Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

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 MUST be reserved by visiting (see details below). No first-come, first-serve walk in sites available in 2020.

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
  • Clarks Lake Campground Map


At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Sylvania Entrance Station is closed for the 2021 season.  
  • Backcountry camping available by reservation only.
  • Visitors planning to camp in the backcountry between May 15 and September 30 must have a campsite reservation.
  • All sites must be reserved through Recreation.Gov prior to arrival or on the same day of arrival. Please follow the registration directions posted before going to your site.
  • Prior to your visit, all visitors are strongly encouraged to review the rules and regulations and watch the Sylvania Wilderness Orientation video.
  • Day use fees and backcountry camping fees are charged May 15 - September 30.
  • The Clark Lake Pavilion will be closed for the 2021 season.
Operational Hours: The ENTRANCE STATION will be CLOSED FOR THE 2021 SEASON to ensure the health and safety of our visitors and employees. ALL RULES AND REGUALTIONS APPLY, and there is specific guidance you must follow for your visit. View the pdf for more details.
  • All rules and regulations apply, and all backcountry campers must camp at a designated site with proof of reservation.
Please follow posted instructions on how to register upon arrival with your reservation information. Rules and Regulations for Sylvania can be found at all the bulletin boards at the entrance station, trailheads, and canoe launches.
Reservations: Reservation Required -
  • May 15 to September 30
  • Reservation fee of $9.00
  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance of visit on 37 of the 50 backcountry campsites.  The remaining 13 sites open for reservations 2 weeks in advance of visit.
  • Same day reservations available May 15 – September 30 on available sites.
Go to: or call 1-877-444-6777. Camping is first come, first served from October 1 to May 14. 
Rentals & Guides: Sylvania Outfitters - 906-358-4766
Area Amenities: Accessible,Boat ramp,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Fee charged for some activities,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees Required Day Use - May 15 through September 30 Day pass includes use of developed facilities in Sylvania Recreation Area, parking, use of hot showers at Clark Lake Day Use Area. 
  • Annual Pass: $30/vehicle
  • Day Pass: $5/vehicle
  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 - May 15 through September 30
  • Wilderness Campsite: $15/night
  • Clark Lake Campground: $18/night standard $23/night standard with electric hookup
  Interagency Pass discounts do not apply to backcountry camping permits.      Camping - October 1 through May 14
  • First come, first served
Permit Info: The ENTRANCE STATION is CLOSED FOR THE 2021 SEASON to protect the health and safety of our visitors and employees.
  • $5/vehicle daily use fee is required. Please use the fee tube at the Entrance Station or Clark Lake day use area. DO NOT PAY ANY CAMPING FEES AT DAY USE FEE TUBES.
  • To obtain a $30 Annual Pass, please call 906-932-1330.  
Open Season: May 15 - September 30
Usage: Medium-Heavy
  • Motorized, mechanized or gas-powered vehicles, including motors, snowmobiles, portage wheels and bicycles, are not allowed:
    • Electric Motors allowed on Crooked Lake; maximum thrust of 48lbs (4 HP equivalent).
  • Wheelchairs are allowed
  • Be prepared to portage your canoe
  • Metal or glass food or beverage containers, including deposit bottles, cans and foam containers may not be taken into the wilderness
  • Dogs-
    • Are allowed on a leash in both the Wilderness/Recreation area, can be off leash during hunting seasons.
    • May not be left unattended and are not allowed in the Clark Lake Beach and Swimming area.
  • Aircraft Landings are not allowed, over flights are requested to remain at least 2,000 feet above the ground.
  • Special fishing 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

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