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  • Writer's pictureMandy-Gentry

Twelvemile Beach Campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Before we left Bayfield, we checked online to see if any state parks might have an opening in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as they seem to be in high demand and mostly booked.

We scored the last spot at Twelvemile Beach Campground in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This once was a first-come first-serve campground but just recently moved to online-only bookings (aka.. you can’t just show up to camp without a reservation.)

It was a fairly long day of driving to make it into Michigan and across the Upper Peninsula. On our way we passed through Christmas, Michigan, which had two good-sized Santa Clauses. With such a festive name, I can imagine that little town comes alive in winter, but we didn’t spot any reindeer, elves or Christmas trees on our way through.

About 40 miles outside of Munising, down a windy two-lane road surrounded by trees, the campground was situated on the top of a bluff overlooking what must really be twelve miles of sandy beach lining Lake Superior. Ray and I can’t stop calling the lake the “ocean.” It’s amazing how much water is truly out there.

FUN FACT: Measured by surface area, Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake - 350 miles long, 160 miles across, and over 1,300 feet at its deepest point.

When we arrived at our campsite just before dark, we quickly realized why it was the only one not booked - there was a tree growing pretty much right where we needed to park the camper. Luckily, Ray has many hours of practice maneuvering trailers and was able to park our rig in just the right spot around the tree on the first try. The campsites are nestled in the middle of a white birch tree forest and spaced out enough to make it feel very secluded.

The wind picked up the next morning, and the air was a little cool. Coming from Livingston where the wind can really howl, this didn’t prevent us from wandering down to the beach and having a great time.

The kids ran from the waves, gathered rocks, chased frogs, and inspected the water-smoothed pieces of wood laying on the beach. We even found a water worn hand-hewn timber laying on the beach and imagined what it’s previous life could have been - an old cabin or ship, maybe.

FUN FACT: The stones along Twelvemile Beach are horn coral, polished granite and quartz rounded like eggs, and disk-shaped fragments of Jacobsville sandstone.

We walked miles and miles along the beach. The wind quieted down to a breeze, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, and it turned into a marvelous day.

We closed out the day with a campfire, making s’mores, and watching the sun set over the lake.

Being part of the National Park Service, this campground was only $20/night, but did not have any hookups - dry camping only. Generators are prohibited between 8pm-8am, and there is one half of the campground that is a generator-free zone. Each site is pretty spacious with a pad for a tent, parking spot for a camper or car, picnic table, fire ring, and a post to hang a lantern. Supposedly, this campsite books up months in advance, so it’s best to book early if you’re interested in this one.

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