Camping is a great way to get outside, enjoy some non-screen family time and get away from your house and neighborhood, which, in the age of coronavirus, is a welcome thing for most Michiganders these days.
Michigan has some of the most beautiful campgrounds around, which is great for people looking for a low-cost way to get out in Mother Nature. They are near stunning waterfalls, inside huge dunes and along waterfronts, so you have your choice of natural wonders.
Earlier this month, the Department of Natural Resources announced that camping, overnight lodging facilities and day-use shelters in Michigan state parks and recreation areas will reopen Monday, June 22. So far, people are having a great time and the weather has been just as good.
Here are some campgrounds to check out. After the list, there is a short question-and-answer list from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on what to expect when camping in the era of COVID-19 with your family. Make sure to read that and check out the DNR website if you have more questions. They’re always happy to help.
Also, make sure to get reservations. The camping season is shorter this year and many families will look to camping as a way to socially distance while on vacation. That makes campsites are going to be in limited supply for good reason.
• Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Empire. There is good reason these dunes are world famous. The area is full of fun and beauty.
• Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Paradise. It’s a bit of a drive from the lower peninsula, but these falls are worth the travel.
• South Higgins Lake State Park – Roscommon. Higgins Lake is beloved by locals and travelers alike for its picturesque sites.
• Porcupine Mountains State Park – Ontonagon. There is lots of hiking and sights to see at this UP campground.
• Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising. Grab a pontoon rental and check out these rock formations at your leisure.
DO I NEED TO HAVE THE RECREATION PASSPORT?
Starting Monday, June 22, yes. The required Recreation Passport – normally needed for vehicle entry to state parks, state forest campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites – had been suspended the past three months in order to minimize face-to-face interactions and the exchange of money between visitors and staff – precautions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
Residents can purchase the passport when renewing license plates through the Secretary of State (for $12) or when visiting a state park (for $17). Out-of-state visitors can purchase the passport online or at state parks for $34 (annual pass) or $9 (daily pass).
ARE BATHROOM BUILDINGS AND OTHER PARK AMENITIES OPEN?
At most locations, yes. Many state park amenities initially were closed due to COVID-19 public health and safety concerns, but now have reopened or are in process of reopening by June 22. Such amenities include bathroom buildings, hand-washing stations, sanitation stations, trash services, concessions, playgrounds, viewing platforms, fishing piers, sports areas, designated dog areas, picnic tables and shelters. Drinking fountains will remain closed until further notice. Certain amenities at a handful of locations remain closed due to delayed construction projects. For information about a certain park, call that park’s main number or visit its Facebook page (where available). More information is available on the DNR’s COVID-19 response page. Additionally, the DNR has developed new operational and sanitation procedures to ensure the safety of visitors, volunteers and staff. Some procedures – like checking in visitors, processing transactions and cleaning facilities – will look a little different and may vary by location. For example, visitors are encouraged to pay by debit or credit card to decrease the exchange of money.
CAN I CHANGE MY CAMPING AND OVERNIGHT RESERVATIONS?
Yes. Modifications to camping, overnight lodging facilities and day-use shelter reservations can be made by contacting the reservation center online at MiDNRReservations.com or calling 800-447-2757 (800-44-PARKS). Please note that the modification and cancellation policy can be found online. The DNR also has waived reduced-stay fees (percentage penalty) through Oct. 31, 2020.