2.5 miles from the point, making it easy to hike in and fish your way back to your vehicle. There is also a boat ramp available for use near the campgrounds if you prefer to fish from the water.

Boating

With 26 miles of shoreline, Wilderness State Park offers visitors a unique way to see the park from the water. Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular during the warm summer months, and those who partake in these aquatic activities will be treated to sweeping views of the bay and the Mackinaw Bridge in the distance. Large boats can use the boat launch located to the west of the campgrounds. For an especially memorable boating experience, stay out on the water until early evening to catch one of the park's famed sunsets.

Swimming

Don't forget to pack your bathing suit in the motorhome when you visit Wilderness State Park, because there are over 26 miles of shoreline waiting to be explored. Water temperatures are mild enough to take a dip in the summer months, and a sandy swimming beach is located near the campground area. There's also plenty of space on the beach for those who prefer to work on their tan or simply take in the sweeping views over the bay.

Find the perfect campsite.