Camping

Recreation Passport: The passport is required for vehicles entering all state forest campgrounds and state parks. It’s also required for parking at the trail heads of all pathways on this map except Green Timbers. Get an annual passport with your Michigan license plate or at any DNR office, or online at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport. Additional fees are levied at campgrounds for overnight camping. The Recreation Passport contributes to upkeep of pathways and campgrounds in state forests as well as state parks.

All these pathways can be found on our waterproof map (order here) except for the new Towerman’s Watch. We provide the latitude and longitude in minutes, leaving out the 45°N and 84°W, since they are the same across the area.

State Forest Campgrounds: Campsites in all state forest campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Except for Elk Hill equestrian campground, no reservations are accepted. The campsites have fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, and potable water. Self-registration information is in each campground. Put cash or check in the registration envelope and then into the pay post.

Clear Lk State Park (8’N 11’W) offers campsites with electric hookups, modern toilet buildings, showers, and sanitation stations. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 1-800-447-2757.

Dispersed Camping: You can camp for no fee anywhere on state forest land as long as:

  • The area is not posted “No Camping.”
  • You are at least a mile from a designated state forest campground.
  • You are at least 600 ft from the posted sinkhole lakes in the PRC.
  • You follow all state land rules.
  • You post a Camp Registration Card (PR 4134) at your campsite. The card is available at DNR offices or Print a card here.
  • You are not camping with horses in the PRC. (See below.)

Equestrian Camping

Campgrounds for horse camping are Elk Hill and Johnson’s Crossing, both on the North Spur/Midland to Mackinac Trail. Dispersed camping is limited to four campsites within the PRC, but is not restricted outside of the PRC.

At Elk Hill (11’N 26’W) there is an equestrian/river campground and a trail/group campground. The river site has fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, potable water from a hand pump well, and picket posts and manure bunkers available. Camping at the river siteis first-come, first-served, but reservations may be made by using the Michigan State Parks Reservation System (www.midnrreservations.com or 1-800-447-2757). Non-horse camping is allowed.

The Elk Hill Trail/Group CG and Johnson’s Crossing Trail/Group CG (2’N 25’W) are gated and available only by reservation: call 989-732-5485.

The four dispersed horse campsites in the PRC are Hardwood Lk (10’N 24’W), Witness Tree (9’N 26’W), Duby Lk (18’N 23’W) and Oxbow Cr (13’N 17’W). They are marked with a sign but have no amenities (no fire ring, toilet, or water). They are available first-come, first-served at no charge with a Camp Registration Card. Each site is limited to 4 rigs and 12 people.

Rustic Campgrounds

ELK HILL TRAIL CAMPGROUND (Horse camping)

Established with the help of horseback enthusiasts, Elk Hill overlooks the Pigeon River on the North Spur of the Shore to Shore Riding and Hiking Trail. This ten-site campground is the only campground in the PRC that allows horse camping. There is also a Group Camp that is designated for group camping with advanced reservations and requires a special permit.

Horses can have a major impact on the fragile sandy soils of the PRC and the plants that grow in them. Using the picket posts provided and the maintained paths to the river will reduce that impact. Do not ride in streams. It causes erosion that destroys fish and aquatic insect habitat.

Horseback riding is allowed on the county roads, forest roads designated as open access roads, the North Spur of the Shore-to-Shore Trail and service trail road posted as open to horse use.

PICKEREL LAKE CAMPGROUND
Once the site for a CCC Camp in the mid-1930’s, this is the PRC’s largest and most popular “family” campground. The 39-site campground is on the shore of Pickerel Lake. It has an excellent swimming beach, with boat launching site, area for day use picnicking, hiking trail around the lake and room for large camping rigs. Rainbow trout (planted) bass and blue gill may all be found here. An All Species Fishing License is required and fishing is allowed from the last Saturday in April through September 30th only. Elk, wild turkey, deer and other wildlife can be seen in the area.

No gas motors are allowed on the lake. No dogs are allowed in the picnic area. This is the most handicap assessable campground in the Forest. During the summer months, host campers are on hand to help maintain the campground, answer questions and provide assistance.

There is a scenic vista overlooking the Sturgeon Valley one mile south of the campground. This is a great place to view Michigan’s fall colors.

PIGEON BRIDGE CAMPGROUND
Pigeon Bridge is located near the bridge across the Pigeon River on Sturgeon Valley road. This ten-site campground has easy access for visitors and offers hiking, cross-country skiing, and trout fishing in the crystal clear Pigeon River. It can accommodate large camping rigs and is the trailhead for the Shingle Mill Pathway and the High Country Pathway. A hand pump water well is available on site.

PIGEON RIVER CAMPGROUND
This campground is located on the banks of the Pigeon River about one mile from the Forest Headquarters. This 19-site campground has an excellent flowing well, excellent brown, rainbow and brook trout fishing, and has ample space for larger rigs. The Shingle Mill and High Country Pathways run through this campground. Other activities include hunting, blueberry picking, wildflower and wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

PINE GROVE CAMPGROUND
Pine Grove is situated among a mature stand of white and red pine. This remote six-site campground provides a quiet haven for those seeking solitude on the Pigeon River with its good trout fishing opportunities. The High Country Pathway runs through this northernmost campground of the PRC making it a popular spot for trail users.

ROUND LAKE CAMPGROUND
This ten-site campground overlooks picturesque Round Lake and is located in a mature stand of large red and white pine that provides a thick bed of pine needles on which to pitch a tent. Round Lake is unproductive for sport fishing; however, children may enjoy teasing the small sunfish with a hook and line. Excellent blueberry and huckleberry picking is available in the Round Lake area. You can pick up the High Country Pathway right from the campground, plus it is a good area to catch a glimpse of turkey or elk.

TOWN CORNER LAKE CAMPGROUND
Overlooking Town Corner Lake, this secluded 12-site campground offers a quiet respite from busy roads. It has a boat launching site and fishing opportunities include bass and pan fish while the nearby Black River offers quality brook trout fishing. Wildlife viewing is a favorite pastime featuring elk, wild turkey, bobcat, pine marten, and deer along with many species of song birds. A Pathway spur connects this campground to the High Country Pathway.

JOHNSON’S CROSSING CAMPGROUND
This Group Camp allows horses and is on the North Spur of the Shore to Shore Riding and Hiking Trail. It is available by reservation only and requires a special permit.