The Best Camping Near Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Best Camping Near Grand Rapids, Michigan

Located on the iconic Grand River, Grand Rapids camping trips combine lush landscapes with water sports of every style. Nature centers and parks abound when you stay at campgrounds near Grand Rapids, and wildlife in the area ranges from bald eagles to bats.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
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About Camping Near Grand Rapids

Running the gamut from primitive sites on the creek to fully-equipped spots that include a pool and a boat launch, campgrounds near Grand Rapids offer something for every type of outdoor enthusiast. Explore all that the area has to offer, from learning about wildlife at Blandford Nature Center to kayaking or canoeing on Grand River. From water sports to lush forest hikes, camping near Grand Rapids brings you close to it all.

Top Campgrounds Near Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Grand Rapids Camping FAQs

Located in the palm of Michigan’s mitten, Grand Rapids is one of the best places to unplug, unwind, and get away from it all. With a seemingly never-ending strip of lakeshore to explore and thousands of acres of forest to uncover, the River City is a fantastic place to get out in nature. From kayaking beneath rock arches to snowmobiling through dense forest, here are the best things to do and see while camping near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What’s the best time of year to go camping in Grand Rapids?

Grand Rapids enjoys a distinct four seasons with vastly different weather. From toasty summers with highs in the 80s, to frigid winters with frequent snow, this corner of Michigan is truly a mixed bag of weather.

The best time to go camping in Grand Rapids is in spring, summer, or fall when the natural areas surrounding the city thaw out and are perfect for all manner of outdoor activities. If you’re not a fan of hot summer temperatures, spring and fall are the best times of year to see burgeoning wildlife, blooming flowers, and the scarlet wonder of autumn, complete with mild conditions. Summers are typically balmy and usually hover in the 80s, making it the perfect time to enjoy Lake Michigan and the myriad rivers, lakes, and streams nearby.

Spring in Grand Rapids is from late March to early May, while fall starts at the end of September and extends through November. Snowfall can be expected as early as late October, although it typically picks up from December to February and sometimes into March.

What should I pack for camping near Grand Rapids?

Summers are warm and buggy, while winters are blustery and snowy. Here are a few things to bring along and keep in mind when planning a camping trip near Grand Rapids.

  • Headlamps or flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Hat
  • Compass
  • First aid Kit
  • Quick dry Towel
  • Waterproof matches
  • Water

Summer Camping

Bugs and sunburn are the two most common annoyances of camping in the summer near Grand Rapids. Be sure to bring sun protection like a sunscreen rated for SPF 30 or higher, lip balm with SPF, breathable clothing, a wide-brim hat, and of course, your bathing suits! For bug protection, always carry bug spray.

Winter Camping

Winter camping is no joke in Michigan’s snowy wilderness. Although Michiganders are used to the freezing temps, it can become brutally cold overnight. Here are a few extras to bring along if you’re willing to brave the cold.

  • Sleeping bag rated to 20° or lower
  • A sleeping bag liner rated to freezing temperatures to keep you warm in the frigid evenings
  • Electronics to keep in your sleeping bag with you so the batteries don’t die overnight
  • Fire starter and local wood
  • Wool thermal underlayers and socks
  • Hats, gloves, and thermal neck gaiters
  • Hot hands to keep your extremities warm

What are the top outdoor activities near Grand Rapids?

From catching fresh walleye straight from Lake Michigan to catching some air on the slopes at the Cannonsburg Ski Area, Grand Rapids is a mecca for outdoor leisure. Here are some of the best outdoor activities in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Grand Rapids transforms into a winter sports mecca come the first snowfall of the season. Ski and snowboard fanatics flock to the nearby Cannonsburg Ski Area for its excellent downhill skiing. For those who aren’t quite experts, there’s also tubing, a popular activity for families. Cross-country ski locations are right in the heart of Grand Rapids, making it a snow lover’s dream.


Michigan’s breathtaking coastline, dense forests, and heavy snowfall collide to provide immaculate snowmobiling conditions. This is one of the most exhilarating and fun winter activities to experience Michigan’s wilderness areas and still get out during the freezing winter months.


Nominated as the sixth best fishing town in the U.S. by Field & Stream, Grand Rapids’ close proximity to the mighty Lake Michigan and tangle of rivers make it an incredible casting destination. You’ll find everything from salmon to lake trout and walleye.


With over 251 miles of hiking trails within the city limits, Grand Rapids is a great place to don your hiking boots. There are several hiking trails located only a few minutes’ drive from downtown Grand Rapids, including PJ Hoffmaster State Parks dune hikes with stunning lake vistas.


Swimming is one of the favorite outdoor activities in summer, as there are over a dozen lakefront beaches to explore near Grand Rapids.

What major sights should I see in Grand Rapids?

As the second largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids is an important cultural and historical area in the Mitten State. Here are some of the best things to do in River City.

Rosa Parks Circle

Dedicated to Rosa Parks herself, this natural gathering place in the center of Grand Rapids is a year-round haven for social butterflies. In the summer, the space is used for events like concerts and festivals. In the winter months, the Rosa Parks Circle is transformed into an ice rink for the enjoyment of the city.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

With over 150 acres of lush botanical gardens to explore, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of the best metropolitan areas in Grand Rapids to hug a tree. The sculpture park features over 200 works of art.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Perfect for a rainy day with the kiddos in tow, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum focuses on STEM learning for kids through activities like a live bee hive, lego building, and costume dress-up.

Grand Rapids Art Museum

Also known as GRAM, the Grand Rapids Art Museum houses famous artwork from the centuries, including well-known artists like Andy Warhol.

Fulton Street Farmers Market

The Fulton Street Farmers Market is a collection of 118 booths slinging everything from fresh produce to hand-crafted artisanal goods. It’s held every Saturday year-round.

Windmill Island Gardens

Located in Holland, Michigan, Windmill Island Gardens is an ode to Michigan’s Dutch heritage. Only 30 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, the windmill itself is over 250-years-old and the gardens come alive in spring with tulip blooms to rival those in Keukenhof.

Millennium Park

Over 1,400 acres of rivers, streams, and forest make up Grand Rapids Millenium Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Outdoor activities abound, including boating, swimming off the four-mile-long beach strand, or playing on the splash pad.

Are there any national parks or state parks near Grand Rapids?

From towering sand dunes to forested glens, the national and state parks near Grand Rapids offer a multitude of landscapes to enjoy. Here are some of the best state and national parks within a day’s drive of Grand Rapids.

Grand Haven State Park

(40 minutes)

Located on the serene shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven State Park offers 48 acres of unspoiled swimming beaches, campsites, and two lighthouses to explore.

Huron Manistee National Forest

(40 minutes)

Sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the Huron Manistee National Forest is a stunning representation of Michigan’s pristine natural wilderness. Favorite activities include canoeing and kayaking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and hiking. Be bear-aware when in the national forest as the last few years have seen an increase in black bear activity.

Duck Lake State Park

(55 minutes)

Sandy beaches surrounded by conifer forests and glistening water make up Duck Lake State Park. It’s a great area to swim and have a picnic.

Indiana Dunes National Park

(1 hour, 55 minutes)

At the border of Indiana and Michigan is one of the U.S.’ newest national parks. Indiana Dunes was dedicated in 2019 and hosts 15,000 acres of woodlands, lakeshore, and wetlands.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

(2 hours, 40 minutes)

With sand dunes that reach a whopping 250 feet into the sky, Sleeping Bear Dunes showcase their claim to fame, the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world, in stunning fashion. Snowshoe in winter or try your best to tumble down the dunes and climb back up in summer. Sleeping Bear Dunes is a haven for the children at heart.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

(4 hours, 24 minutes)

Located in northern Ohio, just south of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park boasts beautiful deciduous forests, trickling waterfalls, and a gorgeous display of autumnal leaf-changing come fall. The only national park in Ohio, it’s worth a day’s drive to witness its simple beauty.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

(5 hours, 15 minutes)

With gorgeous emerald alcoves and craggy cliffs, Pictures Rocks is one of the most beautiful natural preserves in all of Michigan. Pop in to the picturesque lighthouses, hike out to gushing waterfalls, and kayak through natural rock formations, this national lakeshore was made for outdoorsy folk. Pictured Rocks is frequently rated as one of the best places for winter camping in Michigan.

Where are the best places to eat near Grand Rapids?

Home to one of the best craft beer scenes in the United States, Grand Rapids has a defined food and drink scene to rival that of any major American city. Here are some of the best eats in Beer City.

Butcher’s Union

The name says it all. Butcher’s Union focuses on locally-raised meat and a warm, inviting atmosphere. The impressive whiskey collection is just the cherry on top.

The Old Goat

Serving elevated cafe eats, the Old Goat is one of the best Sunday brunch spots in town with gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options galore. Try the Old Goat Grilled Cheese or Purple Rain salad.

Rockwell Republic

Rockwell Republic offers a delicious blend of Asian-inspired dishes and American classics, like potstickers and beer cheese dip, with the added specialty of a sushi bar.

Forty Acres

Dishing up the best soul food in Grand Rapids, Forty Acres is the perfect place for refueling after a grueling day out on the lake. Try their shrimp and grits flight and forty soul rolls, or saddle up to their distinctive cognac bar to indulge. Their goal is to celebrate the African American community through food.


Nominated as one of the best beer bars in the U.S. by U.S.A. Today, Hopcat is centered around craft brews and elevated bar food. Make sure you try their famous cosmik fries!

What are some camping mistakes to avoid when camping near Grand Rapids?

Bringing Firewood From Home

Invasive species have been piggy-backing on firewood for the last few decades, including the devastating Emerald Ash Borer. It’s incredibly important to make sure you’re purchasing and collecting firewood from designated areas in the national and state parks you’re visiting.

Ignoring Great Lakes Beach and Ice Safety

The Great Lakes don’t just look like an ocean, they can act like one too! Always follow the red, yellow, and green flag system for swimming safety, and try to swim in areas with a lifeguard on duty. The edges of Lake Michigan often freeze over in the months of January and February. You should never attempt to walk on the ice or ice shelves as they can be unstable.

Not Staying Aware of Bears

Black bears are commonly found in the state and national parks near Grand Rapids and sometimes within the city itself! Make sure to always practice bear-friendly food and toiletry storage. Some areas may require that you hang your food and toiletries from a tree if camping overnight.

Not Preparing for the Bugs

Grand Rapids gets downright buggy in the heat of summer. You’ll need to bring along bug spray to keep them at bay. Ticks are also prevalent in the Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas. They can carry harmful diseases, so it’s important to prevent them from biting in the first place. Treat clothes and your tent with permethrin before your camping trip for extra insurance against the little buggers.

What wild animals might I encounter while camping in Grand Rapids?

Wildlife in Grand Rapids is plentiful and includes white tailed deer, great horned owls, skunks, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, turtles, beavers, hawks, and many more species. Bring along a pair of binoculars for bird watching and squirrel spotting in the deciduous forests and lakeshores surrounding the city.

Some of the state and national parks near Grand Rapids, and the city itself, are home to a small black bear population. Read up on bear safety and ask the park ranger if you’re concerned while camping. Be extra cautious with food storage in areas that are known for high or recent bear activity.

Can you camp near Grand Rapids in winter?

Winter camping has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the national and state parks around Grand Rapids are a great location for it, as long as you come prepared.

Winters in Grand Rapids are very cold and there’s typically snow on the ground from December to February, sometimes even longer. Winter camping here takes some extra preparation to pull off. Be sure to check the local forecast before venturing out and have a backup plan just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

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