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Camping in the Sylvania Wilderness Area

by
author image Richard Corrigan
Richard Corrigan has been a full-time professional writer since 2010. His areas of expertise include travel, sports and recreation, gardening, landscaping and the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2009.
Camping in the Sylvania Wilderness Area
View of cliffs and forests in Michigan's upper peninsula. Photo Credit Wildnerdpix/iStock/Getty Images

Few places in the continental United States can claim to be as wild as Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The region is home to the secluded Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area, a remote expanse of quiet water and towering pines amid nearly a million acres of Ottawa National Forest. The Sylvania Wilderness is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with quiet backcountry campsites, miles of hiking trails and more than 30 fishing lakes.

Developed Campgrounds

The Sylvania Wilderness has only one drive-in campground, located at Clark Lake. The Sylvania Campground -- sometimes known as the Clark Lake Campground -- includes 48 campsites that are open to tents and RVs. Each site includes a campfire ring, picnic table, lantern post and parking spur, along with access to drinking water, restrooms and showers. Hookups are not available. Dense forest and thick undergrowth provide shade and privacy between the sites, which are arranged in four loops near the lake shore.

Backcountry Camping

For those who want to get away from the crowds and conveniences of a developed campground, about 50 backcountry tent sites are scattered throughout the Sylvania Wilderness Area's 38,000 acres. These sites are accessible only on foot or by water, and most of them are situated along various hiking trails throughout the wilderness. Backcountry campers are responsible for carrying all necessary supplies with them -- including food and water -- and leaving no trace of their presence when they leave. Maps and trail guides are available through the USDA Forest Service website.

Lots to See and Do

The Sylvania Wilderness has a lot to offer besides camping. About 26 miles of trails wind their way through the wilderness, covering intermediate to difficult terrain through old-growth forest and around quiet lake shores. Fishing for bass, pike and panfish is available at 34 named lakes and several smaller ponds throughout the area, including Crooked Lake, which has a swimming beach, shore fishing and a carry-down launch ramp for small boats like canoes and kayaks. A current Michigan fishing license is required for fishing. Many lakes can be reached only on foot or by boat from connected lakes. Motorized watercraft are not permitted.

Know Before You Go

Camping at Sylvania Wilderness is available year-round. One loop at the Crooked Lake Campground stays open through the winter months, though running water is generally not available from October to mid-May. Reservations are neither required nor accepted at the campground, but you can reserve a backcountry site by phone or online through Reserve America. A permit is required for backcountry camping between May 15 and September 30. Permits are free of charge, and can be obtained at the Sylvania Wilderness Entrance Station.

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