Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping

Area Status: Not Cleared

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
  • Clarks Lake Campground Map


At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Sylvania Entrance Station is closed until further notice in 2020. Backcountry camping in Sylvania Wilderness is closed until further notice. Day users may still access Sylvania Backcountry but will not be required to check in at the Sylvania Entrance Station. The Crooked and Clark Lake canoe landings are open but no toilet or water available. The Clark Lake Campground is closed until further notice in 2020. The Clark Lake day use area is open but the pavilion is closed and there is no toilet or water available, pack in pack out trash. No day use fees will be charged while facilities remain closed.
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: Reservation needed -
  • May 15 to September 30
  • One time reservation fee of $9.00
  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance of visit.
  • Reservations must be made at least 3 days in advance of visit.
Go to: or call 1-877-444-6777. Camping is first come, first served from October 1 to May 14. 
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 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
  • Season 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
Interagency Pass discounts do not apply to backcountry camping permits.    Camping - October 1 through May 14
  • First come, first served
Permit Info: Permits are required for entrance into the Sylvania Wilderness year round: 
  • October 1 to May 14
    • day permits may be obtained from trailheads
    • camping permits are available from the kiosk at the Entrance Station.
  • May 15 - September 30
    • all permits must be obtained from the Entrance Station.
Open Season: January - December
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