Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping


Sylvania and Clark Lake Entrance Station

The Sylvania Wilderness encompasses 18,327 acres of primitive lands and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Visitors can camp in 50 designated campsites within the Sylvania Wilderness. Visitors enjoy endless canoeing, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Natural Features: The old-growth forests and pristine lakes in the region provide habitat for a wide range of animal and plant life, including rare orchids, bald eagles, loons and osprey. The wilderness contains 34 named lakes, some with sandy beaches and others surrounded by record-size red and white pines. 

The Ottawa National Forest is comprised of nearly 1 million acres and is located in the western reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The forest's rolling, forest covered hills extend from the south shore of Lake Superior to the Wisconsin border. Lakes, rivers and waterfalls are found throughout this beautiful landscape.

Recreation: Sylvania's abundant lakes provide plentiful non-motorized boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing opportunities. Other popular activities include hiking and viewing wildlife.

Facilities: Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camp is not a physical campground located at one location. The 50 individual sites are located along eight lakes within the Sylvania Wilderness. Camping is allowed only at designated sites. Campsites are primitive, but each is equipped with a campfire ring and a wilderness latrine.

Camping is permitted at designated sites by permit only. Permits can be obtained on a walk-in basis at the Sylvania Entrance Station or can be reserved by visiting (see details below).

Fish Your National Forests: Fish available include: Trout, Native Trout, Bass, Walleye, Panfish, Pike; Types of fishing available include: Wade, Shore, Non-motorized boat, Float tube, Fly, Spin, Ice; 

Sylvania Wilderness Map

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Prior to camping any time between May 15 through Sept 30, visitors are required to handle reservations, fee payment, registration and watch a Leave No Trace video at the Sylvania Entrance Station (Sat-Thu 8:30-5, Fri 8:30-6); call (906) 358-4404 for information Before July 15, landing on islands is not allowed in order to protect nesting loons Group Size-for any purpose (i.e., traveling together or otherwise congregating) is limited to ten people in the wilderness. However, no more then six people are allowed at campsites. Cans & Bottles-Non-burnable and disposable food and beverage containers including cans, bottles, and Styrofoam are not allowed. Permitted Containers include containers of fuel, insect repellent, medicines, personal toiletries and reusable plastic containers. Wheeled chairs are permitted.
Operational Hours: The Entrance Station is open May 15th - September 30th Saturday - Thursday 8:30 a. m. - 5:00 p. m. CST and Friday 8:30 a. m. - 6:00 p. m. CST
Reservations: Reservations can be made by visiting  Reservations must be made 3 days ahead of arrival and can be made up to 6 months in advance.
Rentals & Guides: Outfitters are available in surrounding towns.
Area Amenities: Accessible,Boat ramp,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Fee charged for some activities,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees Daytime visitors to the Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation area will pay a fee for use of the facilities. Day Use fees will be implemented May 15 through September 30 annually through the Sylvania Entrance Station and are set as follows: $30 per vehicle for a season pass, $5 per vehicle for a daily pass. Note that registered Sylvania Backcountry Campers are not required to pay the day use for parking a vehicle at Clark Lake or Crooked Lake Boat Landing areas to access backcountry campsites. Camping fees are $15 per night for a wilderness campsite and $18 per night for Clark Lake Campground (auto access sites). Interagency Pass discounts do not apply to backcountry camping permits. Designated campsites have fire grates and wilderness latrines. The recreation area includes a day use building, hot showers, carry down boat landings, picnic areas, beach, parking areas plus other facilities.
Permit Info: Permits are required for entrance into the Sylvania Wilderness year round.  From October 1 to May 14 day permits may be obtained from trailheads and camping permits are available from the kiosk at the Entrance Station. From May 15 - September 30 all permits must be obtained from the Entrance Station.
Open Season: January
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Restrictions: Dogs-Are allowed on a leash in both the Wilderness/Recreation area. Dogs may only be off leash during sanctioned State of Michigan hunting seasons. They may not be left unattended and are not permitted in the Clark Lake Beach and Swimming area. Gas Powered motors are not permitted in the Wilderness to include gas powered boat motors are not permitted on any of the lakes within the Wilderness. Electric Motors are only permitted Crooked Lake with a maximum thrust of 48lbs (4 HP equivalent). Snowmobiling is not permitted anywhere within the Wilderness, including Crooked Lake. Aircraft Landings are not allowed and over flights are requested to remain at least 2,000 feet above the ground. Hunting, Fishing & Trapping-In season, and with a valid Michigan license. Sylvania Wilderness lakes have special fishing regulations, click here for a list of those regulations.
Closest Towns: Watersmeet, Mi is 7 miles to the east and Ironwood, Mi is 39 miles to the west.
Water: Handpump at Crooked and Clark Lake landing, pressurized water system at the RV Dump Station
Restroom: Vault toilet at the Entrance Station, Clark and Crooked Lake landing, and Clark Lake Day Use area
Information Center: Special rules apply within the Sylvania Wilderness and must be observed by all visitors; A $5/day or $30/season facility pass is required for use of the developed facilities within Sylvania Recreation Area; pass includes parking, as well as hot showers at the Clark Lake Day Use Area Motorized, mechanized or gas-powered vehicles, including portage wheels and bicycles, are not allowed;  Wheelchairs are permitted Be prepared to portage your canoe Metal or glass food or beverage containers, including deposit bottles, cans and styrofoam may not be taken into the wilderness Camping is free and open at designated sites outside the reservation season on a first come, first served basis from October 1st through May 14th

General Information


GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
46.24472, -89.31056
46°14'41"N, 89°18'38"W

Wilderness campsites can be accessed from Sylvania Recreation Area or from entry points on the perimeter of the wilderness (see map). 

To reach Sylvania Entrance Station and Recreation Area: From Watersmeet, travel approximately 4 miles west on U.S. 2 to County Road 535, then drive south on CR 535 approximately 4 miles south to the Sylvania Recreation Area

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Nature Viewing

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Water Activities

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Winter Sports

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Picnic tables In day use areas and Clark Lake Campground
Drinking water Handpump at Crooked and Clark Lake landing, pressurized water system at the RV Dump Station and Clark Lake Campground
Toilets Vault toilet at the Entrance Station, Clark and Crooked Lake landing, and Clark Lake Day Use area. Flush toilets in the Clark Lake Campground and Clark Lake Day Use Building
Parking At designated trailheads, landings, and day use area
Boat ramp Clark Lake & Crooked Lake - Carry Down Only
Fee charged for some activities Facility Permit and Camping
Tent camping 50 Wilderness campsites and 48 campsites in the Clark Lake Campground
Accessible Toilet in Loop 1 of Campground
Camping trailer 48 campsites in the Clark Lake Campground