Winter Camping in Michigan State Parks

When the trees have finished changing colors and the fall gradually turns into winter, it doesn’t mean the camping season’s over. Not in the American state of Michigan anyway as there are at least 10 state parks that offer year-long camping. The winter air is cool and crisp, the snow makes everything look so clean and beautiful, and the parks are typically very quiet, making it an ideal time for nature lovers to take a camping trip.

There are several types of winter camping, but one of the most popular is to set up a base camp where you can explore nearby hiking trails and enjoy some cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and/or ice fishing etc. Some of the Michigan parks, such as Mitchell State Park and Traverse City State Park, provide campers with heated restrooms during the winter. Some of the other state parks that are open all year round are: Bay City, Algonac, Ludington, Fort Custer, Tahquamenon Falls, North Higgins Lake, and Waterloo Recreation Area-Portage Lake.

Michigan State Parks(photo by neuroboy6)

When looking for a suitable tent for the winter, you’ll find that many three-season tents are good enough for a base camp in Michigan. These will do if you’re setting up camp in a sheltered location and keep the snow from building up on it. However, if you’d rather take the safe route, then you should buy a winter-specific tent for your adventure. You may also want to take a larger tent than usual so you have a place to store any extra gear.

When setting up camp, make sure there’s nothing dangerous above you that could fall down, such as tree branches. Pack down the snow where you want to pitch the tent and then put a ground sheet down on top of it. Remember that the ground will be hard, so make sure the tent pegs are strong enough. Plastic, unbreakable pegs or aluminum pegs are both pretty good.

If you want to stay warm, it’s a good idea to place some insulation on the floor of the tent. A few old blankets usually do the job. Placing a small mat near the entrance of the tent is a good idea and a sleeping pad can also keep you warm and comfortable. Air mattresses are generally cold and don’t offer much in the way of insulation. If you need to use a propane heater to keep warm, make sure it’s been certified to be “tent safe.” Make sure you follow the instructions closely and never go to sleep with the heater on.

In fact, you need to follow the instructions carefully when using any type of camping equipment such as a lantern, stove, and heater etc. You also need to have good ventilation in the tent and make sure you never block the entrance to it. Other useful items for winter camping include a small snow shovel, a hammer or hatchet, and a large pot.

The backside of the hatchet or hammer can be used to drive the pegs into the hard ground and a hatchet can help you gather firewood. You’ll be able to heat water in the large pot and use it for washing dishes, clothes, and yourself. The snow shovel will help clear a path for you and dig yourself out if you happen to get hit by a storm. There’s no reason to pack all of your gear away when the winter comes and you can have an enjoyable time at the year-round Michigan State Parks and State Forest Campgrounds.