Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed on Hiawatha National Forest lands except developed recreation and administrative sites, campgrounds and designated campsites. The following restrictions apply:

  • Your stay is limited to 16 days. After this period, your camping equipment and all persons must move to another site at least five miles away, for an additional stay, not to exceed 16 days.
  • Do not block any roads or restrict access to National Forest lands by others.
  • Follow “Leave No Trace” principles (See https://lnt.org/why/7-principles) so that public lands will remain clean and attractive for others to enjoy.
  • Camping in areas posted closed is prohibited.
  • Camping within fifty (50) feet of a body of water is prohibited, unless otherwise posted. (Exceptions include Grand Island National Recreation Area (100 feet from water, cliff edge, private property, trails, other campsites, special use recreation residences or recreation developments) and Big Island Lake Wilderness (200 feet from water). Do not camp at boat launches.
  • On lakes with designated or reservable campsites, you may not set up your campsite within 400 feet of the shoreline anywhere on the lake.
  • Note that camping reservations are required for these lakes: Bass Lake, Bear Lake, Camp Cook, Carr Lake, Chicago Lake, Cookson Lake, Council Lake, Crooked Lake, East Lake, Ewing Point, Gooseneck Lake, lronjaw Lake, Jackpine Lake, Lake Nineteen, Leg Lake, Lyman Lake, McKeever Cabin, Minerva Lake, Mowe Lake, Steuben Lake, Swan Lake, Toms Lake Cabin, and Triangle Lake.
  • For additional information about national forest camping, see Agency and Forest Supervisor's orders.

Choosing a Campsite

Group size can impact the land. Travel and camp in small groups. Place tents in cleared tent spaces if one is available. If not, find an opening at least 200 feet from water and trails, where understory vegetation or timber will not need to be cut or removed. Please stay at least ¼ mile away from developed campgrounds.


With the exception of Grand Island National Recreation Area, Big Island Lake Wilderness, and developed recreation sites, you can have a campfire anywhere in the National Forest. You may gather down wood for campfires, but that wood cannot be removed from the National Forest without a valid firewood permit. Dig to mineral soil before you start your fire. Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave, and replace the sod and soil you removed. Remember, you will be held responsible for damages caused by an escaped fire.

Disposing of human waste

Many campers have self-contained toilets. Please empty your holding tank at sanitation stations.

Cat holes are a widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate cat holes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where others will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The hole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than a night, or if camping with a large group, cat hole sites should be widely dispersed.

Garbage and camp trash

Cans, bottles and aluminum foil don’t burn, so pack them out when you leave. Carry out all trash, garbage, fish entrails, or other materials so that bears and other animals are not attracted to the area. Please clean your campsite completely before you leave!

Dispersed Camping Areas

  • East Zone
  • Sault Sainte Marie Ranger District
  • St. Ignace Ranger District
  • West Zone
  • Munising Ranger District
  • Rapid River/ Manistique Ranger District
  • Indian River Canoe Trail
  • Pine Marten Run Trail

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities