free camping michigan

6 Best Free Camping Spots in Michigan

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

6 Best Free Camping Spots in Michigan

If you have yet to travel to Michigan, put it on your bucket list… like now!

Michigan is the only state that touches 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, and the only state in the US that is made up of 2 peninsulas. From the turquoise waters and sandy shores of Lake Michigan to the hiking and outdoor activities in the UP – Michigan is a must-see state.

Here are 6 of the best free camping spots in Michigan! 

What is Free Camping?

Free camping is camping… that’s free! The free camping we’re referring to here is accessible to RVers – not just tent campers.

And, since it’s free, there won’t be many (if any) amenities like restrooms, electricity, freshwater fill or dump stations. But that’s no problem for RVers… we carry everything we need everywhere we go.

Before heading out to enjoy this free camping in Michigan, you’ll need to make sure you’ve covered these bases:

What You Need When Going Free Camping

  • Water. Fill up your tank or your jugs with fresh water, because you’re not going to find hookups at your campsite! 
  • Power. Many RVs are equipped with auxiliary batteries that will last you a couple days without hookups. You’ll need a way to keep these batteries charged or your trip will be cut short. You can get power (and keep your batteries charged, if you have them) with a generator or solar and an inverter.
  • Waste Management. When you’re out at a free campsite, you’ll need to pack it in and pack it out. This simply means you take everything out with you that you brought in – including all your trash and wastewater. You won’t find dumpsters or dump stations at free campsites!

#1 French Farm Lake Campground

Located near Mackinaw City, this campground has 6 sites and is a popular campground due to it’s proximity to the city. French Farm Lake is best for smaller RVs and travel trailers, with a maximum length of about 24 feet. 

Why You’ll Love It

For starters, this free camping spot in Michigan is close to Mackinaw City, a must-explore place when you’re in the area! Mackinaw City is the northernmost city on the lower peninsula.

There is a public beach within walking distance of the campsite and a great cell signal for most carriers. 

#2 Green Road 

This free camping area is located in The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness in Manistee Nat’l Forest, about 20 minutes south of Manistee.

There are several pullouts for camping off of Green Road. Some are small enough for just 1 camper, others can fit several. The dirt road is quiet and not difficult for most vehicles to travel. Campsites here can accommodate a variety of RV sizes, up to around 35’ in length.

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Why You’ll Love It

The campsites along Green Road are easily accessible and only about a mile east of the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan and a short drive from the city of Manistee.

There is great hiking in the Nordhouse Dunes Recreation area, just about a 10-minute drive away. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Ludington State Park! 

#3 Marzinski Horse Trail & Campground 

This campground, located in a beautiful pine forest, has about 26 sites and is located a short drive east of Manistee.

This campground can accommodate RVs and trailers of various lengths. This is a horse campground, so many of the sites have hitching posts, although you can camp here without horses, too. This is one of the few free campsites that have amenities – you will find picnic tables, flush toilets, and even freshwater here. 

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Why You’ll Love It

This campground is beautiful, the sites are level, and there are amenities that you don’t typically see with a free campground!

With this campground being such a short drive from Manistee, it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring the nearby city and eastern shore of Lake Michigan. And, if you have horses, it’s located right on the 21-mile Marzinski horse trail. 

#4 Hovey Lake Campground 

This campground is isolated and quiet, located right on Hovey Lake in the upper peninsula. Hovey Lake is about a 20 minute drive from Munising and The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

There are 4 campsites at this campground, and restrooms and freshwater are available, too! Only a couple of the campsites can accommodate an RV or travel trailer, so it’s best to scout this one out first. 

Of all the free camping in Michigan spots, this will offer the most privacy!

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Why You’ll Love It

Hovey Lake Campground is a real gem. It’s small, quiet, and isolated – and right on the lake. You can enjoy canoeing, fishing, kayaking, and bird watching at the campground… or head the 20 short minutes to check out Munising and The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!

#5 Sturgeon River Campground 

If you’re looking for a free campsite in the central portion of Michigan’s upper peninsula – you can’t beat this campground! This campground is located right on the Sturgeon River, near the Sturgeon Gorge Wilderness.

There are 9 campsites at this campground that can accommodate many lengths of RV’s and travel trailers. As an added benefit to the gorgeous scenery – this campground has toilets!

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Why You’ll Love It

It’s hard to beat a campsite that’s right on a river – and even harder to beat when it’s free! If you want to stay close to camp, check out the Sidnaw Creek Trail or go kayaking on the Sturgeon River. If you want to venture out, you’re only about 40 minutes south of Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior. 

#6 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel 

If you’re near Traverse City and need a quick place to stay for a night, check out Turtle Creek Hotel and Casino. Even though it’s not scenic, it’s still free camping in Michigan!

The casino allows travelers to spend the night in their huge parking lot for free – and this lot is seriously huge. You’ll likely see several other RVers there for the night, too! 

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Why You’ll Love It

The casino is really close to Traverse City, a great place to checkout on the shores of Lake Michigan. The parking lot is huge and brightly lit – which is great for overnight security.

If you’re feeling lucky, you could always try your luck inside the casino… or just stuff yourself at their buffet! Another benefit of an overnight stop at a casino is the restrooms and coffee in the mornings. 

Pro Tip: You may also want to research Harvest Hosts. It’s a camping club that allows members to camp for free at vineyards, farms, and breweries. There are a lot of Harvest Hosts locations in Michigan.

Planning Your Trip to These Free Michigan Campgrounds

If you’re traveling with an RV, trip planning to Michigan is essential.

With RV Trip Wizard you can get a much better understanding of what to expect for a travel day. After spending a big amount of money on an RV, you don’t want to run into a low hanging bridge!

We use RV Trip Wizard to route our cross country trips. With tools like budgeting, fuel planning, and avoiding bridges, we can easily travel safely through the USA.

Here’s how to sign up to RV Trip Wizard for free.

Discover the Best Free Camping in America

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

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