Camping in state parks
For summer, reserve far ahead to get choice spots at peak times.
© Beth Gauper
Many of the campsites in Leelanau State Park, at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, have views of Lake Michigan.
People who want choice campsites in popular state parks need to plan ahead. Here's how to do it.
For general information, see How to find the best campsites.
For specific spots, see 30 great campsites.
For camper cabins, see A roof in the
In Wisconsin, campsites can be reserved 11 months in advance. The most in-demand campsites are in Peninsula and Devil's Lake state parks and the Crystal Lake and Clear Lake campgrounds of Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest near Minocqua.
Reserve at ReserveAmerica, 888-947-2757. There's a $10 reservation fee.
If you're not able to reserve that far in advance, two of the most popular camping forests have many non-reservable sites, including Northern Highland-American Legion near Minocqua and Kettle Moraine Southern Unit near Whitewater.
All of the sites at Brule River and Flambeau River state forests in the north woods and at Tower Hill State Park near Spring Green are first-come, first-served.
Three parks have cabins known as indoor group camps, and they
can be reserved 11 months in advance. Reserve as soon as possible for summer and fall weekends and holidays.
Point Beach State Forest, north of Two Rivers on Lake Michigan, has two rustic cabins; one sleeps 14 and the other 16, $60 or $5 per person. Each has a boardwalk to a white-sand beach on Lake Michigan and has a fire pit, pump and latrine but no electricity. There's also a covered pavilion for eating.
For details, see Two trails from Two
Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi has four buildings that each accommodate 27 people, with indoor bathrooms and a separate kitchen; $4 per person with a $200 minimum, 608-996-2261.
Black River State Forest near Black River Falls rents a two-bedroom cabin that sleeps 12, $3 per person with a $40 minimum,
© Beth Gauper
In Big Bay State Park on Wisconsin's Madeline Island, group campers can use a lodge with a kitchen and wood fireplace.
Wisconsin state parks do not have camper cabins, but they do have nine cabins for people with disabilities, $30 per night plus a $4
reservation fee. They’re very popular and can be reserved starting in early January.
Modern cabins are in Buckhorn, High Cliff, Mirror Lake, Kohler-Andrae and Potawatomi state parks and at Ottawa Lake in the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest and in Richard Bong Recreation Area.
Rustic cabins are at Copper Falls and Blue Mounds state parks. Reservations are taken by individual parks; for information, call 608-266-2181.
For more about Devil's Lake State Park, see Devil's heaven.
For more about Peninsula, see Outdoors in Door
Campsite reservations in Minnesota state parks can be made a year in advance.
Memorial Day is the busiest camping weekend of the year, and Split Rock, which has a very scenic location on the North Shore but not many sites, is the hardest-to-get reservation.
The next most-popular campgrounds are Temperance River, Tettegouche, Itasca, Gooseberry Falls, McCarthy Beach (on the Iron
Range, near Hibbing), Bear Head Lake (near Ely), Judge C.R. Magney, Jay Cooke and Cascade River.
Minnesota’s state parks keep 20 to 30 percent of its campsites open for walk-ups. However, spaces for holiday weekends may be filled early in the week.
Reservations can be made online or by phone, starting at 8 a.m. on the first day
of availability; after that, online reservations can be made 24 hours a day and by phone between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.,
There's a nonrefundable reservation fee of $8.50. For details, check Minnesota state parks.
Minnesota also has 67 camper cabins at 23 state parks, $45-$50. They can be reserved a year in advance. For more,
see A roof in the woods.
It also rents cabins, lodge rooms, lodges and guesthouses. For more, see Lodgings in Minnesota state parks.
For more about Itasca State Park, see The people's
For more about Gooseberry, Split Rock and Tettegouche, see The near North Shore.
In Michigan state parks, campsites can be reserved six months in advance. On the first day of availability,
reservations can be made at 8 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends; after that, reservations can be made online 24 hours a day and
by phone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
Reservation fee is $8. Reserve up to six months in advance at Michigan DNR Reservations, 800-447-2757.
© Beth Gauper
In Split Rock State Park, campsite 16 has its own bench facing the lighthouse.
At some campgrounds, particularly at beach parks on the west coast of Lake Michigan, 100 percent of sites can be reserved, so it's crucial to reserve early. Eighteen Michigan state parks line the sandy shores of Lake Michigan between Mackinaw City and the Indiana border.
For more, see America's freshwater Riviera.
Or rent a mini-cabin that sleeps four; there are 13 at Petoskey, Leelanau, Traverse City, Orchard Beach, Ludington, Muskegon and Warren Dunes state parks. They're $45, $35 in the off-season, when campground shower facilities are closed.
Michigan rents 61 mini-cabins in 36 state parks. Cheboygan, Interlochen, Wilson and Traverse City state parks rent tepees, $30. Reserve up to six months in advance at Michigan DNR Reservations, 800-447-2757.
Eleven state parks rent camper cabins that have covered front porches and
sleep six on bunk beds and a futon sofa, $80 and $60.
They include refrigerators, microwaves and coffeemakers but not bathrooms. Interlochen has three and Holland has two; Port Crescent, Lakeport, Mitchell, Pinckney, Waterloo, Metamora Hadley, Tawas Point, Onaway, Orchard Beach, Van Riper and Tahquamenon Falls have one.
For more, see Michigan's great lake
Reserve up to a year in advance at Michigan DNR Reservations, 800-447-2757.
Eighteen state parks include heated rustic cabins that accommodate groups from two to 24 and are reserved through each park, $50-$80.
Among the most popular are the 19 wood-heated cabins in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on the Upper Peninsula; cabins on Mirror Lake, Lily Pond and Lake of the Clouds include boats.
The park also has three year-round yurts, $60. They can be reserved a year in advance at Michigan DNR Reservations, 800-447-2757.
For more information about Michigan state parks, call 517-373-9900.
For more about the Porcupines, see Afoot in the Porkies.
Ontario has a lot of gorgeous provincial parks, many along Lake Superior.
One of the best is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, on the long peninsula that creates Thunder Bay's harbor, one of Canada's
most famous natural features. Modern and rustic sites are on the large Marie Louise Lake. For more, see In the shadow of the Giant.
Campsites can be reserved five months in
advance at 888-668-7275. Reservation fee is $9.50, $8.50 online.
In Iowa state parks, which do not require a vehicle permit, campsites can be reserved three months in advance at Iowa DNR Reservations, 877-427-2757. The reservation fee is $4 if made online and $6 if made by phone, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Only 50 percent of campsites can be reserved.
Eight Iowa parks offer camper cabins, including McIntosh Woods near Clear Lake, which has two yurts (See Yippee for yurts). They sleep four and have dorm-size fridges and
microwaves. There's a minimum stay of two nights.
Pleasant Creek, northwest of Cedar Rapids, has four camper cabins, and Wilson Island, north of Council Bluffs, has one, $25. The others are $35: Dolliver, south of Fort Dodge, two; Green Valley in southwest Iowa, two; Honey Creek in southeast Iowa, four; Lake Darling, southwest of Iowa City, five; and Stone near Sioux City, two.
They can be reserved up to a year in advance.
Iowa parks also rent studio, family and deluxe cabins with bathrooms and cooking facilities. Between Memorial Day
and Labor Day, they're rented only by the week, from Friday to Friday. They're quite a bargain.
For more, see A cabin in Iowa.
There are 37 camper cabins in 17 Illinois
state parks that rent for $50-$65. In northern Illinois, they include three at Chain O' Lakes State Park, two at Shabbona
Lake and Kankakee River and one at Rock Cut.
Campsites can be reserved 90 days in advance at 800-710-2267. For more information, call 605-773-3391.
South Dakota has 182 camper
cabins in 34 state parks, each with heating, air conditioning, electricity and a deck, $35-$45. Most sleep four, with a
double bed and a bunk bed; cabins at four parks, including Fort Sisseton, sleep six.
Custer State Park, in the Black Hills, has 50 camper cabins. They can be reserved 90 days in advance.
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