A woman in the forest puts her face in her hands out of regret.

5 Reasons to Avoid Camping in the Upper Peninsula

Summer destinations are some of the best experiences of the year. Whether it’s the Florida Keys, Acadia National Park, or Bozeman, Montana, the beauty and outdoor recreation is unsurpassed.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one of these famous summer vacation spots. The 1,700 miles of shoreline make visitors feel like they’re at the beach.

However, even with all of the perks, you might want to skip out on venturing north this summer. You might have better options for your family adventure. Let’s look at five reasons to avoid camping in the Upper Peninsula.

A woman in the forest puts her face in her hands out of regret.
Don’t end up regretting your UP camping trip.

What Is the Upper Peninsula? 

The state of Michigan is comprised of two large peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula, or the “U.P.,” as Michigan residents call it, is the “upper” part of the state.

It is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. The outdoor scenery is beautiful, with dense forests, sandy beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, and rugged and remote wilderness areas.

This is a stark contrast to Michigan’s lower peninsula, which features more cities and developed areas. The pace of life is also busier in the lower peninsula. The “Yoopers,” or UP residents, enjoy a slower-paced, laid-back atmosphere.

What Is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Known for?

Visitors know Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for its wilderness and wildlife. Hiking, camping, snowmobiling, boating, fishing, and photographing the 300+ waterfalls are all everyday outdoor recreational activities.

The copper mine in the Keweenaw is a National Historic Park. Lake Superior has a wild shoreline along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Wherever you go in the UP, you’ll see stunning landscapes and potentially encounter wildlife like moose, black bears, cougars, bobcats, and birds.

Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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Can You Camp Anywhere in the Upper Peninsula? 

There are many campgrounds and backcountry sites across the Upper Peninsula. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has three rustic campgrounds within its boundaries.

There are also numerous state parks, private campgrounds, and local campgrounds like Aune-Osborn Campground in Sault Ste. Marie and the City of Houghton RV Park.

If you want to do some primitive camping, you’ll want to make sure you’re allowed to camp wherever you go and have the appropriate permits.

5 Reasons to Avoid Camping in the Upper Peninsula

Even with its beauty and outdoor recreation, there are reasons to camp elsewhere. The Upper Peninsula may be stunning, but it’s remote. It’s also a highly sought-after location in the summer so that campgrounds can be packed and busy.

Because of the harsh winters, the summer is also the best time to visit, so you’ll face limitations if you want to avoid the crowds. Let’s dig in to five reasons to avoid camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

1. It’s Remote

Camping in the UP is unique. Even in the private campgrounds that offer amenities and security, many are still far removed from things to do.

If you camp in the wilderness, you’re really on your own. This can be dangerous, especially for novice campers. It’s black bear country, so when you travel off the beaten path, you’ll likely run into wild animals.

Would you know what to do if you came across a black bear in the woods?

2. Campgrounds Are Booked in Advance

Because Michigan is an excellent destination for family camping in the summertime, visitors must book campgrounds months in advance. This can be problematic when taking a weekend camping trip.

It’s also difficult for people who can’t plan due to their work. You’re out of luck if you don’t book a reservation early.

3. Summers Are Busy

The summertime is prime tourist season for Michigan. People love to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and enjoy the beaches along the shoreline of the Great Lakes.

This means many crowds, loud parties, raucous children, and heavy traffic. You’ll wait longer when visiting restaurants or attractions. You might not even get in without reservations. This makes planning stressful and your family life less enjoyable.

4. Black Flies and Mosquitos

A small percentage of Michigan’s population lives in the UP. The land is largely untouched. While this makes for beautiful scenery, it also means lots of bugs.

Black flies are common and locals call them Buffalo Gnats. Their bites hurt, and they swarm the UP in incredible numbers.

Mosquitoes also seem to be bigger and more significant in number here. All the water from rivers, streams, and lakes in the Upper Peninsula makes it a perfect breeding ground.

Long pants and shirt sleeves, socks, and insect repellant will help stave off mosquito bites.

5. Limited Camping Season

Most campgrounds aren’t open year-round due to the harsh winters in Michigan. Freezing pipes and sky-high electricity bills aren’t good for business, so most campgrounds will shut down by October or November.

They usually reopen in April. Because of the limited camping season, this results in the challenges of full campgrounds and busy summers. When you’re trying to make reservations or your kids are in a bad mood because the wait time is an hour at the local hot spot, vacation isn’t enjoyable.

Is Michigan Upper Peninsula Safe? 

As long as you know what you’re doing and how to look out for yourself, the Upper Peninsula is safe. Knowing what to do when you see a black bear or knowing how to prepare for an excessive amount of mosquitoes is crucial.

Preparing for the weather, wilderness, and wildlife is essential to making your trip to the UP enjoyable and safe.

Should I Camp in the Upper Peninsula?

If you don’t mind dealing with a busy campground, listening to loud music after hours, swatting black flies, or being miles away from the nearest business, camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is for you. However, other scenic summer locations in the United States might be more enjoyable.

What do you think? Will you be camping in the UP this summer?

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