So you’re planning a camping trip in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!
There are 2 regular campgrounds in Sleeping Bear Dunes, and the Platte River campground is one of them. This is somewhat near both Platte River and Lake Michigan.
On way to get to Lake Michigan near the campground is by driving to Platte Point. This is where you can see Platte River meet Lake Michigan.
And another way you can get to Lake Michigan is directly from the campground by hiking there!
First, some quick things to know about the Platte River campground that’s located in Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Then, a bit on how to make camping reservations.
Things to know about camping at Platte River Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
1. The Platte River Campground is located on the Empire side (southern side) of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
You can consider Empire MI one of the gateway towns of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
2. It can be a 1-2 minute drive to Platte River.
Platte River is a popular spot for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. You can go float, canoe, or kayak your way down Platte River all the way to Platte River Point where the river meets Lake Michigan.
You can bring your own and launch from Platte River picnic area just across the campground.
Or you can launch from the El Dorado boat launch, that’s down the river a bit closer to Lake Michigan.
There is also a riverside rental shop that’s a 1-2 minute drive from the campground with tube rentals, canoe rentals, and kayak rentals. The rental shop is located just across the bridge on the main road near the campground. You can get a one-way shuttle ride to go along with it. There’s also a convenience store here.
3. It’s around a 5 minute drive to the Platte River Point beach.
The Platte River Point beach is where you would float or paddle your way to with the tube/canoe/kayak. If you don’t want to float or paddle, you can also drive directly there.
And, Platte River Point beach is a swimming beach! You can go swimming by sticking to more of the river area, or you can get out closer to Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan in the summer is generally considered swimmable in terms of water temperature.
It’s also important to know that although Lake Michigan is just a lake, in many ways it can act like an ocean! Since the campground beach is in a bay, the waters are a bit more protected, but you’ll still want to take care when swimming! There are no lifeguards at Platte River Point, or any beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
4. There is a trail to a Lake Michigan beach directly from the campground.
For a different Lake Michigan beach, and a quieter Lake Michigan beach, you can hike to Lake Michigan!
It’s a little bit of a hike, but there is a hiking trail that leads to Lake Michigan at the back of Platte River campground.
It will depend on what part of the campground that you’re starting the trail, but it’ll be at least 0.8 miles one way for most people.
The RR Grade Trail will take you to a Lake Michigan beach that’s a part of Platte Bay, and one of the many Lake Michigan beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’ll start off as a hike through the forest, and then it’ll become a sand trail! Once you’ve made it to Platte Bay, you can go for a long walk on the beach!
5. It’s about a 5 minute drive to the start of the Old Indian Trail.
And for another hiking trail near the campground, there is the Old Indian Trail. You can also hike this trail to go to Lake Michigan.
6. The Platte River campground is for tent camping and RV camping.
7. There are campsites that come with a tent pad.
This is flat gravel ground to set up your tent.
8. Platte River Campground is a mostly “modern” campground.
As opposed to a “rustic” campground.
9. There are some campsites with electricity at the campground.
Platte River campground has some campsites that have electricity and some campsites that have no electricity. If electricity is important to you, be sure to look out for the designation when you make your camping reservation. Basically, loop 1, loop 2, and loop 3 are the campground loops with electricity. Loop 4 does not have electricity.
10. There are regular bathrooms at the campground.
11. There hot water showers at the Platte River campground.
The only campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that has showers is the Platte River campground.
12. There are faucets at the campground for drinking water.
13. There’s a dishwashing sink at the campground.
14. Platte River campground has walk-in campsites.
For the walk-in sites, it’ll be a short hike to your campsite from the parking lot. How much you’ll walk to your campsite will depend on your exact campsite, but it will generally be a few minutes walk. When you make your camping reservation, there is the “hike-in distance” listed. These sites offer a bit more privacy.
There is also drinking water and a bathroom along with hot showers located near the walk-in campsites. If you’re camping at DH Day campground, then these would be the easiest showers to use since there is plenty of parking around here.
15. You can buy firewood at the campground.
Because of invasive species that could come with wood brought from elsewhere, it’s always best to buy your firewood locally. There’s a firewood “vending machine” located at the campground. Bring cash just in case the credit card machine isn’t working! In 2020, a bundle of firewood cost $5 at Platte River campground.
16. There is a trash dumpster for campers.
17. There’s an RV dump station.
18. There are bears in Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Sleeping Bear Dunes was not named such because there are bears. It was named because of a sand dune that looked like a bear. That said, there are bears in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore! Although bear sightings are said to be rare.
It’s also said that a fed bear is a dead bear. This means that once bears start to see humans as a source of food, they can become a threat to humans, and that means a potential threat to you! Once it’s believed by park rangers that a bear is a threat, it’s possible that it can be killed.
Currently, bears in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are generally not seen as a threat to people. But it takes everyone, including all campers, to keep it like that and to keep everyone safe while you’re camping, and to keep the campers that come after you safe!
Among the things, be sure to take care to pick up after yourself after you eat. You want to avoid leaving food in your tent, and be sure to store all food in your car. This also means it would be better if you didn’t eat inside your tent at all.
Another thing is to also try not to keep scented items inside your tent. Scented items can even include things like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen.
If you are camping at a walk-in site, there is a “bear-proof” food storage box for you.
Before you go camping, you can read up on bears in Sleeping Bear Dunes, you can read up on bears in Michigan (pdf), and you can also read more about hiking and camping with bears in national parks.
19. It’s about a 10 minute drive to the start of the Bass Lake Loop Trail.
This is a part of the Platte Plains trails.
20. It’s about a 10-15 minute drive to the start of the Empire Bluff Trail.
The Empire Bluff Trail is one of the most popular spots in Sleeping Bear Dunes.
21. It’s about a 10-15 minute drive to the other beaches of Platte Bay that you can drive to.
22. It’s about a 20-30 minute drive to the Dune Climb.
23. Summer days are long!
In June and July, there are days when sunrise is before 6am and sunset isn’t until after 9:30pm in Empire MI!
That means time for lots of outdoor activities!
Read the reviews of the Platte River campground.
Here's some info on Michigan vacation prep! Top Michigan vacation spots:
- Best of Michigan's national lakeshores
- Best of Tahquamenon Falls State Park
- Best of Porcupine Mountains State Park
- Michigan waterfalls road trip
- Lake Superior lighthouse road trip
- Best of hiking in Pictured Rocks
- Get a waterproof phone case if you'll be heading out on the water!
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Michigan
How to make camping reservations at Platte River Campground
The official website for making a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore camping reservation through the National Park Service is recreation.gov.
You can type in Platte River Campground for the search, and then go from there. (Be sure to select the Michigan one!)
You can also see the individual campsites that are available. If you click on an individual campsite, it will also give you the basics of the campsite. If you have flexible dates, you can also search the availability by date. This can also help you determine if you should book soon or not, based on the availability of the campsites. If you’re looking to camp in the summer, then book sooner rather than later!
There are also Platte River Campground reviews you can read on the camping reservation website.
For reference, here is the Platte River campground map. You can easily reference the electric vs non-electric campsites. You can also get the visual of the where the various campground loops are located compared to Lake Michigan.
Cost of camping at Platte River campground
The cost of camping at Platte River campground is around $31 per night for campsites with electricity and around $26 per night for non-electric campsites. The walk-in campsites are around $22 per night. See here for updated camping fees.
There is also a national park fee for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If you have an America the Beautiful national park pass, that will work in Sleeping Bear Dunes. Otherwise, a 7 day Sleeping Bear Dunes park pass will be around $25. See here for current fees.
Checking in to your campsite
Then, once you are in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park and approaching the campground, you’ll start to see signs for the Platte River campground. You’ll then stop by the campground office to check in and get your camping “permit”!
At the campground office, you can also find some Sleeping Bear Dunes informational brochures. You’ll want to bring along dollar bills to make a “donation” for these little booklets. The listed suggested donation in 2020 was $3 for 1 booklet and $5 for 2 booklets. You can find these at the visitor center as well.
Then after you’ve checked in, off you go to find your campsite!
And that’s a bit about camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at Platte River campground!
See about camping at the other Sleeping Bear Dunes campground – the DH Day campground.
Continue your Michigan road trip from Platte River Campground:
- Platte River to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: 5+ hours (see Twelvemile Beach campground)
- Platte River to Mackinaw City: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Platte River to Tahquamenon Falls: 4+ hours (see Lower Falls campground)
- Platte River to Whitefish Point: 4+ hours
- Platte River to Kitch-iti-kipi: 4.5+ hours
- Platte River to Porcupine Mountains: 8 hours (see Union Bay campground)
- Platte River to Keweenaw Peninsula: 8.5 hours
HAPPY CAMPING AT PLATTE RIVER CAMPGROUND!