Covering over 10,000 acres in northern Michigan, Wilderness State Park is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Located near Mackinaw City, this massive state park features 26 crystal clear lakes, dense forests, and a sweeping campground.
With activities ranging from boating and fishing to hiking and birdwatching, Wilderness State Park has something for everyone. This guide covers everything you need to know to plan your perfect wilderness escape.
Spanning over 10,000 acres in northern Michigan, Wilderness State Park is a vast natural playground. Located near the tip of the mitten, Wilderness State Park contains 26 crystal clear inland lakes, dense forests, and offers access to Lake Michigan’s scenic shoreline.
This state park near Mackinaw City provides the ultimate remote wilderness experience. Visitors can traverse over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails that weave through the park’s rugged beauty. From backcountry campsites to modern cabins, there are endless options for lodging surrounded by nature.
The centerpiece of Wilderness State Park is its extensive inland lakes, perfect for boating, paddling, and fishing for prized game fish. Beyond world-class recreation, the park provides a peaceful escape into seclusion and serenity.
Getting to Wilderness State Park
Wilderness State Park is conveniently located off I-75, approximately 35 miles south of Mackinaw City, MI.
Address: 903 Wilderness Park Drive, Carp Lake, MI 49718
From Detroit: 4 hours, 325 miles
From Traverse City: 2 hours, 95 miles
From Mackinaw City: 35 minutes, 30 miles
Take exit 310 off I-75 and head east on M-68 towards Carp Lake. After 2.5 miles, turn left onto County Road 612 and follow for half a mile to the park entrance.
Wilderness State Park Hours & Fees
Park Hours: 8am – 10pm daily
Day Use Fee:
- Daily Vehicle Permit – $9
- Annual Recreation Passport – $12
Overnight camping fees range from $20 – $37 per night depending on site type and season.
Purchase passes at the park office or online here.
Camping at Wilderness State Park
With over 250 campsites, Wilderness State Park can accommodate tent and RV campers looking to fully immerse themselves in nature.
Campsites are scattered throughout three campground loops – Pines, Cedars, and Hardwoods. Sites range from modern and full-service to rustic and off-the-grid. Electrical and water hookups are available at some sites.
Bathhouses with hot showers and restrooms are centrally located in each loop. Firewood and ice can be purchased at the camp store.
Modern yurts and rental cabins are also available within the park. Pets are welcome at sites and in some rentals. Reserve campsites in advance through Michigan DNR.
Boating & Fishing
With 26 inland lakes spanning over 2,500 acres, Wilderness State Park is a premier destination for boating and fishing.
Power boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and row boats can be launched from 7 boat launches within the park. Gas motors are restricted to slow-no wake speeds.
Catch popular game fish like perch, bass, pike, walleye and more on the well-stocked lakes. Michigan fishing licenses are required for ages 17+.
Wilderness State Park Trails
Over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails weave throughout Wilderness State Park. Trails range from easy 1-mile loops to an 18-mile route connecting the campground to Lake Michigan.
- Barrier-Free Trail – Paved 1-mile loop, great for wheelchairs and strollers.
- Sunrise Side Trail – 7 miles along Lake Huron beach.
- North Country Trail – 18 miles to Lake Michigan, moderate difficulty.
- Cedar Meadow Trail – 1.6 mile loop circles a scenic meadow.
Dogs are welcome on leashes no longer than 6 feet. Always clean up after pets on trails. Mountain biking is permitted on wider dirt trails.
Swimming at Wilderness State Park
In addition to boating, visitors can enjoy swimming in the clear waters of nearby Lake Michigan. A scenic 2 mile hike along the Sunrise Side Trail leads from the campground to expansive Lake Michigan beaches.
Lifeguards are on duty at the beach area during summer months. Swim only within designated areas. Please pay attention to warning flags and changing water conditions.
Wilderness State Park Activities
Beyond hiking, boating and swimming, activities at Wilderness State Park include:
- Birdwatching – Over 200 species spotted in the park.
- Disc Golf – 18 hole course winds through the forest.
- Playgrounds – Two playgrounds located in the campground.
- Interpretive Programs – Nature talks and night hikes offered seasonally.
- Mountain Biking – Allowed on wider dirt trails. Rentals available locally.
- Fossil Hunting – Search for Petoskey stones along Lake Michigan beach.
- Snowmobiling – Miles of groomed trails in winter.
- Cross-Country Skiing – Groomed trails offer scenic winter activity.
Wilderness State Park Rules & Regulations
To ensure an enjoyable and safe visit, please observe the following rules:
- Display Recreation Passport on vehicle dash
- Quiet hours from 10pm to 8am
- No fireworks allowed
- Pets must be leashed at all times
- Fires only permitted in rings
- Alcohol prohibited for those under 21
- Swim only in designated swim areas
- Take out all trash you bring in
See the full list of park rules posted at the office and trailheads.
Plan Your Wilderness State Park Trip
Ready for a wilderness escape? Here are some tips for an enjoyable trip:
- Reserve campsites early, especially summer weekends
- Autumn offers stunning color without the crowds
- Pack sun protection, bug spray, first aid kit
- Bring your own firewood; moving wood risks spreading invasive pests
- Fill up gas tanks prior to arrival as no fuel stations in park
- Stop for snacks & supplies in Mackinaw City or Cheboygan
- Keep food sealed and secure to avoid wildlife encounters
With 26 pristine lakes, wooded forests, and access to Lake Michigan beaches, Wilderness State Park is a secluded oasis. Follow this guide to plan your Michigan nature retreat.