DNR: Now is the time to book summer, fall camping trips

Courtesy Photo Campers relax at a campfire in one of Michigan’s state parks.

ALPENA–Sleeping bags, s’mores, and melting shoes by the fire, anyone?

As snow mounds being to recede, residents’ thoughts may turn to summer pleasures ahead. And not a moment too soon.

Campgrounds at state parks are already filling up, favorite sites snapped with visions of lazy days surrounded by earthy smells, perfectly burnt foods, and flip-flop trips to the bathroom in the beam of a flashlight.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers a six-month reservation window for the over 14,000 campsites in its nearly 150 campgrounds. That means a specific site can be reserved no earlier than six months in advance. Once the reservation is made, dates can be modified by using the DNR’s online reservation system.

Now is the time to plan for fall adventures in Michigan state parks, according to Christa Sturtevant-Good, reservation system specialist with DNR. The window for the autumn season, with its harvest festivals and colored leaves and crisp air, opens now, and it’s a great time to secure a site at one of the many beautiful state parks located all around Michigan.

Some campgrounds may already be filled for the summer months, since the window for the July high season opened in January, but Sturtevant-Good urged campers to not give up on their first choice for a midsummer getaway. Once the initial reservation is made, many people modify their plans, often around this time of year, leaving gaps in the schedule where prime locations become available unexpectedly.

While some better-known campgrounds fill up quickly, Sturtevant-Good said there are many hidden gems to be discovered around Michigan, many of them tucked around quiet inland lakes. Otsego Lake State Park and Indian Lake State Park in the Upper Peninsula are two of the many less-discovered locations where families could relax for a few days of solitude.

As part of its 100-year anniversary this summer, DNR is inviting Michigan campers to share their memories made in Michigan’s parks over the years. A link to a special centennial section on DNR’s website, michigan.gov/dnr, leads readers to a “Memory Map,” where campers can share photos and stories from any park in the state. Breathtaking pictures taken in several Northeast Michigan parks give a glimpse of the natural beauty that is to be found “up north.”

Eighteen DNR-run campgrounds in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties await local campers interested in staying close to home while getting away from it all. Some require reservations, while others are first come, first served.

In Presque Isle County, popular Hoeft State Park is having an unusual year for campground reservations. Last fall, the campground closed early to allow for substantial renovations, including tearing up soil for an underground electrical upgrade. New campsites have been added, some smaller sites were combined to make room for oversized campers, and most of the sites have been re-numbered, according to Karen Schulte, a DNR official at Hoeft.

As a result, a new map is being created for the campground, and reservations are not yet able to be made, despite being within the six-month window. The new map is expected to be ready soon, however, Schulte said, and locals will be able to have the fun of picking out their new favorite site.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com.