Camping is one of the pinnacle activities that means summer has arrived. While I know of many campsites in the U.P. that are free, or close to it, I decided to look ahead of the season to try and find downstate Michigan campgrounds for the same cheap price. However, what I didn’t know for Southwest Michigan camping is that the word ‘free’ here means a concrete parking lot of your nearest superstore. So, while I am still very much on the hunt for the cheapest campgrounds around Southwest Michigan, here are some of the best camps I was able to find that have something for the kids, adults, and maybe even those fur babies. 

Hungry Horse Campground: 

Located at 2016 142nd Ave, Dorr, MI 49323 

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Rate: Standard nightly rate during the week is $44, weekends or holidays stand at $48 per night with water and electric hook-ups. They also have a variety of cabin rentals that sleep a minimum of 6 people for $90 a night (at the lowest). 

Kids: For the younger kids, they will happily spend the day jumping around on the jump pad, hay rides, sand box, merry-go-round, playground and the kiddie pool. While the older kids can enjoy the regular pool, there are also courts for basketball, volleyball, a bike track, a rec field and a gaga ball pit.  

Adult: While the kids are off playing various games, adults can enjoy lying by the pool or heading out on a trail for a little peace. This is also an alcohol friendly campground, though this is limited to your campsite. 

Dogs: Pets are welcomed, but remember leash safety! 

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone:  

Located at 03403 64th St, South Haven, MI 49090 

Rates are based on a minimum of 2 adults and 2 children. Additional adults are $8 a night and children under 3 are free but still counted. No more than 8 people per site. Currently, they are offering a green rate at $10 a night. 

Kids: Though each activity may not be free, Yogi Bear has something for any kid to enjoy. The pool, giant jumping pillows, and multi-use court are available for free play. For any additional fun activities, be sure to check the price with the staff because they can vary by activity. If you’re willing to spend some extra dollars for your kid's fun, there are bikes that can be rented per hour or weekend, indoor and outdoor laser tag, triple K raceway, RC track, mining company, etc. 

Adults: While the campground is based towards children, there are so many different activities that adults can enjoy as well like the pool and bikes. There are also a few small luxuries that parents would appreciate. Rather than dragging the kiddos everywhere, you can rent a golf cart of various sizes to help with transporting everyone across the campground. This especially comes in hand when the bathrooms are far away. Though this is another small luxury for adults, there are real showers in the bathroom, also in the cabins (and two of the cabins even have a PRIVATE hot tub). 

Dogs: Yogi Bear knows that your pooch also deserves to enjoy their vacation. So, while pets are allowed throughout the entire campground on leash, there is a fenced area specifically for dogs to be let off leash. Inside this free roaming area, there are also dog obstacles and agility equipment for them to entertain themselves with. Though, picking up after your pet is still needed by the owner of the pet, not employees of the grounds, if you know what I mean: pick up your crap. 

TIP: check the camps schedule, sometimes they have additional events going on that the kids would really enjoy. i.e., scavenger hunt, foam dance party, morning yoga, etc. Also, to save some money, I suggest bringing additional kid supplies like water balloons, rc cars, and your own sporting balls/equipment. 

Paw Paw River Campground 

Located at 5355 M-140, Watervliet, MI 49098 

Rate: Call for rating, depends on size of group. Only 1 vehicle per site. 

Kids: Not only is this campground near the river and all of the fun that swimming, kayaking, and tubing provide, there are additional attractions for children. There is also a nice playground and basketball court available for use. If you’re willing to give your kids a few dollars, there is even a game room. Though, my favorite camping activity as a kid was still the nightly fire with s’mores and laughs. 

Adults: The best part about this campground is the fact that each activity is also something of interest to adults and parents. While the kids swim ahead, you will be floating down the river in a tube with a drink in your hand and the sun on your face. Though, for campers, the actual best part about this campground is the electric and water hook up, propane fill station, and real restrooms and showers make camping next to the river so much more comfortable. 

Dogs: While I have seen dogs on the river before, their website doesn’t mention anything about whether dogs are or aren’t allowed on site.  

Tip: when relaxing on the tubes for a ‘lazy river vibe’ this is actually quite a workout. I recommend bringing a paddle of some kind to help you navigate the turns of the river a little easier. Also, if you want to just lay back and hang out with your friends without floating away, a cheap pack of bungee cords or ratchet straps can keep you together. 

Sandy Pines Campground 

Location at 2745 136th Ave, Hopkins, MI 49328 

Rate: Since this place has so much to offer, the nightly rates are equally as high. For a standard camp site during the week is $60 a night, and $70 a night on weekends. They also have cabins and trailers for rent at a higher rate. If you wanted a more permanent stay, they even have some trailers for sale. 

Kids: This place has an ABUNDANCE of options to occupy your kids. No matter the age of your children, they will easily find something to do here. While there are so many more activities, some of their options include a ropes course, waterpark, mini golf, water equipment rentals, human foosball, 10 playgrounds in total, arcade room, etc. And be sure to end the hot summer day with a nice ice cream from their shop. 

Adults: Spend your day not worrying about how to occupy yourself or your kids, instead wonder what fun thing you’re going to do next. Since this place is so large, I strongly recommend renting a golf cart for your stay. There is an 18-hole golf course, chapel, hair salon, hardware store, rowboats and other equipment, disc golf, and also the many fun options that the kids get. Though, for the mothers, the best part about this campground are the FOUR heated pools. This campground also comes with hook-ups generally wanted for camping, a laundromat, and real showers. 

Dogs: Sandy Pines does allow pets, and they also require leash safety. Though, since this campground is so large, they also have extra restrictions on ‘neighbor friendly’ pets, so if you have any questions, I recommend giving them a call. 

No matter where you decide to take your kids camping this summer, it is important to remember your leave no trace ethics, call and schedule ahead of time for availability, and neighbor friendly hours. Where do you plan to take your family camping this summer? Do you have a favorite campground? 

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