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Spring Camping & A New Trail Map
MichiganTrailMaps.com is proud to announce the release of the Jordan River Pathway, the first map in its Classic Trails of Michigan series of detailed maps. The four-color publication measures 11 by 17 inches, is printed on a water-resistant card stock and conveniently folds to fit the side pocket of your backpack. It has the detail you’ve come to expect from us; featuring trail posts, mileage flags, contour lines, even the location of every bench along the trail.
The Jordan River Pathway is the most popular weekend backpacking trip in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, thanks to its scenery, walk-in campground and the rugged and remote nature of the Jordan Valley. Located north of Mancelona, the 18-mile, two-day pathway is a loop, thus eliminating the need for complicated transportation arrangements, and has enough climbs, especially on the second day, to give anybody a sense of accomplishment.
You can order our new map from the MichiganTrailMaps.com e-store today and we’ll have out to you for your first backpacking adventure of the year.
This Is The Spring To Go Camping
By Jim DuFresne
Several years ago my daughter and I were once trudging through the low dunes on the way to the beach in the Lake Michigan Recreation Area south of Manistee when we did something crazy. We kicked off our boots and left them in the sand.
Hiking through the soft sand of the dunes in bare feet, heading towards the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan . . . that’s a normal activity for us in July. But this was the first week of April and it made me pause to consider how lucky we were that year and how lucky we have been this spring.
Spring camping; you pack your raincoat and sunglasses, roll the dice and take your chances.
We did and arrived at the Manistee National Forest recreation area during an unusually warm spring similar to this year’s. The temperatures were edging toward 70 degrees, the sky was cloudless and there wasn't another soul around.
That was most unusual for this campground. Even though it's a rustic facility, the Lake Michigan Recreation Area is the most popular unit in the national forest and probably one of the most popular campgrounds in the state regardless of who administers it.
But it was April and in this empty campground we had warmth, sunshine and no bugs. Call it a camper's paradise.
Despite this spring’s warm start, it’s best to be prepare for any type of weather and hope you don't have to use the wool mittens or rain gear. Then head to the most popular campgrounds in the state that were always filled when you were there previous summers. Some of the facilities — showers, flush toilets, visitor centers — may still be mothballed for the winter. But the campsites are open and most places offer lower rates during the off-season
Click on the map to the right to view a larger version or print.
Lake Michigan Recreation Area: Located 13 miles south of Manistee on the edge of the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, this recreation area was once called by Family Circle magazine "one of the 20 best campgrounds in America." I don't know about the other 19, but it was easy to understand why this national forest campground was chosen.
The campground consists of four separate loops with each containing 25 sites. The campsites are spacious and well spread out in an area forested in pines and hardwoods, especially oak trees. There's a fire ring, table and a lantern post at each site. There are no showers or electricity in this campground but what a beach!
From the sites a wood chip path skirts a large forested dune and then climbs a low foredune to a wide sandy beach, bordered on one side by the towering Nordhouse Dunes and on the other by the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan.
To the south, you could walk for more than 4 miles in this setting and reach the Point Sable Lighthouse. The easier way to see the historic light is to scale one of the two overlooks. It was 167 steps to the top but from the viewing platform on that clear April day we could see miles of beach, acres of dunes and to the south the black and white tower of the lighthouse.
Warren Dunes State Park: This 1,507-acre state park in the southwest corner of Michigan gets so crowded during the summer, they simple close the gate and turn everybody else away. But it's a different place in April. The campground has 197 modern sites on two loops located on the forested backside of a towering dune.
You can beach comb, climb Mt. Randal, a 200-foot high dune, or hike the park's excellent 5-mile network of trails. See Mt. Randal Loop at MichiganTrailMaps.com for trail description.
Ludington State Park: At 5,200 acres and a northern half designated a Wilderness Nature Area, this is the second largest state park in the Lower Peninsula. Ludington has more than 400 sites in three separate camping areas. My favorite is Beachwood Campground where the sites surround forested knolls and low dunes in the middle. To the east, the sites are bordered by another dune that can be climbed for good views of Hamlin and Lost Lake.
The park has paved bicycle trails, an 18-mile network of foot trails, including one that winds through the open dunes to the Big Point Sable Lighthouse, and a new "canoe trail" where you paddle through lagoons and ponds following trails signs. See Ludington State Park at MichiganTrailMaps.com for trail descriptions.
Platte River Campground: Revamped in 1991 at a cost of almost $4 million, this is one of Michigan's premier public campgrounds. Located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the facility has 179 sites that include 96 modern sites, 53 rustic sites without electricity and 25 walk-in sites secluded in the surrounding forest. Nearby is one of the most beautiful shorelines along Lake Michigan, Platte Bay while the Platte Plains Trail, a 15-mile network of loops through a forested area of low dunes, has trailheads in the campground.
Late in the year you can reserve campsites at Warren Dunes and Ludington State Park through the Michigan State Park Central Reservations (800-447-2757; www.midnrreservations.com) and at the Platte River Campground through Recreation.gov (800-365-2267; www.recreation.gov).
To reach the Lake Michigan Recreation Area from Manistee, head south on US-31 for 10 miles and then right at Lake Michigan Road. The recreation area is reached in 8 miles at the end of the road. Warren Dunes State Park is reached from I-94 by departing at exit 16 and following the signs south. Ludington State Park is 8.5 miles north of Ludington at the end of M-116 and Platte River Campground is 9.5 miles south from Empire along M-22.
Contact the Manistee Ranger District office at (231-723-2211) for Lake Michigan Recreation Area, Warren Dunes State Park (269-426-4013), Ludington State Park headquarters (231-843-8671) or the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park (231-326-5134).