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Rules and regulations

Rules for parks, harbors, camping and reservations

The following rules, regulations and policies were put in place to enhance safety, create a welcoming environment and protect these outdoor spaces for future generations.

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General park rules

  • Park hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

    Only registered campers are allowed in the park after 10 p.m. with the exception of occasional events.

  • A Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry into state parks and recreation areas, DNR-managed boating access sites (boat launches), state forest campgrounds and parking at state trailheads.

  • Alcohol possession and use is limited or prohibited at certain state parks and boating access sites. See the full list of alcohol restrictions.

  • Pets are welcome on a 6-foot leash in state parks, campgrounds, some state park cabins, state forest campgrounds, non-designated bathing beach areas, most harbors, the majority of trails and many boat launches. Learn about pet-friendly recreation and rules.

    Leash laws do not apply on state park lands if the dog is being used for hunting, field trials or while being trained for hunting purposes on land open to such use.

  • Many parks and recreation areas have access to fishing. With the exception of Free Fishing Weekends, if you are over the age of 17 you are required to have a license to fish. Buy your fishing license online, buy a fishing license at a retailer, or download the Michigan DNR Hunt Fish app and purchase through the app.

  • All state recreation areas are open to hunting unless designated closed. All state parks are closed to hunting unless designated open. Find a list of parks and recreation areas where hunting is allowed.

  • Some events on public lands, such as weddings, 5K races, festivals, tournaments, require a permit. Learn about the types of events and requirements.

    Businesses and individuals using public-owned lands, such as state parks, trails and boat access sites, for commercial operations must obtain a permit.

  • All research activities within state parks, recreation areas, boating access sites and rail trails are required to have a use permit. Most research projects will require no fees, bonding or insurance, but will require submittal of a report at the conclusion of the project in place of monetary payment. Learn how to obtain a land use permit for research.

  • Metal detecting is allowed in designated parks when it is conducted in ways that do not damage the resources or violate state laws. Any items found must be reviewed by park staff and may be retained for further investigation. See a list of parks where metal detecting is allowed.

  • Fireworks such as Roman candles and bottle rockets are prohibited in Michigan state parks at all times; however, smaller novelty fireworks such as party poppers, snappers/drop pops, snakes, smoke bombs, sparklers and ground spinners are still permitted.

General harbor rules

  • Check-in for harbor arrival starts at 1 p.m., and checkout is by 11 a.m. Extensions will be granted at the discretion of the harbormaster.

    Boaters must check in upon arrival at the harbor office.

  • Quiet time is all the time. Noise levels must be controlled

  • Fishing is not allowed in the harbor unless otherwise posted. It's illegal to dispose of fish or animal waste in the waters of the State of Michigan. Fish cleaning is not allowed at the harbor unless a fish cleaning station is provided.

  • For safety reasons, bike riding is not allowed on the harbor sidewalks or docks. All bicycles must be stored in bike racks or on your vessel.

  • Grilling is allowed in provided areas only.

  • Pets must be kept quiet, on a 6-foot leash and under an owner’s immediate control. All pet waste must be properly disposed of in trash receptacles. No pets allowed in buildings except service animals.
  • Michigan is a “No Discharge” State (effective on all freshwater bodies). It's illegal to discharge raw and/or treated sewage and oil or oily waste from a watercraft within the water of the state.

  • Swimming is not allowed in the harbor for safety reasons. Learn about electric shock drowning.

Camping at a state park or recreation area

    • A responsible person (18 years or older) must register the site and be a member of the party camping each night.
    • Campsites are intended for overnight use. An established campsite may not be left unoccupied for more than a 24-hour period.
    • NEW! Reservations are held until 3 p.m. the day after the scheduled arrival date. Fees will apply.
    • A camper may not camp for more than 15 consecutive nights in any separately administered campground in a state park or recreation area between May 15 and September 15. If a camping party is required to leave a campground upon reaching the 15-night limit, the party is not eligible to return until 5 nights have elapsed.
     
  • Campsites:

    • Check-in for camping arrivals start at 3 p.m.
    • Checkout is 1 p.m.

    Lodging:

    • Check-in for overnight lodging arrivals start at 4 p.m.
    • Checkout is noon.

    In the off-season, please use the yellow phone if staff is not in the campground office.

    Yellow phone:

    If you arrive during the times below and staff is unavailable at the campground office, please pick up the yellow phone and it will automatically connect you to the call center:

    • Monday -Thursday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
    • Fridays; 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
    • Saturdays and Sundays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

    If you arrive after call center hours, you can check the campground office window for information on site availability and instructions on how to self-register.

  • Pets are allowed in all campsites and some overnight lodging locations. Pets must be kept quiet, always be on a 6-foot leash, under owner’s immediate control and never left unattended. All pet waste must be properly disposed of in trash receptacles.

    No pets allowed in buildings, including toilet and shower buildings, except qualified service animals.

    • No more than six people allowed per campsite.
    • One primary camping unit (ie. truck camper, trailer, RV, etc.) may be allowed per campsite. Tents may also occupy the campsite with the trailer, RV, or truck camper within the geographic boundary of the campsite, as long as the number of campers is not violated.
    • No more than two vehicles allowed per campsite. A motorhome does not count as a vehicle when used as the camping unit.
    • Tent-only campsites are limited to the number of tents that can fit within the site, which means as many tents as necessary to accommodate a single camping party are permitted within site boundaries.
  • Campfires are permitted in designated fire rings only and must never be left unattended. Do not burn garbage.

    Don't move firewood. Invasive insects and diseases have destroyed MILLIONS OF TREES in Michigan – often after hitching a ride on firewood. Hauling firewood, even a short distance, from one part of the state to another is a common way for these invasive species to infest new locations. Please purchase local or certified heat-treated firewood sold in state parks, local stores and roadside stands.

  • You can always transport your own or rented camping unit or RV in and out of a state park; however, if a rental is being delivered and set up for you at the park, you must rent from a permitted vendor.

  • Camping is permitted in designated sites only.

  • Campground and park visitors are not allowed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

    Please remember that only two vehicles are allowed in each campsite .

  • The use of fuel-powered generators is not allowed during established quiet hours (10 p.m. to 8 a.m.). To help visitors with medical needs, electric and solar-powered generators are allowed.

  • Quiet hours are between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. during which time campers can not knowingly cause noise that disturbs others.

    Reasonable sound levels must not be exceeded at any time.

    Radios, generators or other amplified devices may not create excessive noise.

  • To help reduce impacts to park infrastructure and protect natural resources, non-registered campers are required to pay a $10 fee and have a Recreation Passport to utilize sanitation/dump stations except for locations where infrastructure can't withstand additional use.

    Locations that do not allow non-registered campers to utilize sanitation/dump stations include Baraga State Park, Burt Lake SP, Cheboygan SP, Fort Custer SP, Hoeft SP, Holly Recreation Area, North Higgins Lake SP, Port Crescent SP, Rifle River RA and Twin Lakes SP.

  • If you are using state lands for commercial purposes, including state parks, recreation areas and boating access sites, an agreement with the DNR is required. Commercial operations are defined as "any activity that involves, directly or indirectly, the buying or selling of goods or services, or the exchange or attempt to offer to exchange goods or services for money, barter, or for anything of value."
  • Discharge of firearms, air guns, slingshots or arrows aren't permitted in campground boundaries.

  • Selling or renting a state-managed campsite, cabin, lodge, or harbor slip is defined as commercial activity and is prohibited. Reservations must be canceled if they cannot be used by the original reservation holder, they cannot be sold or transferred to another party. Park staff may not honor a reservation that has been sold and transferred.

Camping in a state forest

  • State forest campgrounds are first come, first served and cannot be reserved. The only exception is Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground (Otsego County). Advance reservations are available at takes advance reservations at MiDNRReservations.com.

    Camping fees and registration procedures are posted at the information kiosk at each campground.

    The process of “tagging” – paying and holding a campsite in advance of arrival – a campsite is prohibited. To be considered a legally established camp, the site must meet one of the following: a) opening or setting up of a tent; b) parking and occupancy of an enclosed, self-contained camping unit; or c) sleeping or occupying a sleeping bag or sleeping in any other manner between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

    The use of fuel-powered generators is not allowed during established quiet hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. To help visitors with medical needs, electric and solar-powered generators are allowed.

    You many not camp with more than 6 horses per campsite at an equestrian state forest campground or trail camp.

    Find state forest campground operating dates and fees

    More information about state forest campgrounds »

  • Backpacking or car camping (also known as dispersed camping) is permitted on state forest land as long as your site is located more than one mile from a state forest campground. It's free of charge.

    The following applies:

    • Campsites cannot be located in a state park, recreation area, state forest campground or state game area and must be located more than one mile from state forest campgrounds.
    • The campsite or adjacent area cannot be posted "No Camping."
    • A backpacking registration card must be prominently posted at the campsite for the duration of the stay. It's your responsibility to ensure that the registration card remains legible. Placing the card in a zip-top bag is recommended.
  • View a map of state forests and state forest campgrounds

    The map can be used as a measurement tool to determine state forest boundaries and which locations are more than one mile from state forest campgrounds. Camp registration cards are also available at customer service centers.

Rates, dates and fees

Reservations, modifications and cancellations

  • Visit MiDNRReservations.com or call 1-800-447-2757 to make a reservation. Sites are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    When the 6- or 12-month booking window opens, inventory becomes available Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m.

    • Campsites and harbor slips can be reserved 6 months in advance.
    • Picnic shelters can be reserved 1 year in advance.
    • Overnight lodging (cabins, yurts, lodges, modern lodges) can be reserved 1 year in advance through October 2023.
    New "shrinking" 6-month booking window for overnight lodging began Nov. 1
    To help streamline camping and overnight lodging reservations, we're shortening the reservation window for overnight lodging from 12 to six months. To move to the new six-month window with as little disruption as possible, the “shrinking” booking window (reducing a month at a time) began Nov. 1 and will fully go into effect May 1, 2024. The table outlines the new timeline:
    Reservation made in: Latest reservation arrival date: Booking window
    November 2023 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 12 months
    December 2023 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 11 months
    January 2024 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 10 months
    February 2024 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 9 months
    March 2024 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 8 months
    April 2024 Oct. 31, 2024 Less than 7 months
    *May 1, 2024 Nov. 1, 2024 6 months

    *Full implementation of 6-month booking window.

  • Reducing the number of nights after a camp is established at the park

    Once checked in at the park, if you choose to reduce the length of your stay a refund will be calculated as a percentage of unused camp night fees based on the number of months the reservation has been held (see sliding modification/cancellation formula below).

    If you check out before 1 p.m., that night’s camp fees will be included in the refund formula. If you check out after 1 p.m., that night’s camp fees will NOT be included in the refund formula.

    Modification and cancellation policy

    You may cancel or modify your camping reservation online at MiDNRReservations.com or by calling 800-447-2757. Please note that the original nonrefundable reservation fee, a cancellation fee and a reduced-stay fee will be assessed.

    Once campsite reservations are made, they cannot be canceled or modified more than five months before the arrival date.

    The following fees will be assessed if you cancel or modify your camping reservation:

    1. Nonrefundable reservation fee (paid at the time a reservation is booked): $8 for reservations made online and $10 for reservations made through the call center.
    2. $10 cancellation/modification fee.
    3. Reduced-stay fee (an incremental fee determined by the length of time a reservation is held and the number of eligible nights canceled); see sliding modification/cancellation formula below.
      1. If canceled or modified before the arrival date, all unused camp nights are eligible for the reduced-stay fee according to the sliding modification/cancellation formula.
      2. If canceled on the day of arrival or later, the first night’s fee and the cost of any nights that have already passed will be charged at the full rate. Any remaining unused nights are eligible for a refund using the sliding modification/cancellation formula.

    Reservations that are canceled on the same day the reservation was created will be assessed the $10 cancellation/modification fee only.

    Modifications to reservations that do not affect the length of stay will be assessed the $10 cancellation/modification fee only.

    Modifications to reservations that result in an increase in the length of stay will be assessed the additional nights’ fees only and NOT the $10 cancellation/modification fee.

    Reservations are held until 3 p.m. two days after the scheduled arrival date. Failure to check in within 48 hours of the check-in time will result in a “no-show” status and will incur the loss of two nights' fees plus the reduced-stay fee (assessed on remaining unused nights using the sliding modification/cancellation formula).

    New in 2024, reservations are held until 3 p.m. the day after the scheduled arrival date. Failure to check in within 24 hours of the check-in time will result in a “no-show” status and will incur the loss of two nights' fees plus the reduced-stay fee (assessed on remaining unused nights using the sliding modification/cancellation formula).

    Sliding modification/cancellation formula

    Months reservation held % of unused nights charged
    up to 2 months 10%
    2 to 3 months 15%
    3 to 4 months 20%
    4 to 5 months 30%
    5 or more months 40%

    Tags: cancel reservation, change reservation, modify reservation, campsite reservation, camping reservation

    • The original reservation fee is non-refundable
    • Changes and cancellations cannot be made more than 11 months in advance of arrival date for reservations made on or before Oct. 31, 2023.
      Beginning May 1, 2024, the booking window for overnight lodging will be shortened to 6 months and reservation changes and cancellations cannot be made more than 5 months in advance. More info about this transition can be found on the overnight lodging page.
    • Cancellations made any time after processing this reservation until the close of business the day before your scheduled arrival date will incur a $10 cancellation fee for overnight lodging (ie. cabins, yurts, pop ups) and $50 for modern lodges. If you cancel on your day of arrival or later, you pay a $10 or $50 (modern lodges only) cancellation fee and forfeit the first night’s camping fee as well as the fee for each night that has passed.
    • Reservations are held until 3 p.m. two days after your scheduled arrival date. If arriving after 3 p.m. two days after your scheduled arrival date, you must modify the reservation to delay the arrival date or cancel the reservation. Penalties will apply. Failure to do so will be considered a no-show with the loss of 2 night’s fees. New in 2024, reservations are held until 3 p.m. the day after the scheduled arrival date. Failure to check in within 24 hours of the check-in time will result in a “no-show” status and will incur the loss of two nights' fees plus the reduced-stay fee (assessed on remaining unused nights using the sliding modification/cancellation formula).
    • Changes to this reservation prior to your day of arrival (i.e. change of dates or change sites within the same park) will incur a $10 modification fee.
    • The original reservation fee is non-refundable.
    • Changes and cancellations cannot be made more than 5 months in advance of arrival date.
    • Cancellations made any time after processing this reservation until close of business the day before your scheduled arrival date will result in a refund of fees paid minus the non-refundable reservation fee. For cancellations/modifications made on the day of arrival, you'll forfeit the non-refundable reservation fee, the first night's dockage fee and any night’s dockage fee that has passed.
    • Reservations are held until 5 p.m. on the scheduled arrival date. If arriving after 5 p.m. on the scheduled arrival date, you MUST contact the Harbormaster to notify staff of late arrival. If you're late, and you fail to call, the reservation will be cancelled as a no-show with the loss of a two-night fee.
    • The original reservation fee is non-refundable.
    • Changes and cancellations can be made anytime after a reservation has been created
    • Cancellations made any time after processing this reservation until the close of business the day before your scheduled arrival date will incur a $10 cancellation fee. If you cancel on your day of arrival you forfeit the shelter use fee.
    • Reservations are held until 8pm on the scheduled arrival date. Failure to register on arrival will result in a no-show cancellation with the loss of all fees.
    • Changes to this reservation prior to your day of arrival (i.e. change of date or change of shelters within the same park) will incur a $10 modification fee.