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8 BEST Places to Camp When Visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes 2023 (Map)


Lake Michigan overlook at sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore

8 Best Places for Camp in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes camping is at the top of every Michigan bucket list, and with good reason.

Set along the stunning shores of Lake Michigan of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Arbor and Empire Michigan, this is one of the most popular camping areas in the lower peninsula.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, located near Traverse City, MI, is filled to the brim with sightseeing and recreational opportunities. Picking a proper campsite is an essential step in optimizing your time spent in this unique area.

There are some truly special spots in the dunes that are worth a visit, and we’re sharing our favorite camping spots. Whether you’re looking for tent sites or RV sites, these Sleeping Bear Dunes campgrounds should be at the top of your list.

Here are eight top campgrounds you’ll want to check out when you’re visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes. Check out the interactive map of Sleeping Bear Dunes Campgrounds below.

Filled with inland lakes, the picturesque Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a towering dune climb and endless miles of sandy Lake Michigan beaches, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of northern Michigan’s top tourist attractions.

Map of Sleeping bear dunes campgrounds

Camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes: What You Need to Know

There are a few general precautions to be aware of, no matter what campground you choose for your getaway.


For starters, be ready to face the wrath of ticks. These nasty little bugs carry illnesses such as Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. Stay away from tall grasses and wear clothing that covers the skin as an extra precaution. For more information on how to recognize ticks and their bites, check out the CDC’s webpage on the topic.

Be A Good Citizen

It’s important to leave your campsite in the same shape (or better) that you found it in. Before you pack up and leave, take 10 minutes to walk around and pick up any loose garbage, even if it wasn’t yours.

Campfires and Fire PIt Safety

Make sure all fire pits are completely extinguished, especially if it is a drier day.


Ensure that bathroom doors and trashcan lids can properly shut. Otherwise, critters may take the opportunity to seek shelter or make a snack out of your food scraps. If anything is broken or not shutting completely, notify a park ranger or employee on your way out.

family camping in the sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Passes

All campsites require an Entrance Pass to the park. Standard passes start at $15/person and $25/ vehicle per day. Annu al passes start at $45. Passes can be purchased at various locations throughout the park.

These locations include entrance stations and boat docks, all of which only take paperless payments. Campsite reservations, which hold a separate fee, can be made online or via a phone call to the Reservation Center from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at 1-877-444-6777.

pierce stocking drive

Best Campgrounds in National Lakeshore Sleeping Bear Dunes

Best Spot for Back Country Camping

South Manitou Island

Camping on the South Manitou and North Manitou Islands is definitely the more experienced campers out there. Camping on South Manitou provides a backcountry experience, with miles of sand dune and forest hiking trails to explore. Spend your day swimming along the secluded beaches or wander through ghost towns and other historical sites.

The Manitou ferries are the main mode of transportation from the mainland to the island, so make sure you’re thoroughly prepared to spend a day or two at this destination. Cellphone service is limited in the best of cases and non-existent in the worst. Bring a water filtration system with you, as there is no potable water on the island.

Bay Campground, which sits closest to the island’s dock, has 25 individual camping sites and three group
sites. Keep in mind that, while you are close to the water, you will also be closer to other visitors than you would be at other campgrounds. Popple Campground is a 3.5-mile hike from the dock. The Weather Station Campground is located on the south side of the island about a mile from the lighthouse.

How to Get to South Manitou Island
The Manitou Island Transit is located along the docks in Leland MI, also known as Fishtown. Aside from the park’s Entrance Pass fees, you will also need to buy tickets for the ferry taking you to the island. Adult round-trip tickets cost $45/person, kids 12 and under cost $23/person, and children two and under travel for free. You must be able to carry all your gear yourself, and anything with wheels is not allowed on the boat.

man and dog camping in sleeping bear dunes

Most Popular Camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Platte River Campground

Reservations fill quick at this campsite, so it’s best too book one asap if you think you’re interested in camping along the Platte River.

Open year round, this site offers a wide range of camping styles, from something as luxurious as RV camping to tent camping to the rustic style of backcountry camping. It boasts a wide range of features, including showers, cell phone reception, an amphitheater, and potable water.

Additionally, there are eight campsites with wheelchair accessible features.

All sites on this campground are reservation only from May 1 st -October 15 th , with many campsites booking six months in advance. Its location in the northern district of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore means there are several hiking trails located nearby, including the Shauger Hill Trail loop and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Ski Trail.

If you plan on using any of the electric hook-ups the campsite offers, prepare to pay a higher fee than those who are not. Several pass options are available for any visitor to the park. For more campground information, you can call the site’s management at 231-326-4700.

people camping in a tent in sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore

RV-Only Campsite in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Indigo Bluffs RV Park and Resort
6760 W Empire Hwy M-72, Empire, MI 49630

Located in Empire, MI, Indigo Bluffs is a short 10-minute drive away from Sleeping Bear National Park. The site includes an RV park, resort, and cottages with camping fees starting at $45, $75, and $200/night respectively. Due to its close proximity to Sleeping Bear, the resort offers access to many of the park’s trails, such as the Empire Bluffs Trail, Alligator Hill Trail and the Old Indian Trail loop.

Indigo Bluffs features several amenities. It is pet friendly, provides Wi-Fi to its guests, has laundry services, and several hookup sites for your RV. Enjoy other modern amenities, such as a heated pool, bathhouses, an outdoor gaming area, and a playground.

sleeping beard dunes

Tent-Only Camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes

D.H. Day Campground
8010 W Harbor Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

With easy access to locations within and outside of the park, D.H. Day Campground is the quintessential campsite. Complete with a dump station, potable water, and internet activity, these grounds are perfect for new and experienced campers alike.

With 87 sites, it has easy access to the dunes themselves and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, home to the iconic Lake Michigan Overlook, which provides a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Glen Lake. The Dune Overlook, North Bar Lake and the Crystal River, all must-sees when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes, are also nearby.

D.H. Day Campground is a perfect location for exploring the dunes and the charming town of Glen Arbor.

You’re just a 15-minute hike to Glen Haven, a restored port village. Staff on site and cell phone reception help campers keep their peace of mind, especially if you’re bringing kids along for the trip. Reservation fees for the summer start at $20, depending on how many days you intend to stay.

Keep in mind that there are no food storage lockers, so it’s important to have a way to safely store your food. Alternatively, consider travelling to the nearby town of Glen Arbor, situated two miles from the campsite. There, you can find restaurants and shops to spend your time at when you’re not indulging in Sleeping Bear’s beauty.

family camping in an rv in sleeping bear dunes

More Tent and RV Camping Near Sleeping Bear Dunes

Garey Lake Campground
15051 E. Pettengill Road, Empire, MI

Managed by Interlochen State Park, this delightful rustic campground, is nestled in the heart of a former apple orchard near picturesque Garey Lake. With its 13 cozy campsites, you’ll find everything you need for a relaxing getaway.

Amenities here include vault toilets, a convenient hand pump for fresh drinking water, and even a boat launch for those eager to explore the lake. Plus, if you’re an equestrian enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that the campground welcomes horseback riders. It’s a popular spot, so sites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning no reservations required.

Empire Township Campground
7264 W Osborn Rd, Empire, MI 49630

This 60-site campground in Empire offers campsites for tents and RV’s. You’ll find some electric hookups, showers, wood, ice and dump stations on site.

Brown Dog Farm in Cedar Michigan

You’ll find two RV sites with no toilets, water or electric hookups. What they do offer, though, is a fabulous Leelanau County location (that is revealed once your site is booked), a dog-friendly atmosphere and amazing camping near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lake Leelanau RV Park
3101 S Lake Shore Dr, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Offering a range of amenities, you’ll find spacious 196 campsites equipped with full hookups, including water, electricity, and sewer connections.

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About the Author-
Molly Grossman is a content writer and researcher with an interest in arts and nature. She is currently attending university, where she’s studying English with a minor in business. Working part-time backstage at a local performing arts center as a show supervisor, she fills her free time with hiking at local parks and reading. Though not a Michigan native, Molly adores the state’s natural wonders and indulges in its backpacking opportunities.