SP Campground Review – Traverse City State Park, Traverse City MI
A so-so campground in a great location to explore Traverse City on the NW side of Michigan. Mostly better suited for smaller rigs, but do-able (in some sites) for rigs up to 40-feet.
- Site Quality = 2.5/5
The campsites here are most definitely so-so in quality. The sites are all dirt/sand, electric only (30 Amps) arranged side by side in a heavily forested/tree’d location. Main ding is levelness, layout and separation. Sites are tight together in most places, and quite unlevel across the board, and the packed internal layout (sites arranged back-to-back and side-to-side with no real separation) means you will be very close to your neighbors on all sides. In addition, you share a power pedastool with your neighbors (2-4 sites per power pedastool), so that can mean long power runs for some sites (make sure you have power cord extenders before you come here). Also the sand/dirt ground means that several of the sites are quite soft, so make sure you have blocks/planks for your wheels especially if you are larger/heavier in size (we had to use 3 layers of Lynx levelers + wood block supports on our back wheels/jacks and even then we sunk in several inches at our site). Lastly, the large number of trees and somewhat curvy interior roads means navigation & parking for “beast size” rigs can be a challenge. It’s do-able, but you need to carefully pick the largest campsites (site sizes are listed on each site in the bookings system) in order to fit, plus you need to navigate carefully to get there when in camp. I would not camp here in anything larger than 40-feet. All that said the sites do vary somewhat in quality and a “few” of the sites are nicer than others if you can get them:
- Southern Back Row Sites (sites #101-119 and #5-46, along back edge) – These are the sites closest to the bike trail and furthest away from noisy US 31 so they are BY FAR the quietest in the campground. Separation is also quite decent here. Mostly shorter sites in this section, especially in the middle, so it’s best suited for slightly shorter rigs.
- Eastern Back Row Sites (sites #47-56, along side edge) – Apart from a few exceptions (specifically #50 & #54, both horrible) these are some of the largest/nicest sites in the campground and the ones I would recommend for larger rigs. The sites towards the bike trail are quieter than the sites towards the main road/water, but all are actually quite nice. This would be our #1 preferred area if we came back.
- Northern Back Row Sites (sites #449-470, along front edge from walkway to main entrance) – These are noisier since you’re RIGHT next to the main road, but they are particularly large and spacious. If you can’t get one of the Eastern sites this would be my 2nd choice in the campground for “beastly” rigs.
- Corner Sites – If you can’t get any of the sites along the edges of the campground, the corner sites (at the ends of interior rows) tend to be slightly nicer than in-between interior sites. This would be my #3 choice if I couldn’t get any of the above.
- Interoir Sites – These are the least desirable sites IMHO since they’re packed tightly together and you share space on all sides with your neighbor. Plus the sites here seem to be smaller and particularly unlevel.
- Facilities = 2.5/5
Large flush toilet and shower facilities. Large individual shower stalls with separate bench for clothing and no annoying push buttons. Only dings? The showers had spray heads and were not particularly warm unless you turned on several showers on at once (very strange, but that’s what worked). Also they were not particularly clean when we were there.
- Location = 4/5
The main reason to stay here IMHO is location. You are only 3-miles from Traverse City, by the waterfront and right next to the lovely bike trail that goes into town. You are also within easy 15-min drive to the entire Wine Trail on Mission Point. Location-wise for visiting the city it really can’t get any better. The reason for the one point ding? The campground is RIGHT next to US 31 which means there is constant traffic noise especially if you are in any of the campsites on the northern side (closest to the water). It’s fine if you are inside your rig, but you will definitely hear it outside on the north side.
- Pet Friendliness = 4/5
A decent spot for doggie with a few dings. There is a small dog walk along the north side of the campground and decent space to walk doggie within the park. Plus there are miles of additional walking on the bike trail (accessible on the southern side of the campground). Main dings? The large beach which is just across the way over the US 31 overpass does not allow dogs, anywhere on the beach. So, nowhere to take doggie for a dip despite being right next to water. Also, the other main ding is that the campground has a pet-free section (sites in blue in map at bottom) so there’s a number of sites where dogs are not allowed at all. One upside? There are TONS of squirrels here (more than I’ve seen in almost any other campground) so if your dog likes them he/she will have 24-hour entertainment.
Overall Rating = 3.25
BONUS ALERT = Camp within 3 miles of Traverse City!
Summary: We chose this campground for one reason only and that was location, location, location. We wanted to be within biking distance of Traverse City and a short drive to all the wineries & breweries in the area. For that purpose it served us very well indeed. Traverse City State Park is only 3 miles from TC and is located right next to the lovely biking trail (bike-to-beer baby!) that goes right into town. Plus it’s only 30 mins from Mission Point Lighthouse and 15-20 mins to all the best wineries in the area. For sightseeing in the area, the location truly rocks! Apart from location though, there’s not really much reason to come here. The campground itself is cramped and tight, with mostly uneven dirt sites piled one ontop of the other. Also the layout is poor with 2-4 sites sharing a power pedastool (you definitely need power cord extenders here) and many roads/sites that are awkward to access because of trees in the way, especially if you’re bigger in size (I would say 40-feet is the largest you can fit in here). Lastly, given that you’re right next to US 31 it is quite noisy, especially on the northern side. Also interior sites are very cramped with sites piled side-by-side and back-to-back meaning you have very little privacy from your neighbors. That said, there are a *few* of the sites which are nicer than others. Corner sites & sites along the edges of the campground have a tad more privacy and size, and are definitely recommended if you can get them. The nicest sites are probably the ones along the southern edge of camp since these are the furthest from US 31, and thus the very quietest. They are however somewhat shorter in length so they’re better suited for shorter rigs (we couldn’t fit here). For big rigs the sites along the eastern edge are definitely the nicest. They have (by far) the biggest size and separation in the campground and the most privacy. This would be our #1 choice in camp. Sites on the northern side, from the overpass to the entrance are also quite spacious, although they do get more noise from the main road. This would be our #2 choice in camp. For big rigs I recommend booking ahead and choosing the absolute largest site size you can (sizes are listed on the reservation system) so that you have the best chance of getting in and fitting comfortably. Also DO bring blocks/planks for your wheels/jacks as many of the sites are fairly soft. Overall we found our campsite so-so, but LOVED the location. We had a blast biking to all the breweries in town and enjoyed the close proximity of the wineries on Old Mission Point. For that alone we would come back here again.
Extra Info: Excellent cell signal (5 bars ATT LTE, 5 bars Verizon LTE). 480 total sites, all reservable on-line. Sites cost $31/night (30 Amp electric only). In addition to the nightly rate you must ALSO pay for a valid MI State Park day-use pass (either $9/day or $31/year for non-residents). On site dump station and potable water.
OTHER CAMPING? Traverse City State Park is definitely the closest camping location to downtown, but if you don’t mind being a little further away there are several decent choices:
- Private Parks – There are several well-rated private parks which are not too far from town. In particular Holiday Park Campground ($45/night) and Traverse Bay RV Report ($79/night) both offer full hookup sites and rate very well. See reviews HERE and HERE.
- Interlochen State Park – It’s slight further from town (~15 miles), but gets lots of nice reviews both from blog readers and online. If you’re planning to visit both Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes from one spot this could be a nice, central location. Sites cost $32/night. See park info HERE and reviews HERE.