Michigan State Parks: Craig Lake

Two adults by the Craig Lake State Park entrance sign

Craig Lake State Park is billed as the most remote state park in Michigan. Given its location down a rough 7-mile seasonal road, I can see why. More on that below.

Spanning more than 8,400 acres, there are plenty of hiking, backcountry camping, and fishing opportunities at Craig Lake State Park. There also are lots of chances to see wildlife as you are very deep into the woods once you arrive.

The Miller Family, of the famous Miller Brewing Company, once owned the land. Fred Miller, the founder’s grandson, built a huge lodge and a number of cabins for hunting and fishing expeditions. He also named three of the six lakes after his children. In 1954, Fred and one of his sons died in a plane crash. The Miller family sold the land to a logging company. The state acquired it in 1966. In more recent years, one of the other nearby lakes was named the High Life Lake in honorarium.

Getting to Craig Lake State Park

The main entrance to Craig Lake State Park is located off US-41 about 40 miles west of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. During the winter, the state doesn’t maintain the road. The entrance sign has an open/closed indicator to let you know if it’s passable by car.

The condition of the essentially one-lane road that leads to the state park varies throughout the year depending on the weather. Lots of rain or snow can make the road relatively impassable at times. We encountered quite a few large holes, big rocks, and bumpy conditions on our drive in. That made for pretty slow going in the Roadtrek.

There is a large sign near the entrance warning of the poor condition of the road and suggesting that unless you have high-clearance and four-wheel-drive you should turn back. Both of these are recommended, but we found it wasn’t quite as scary as the sign leads to believe. However, that again could change with the weather.

The scary, not-so-scary, warning sign (which could also use some punctuation!)

We also noticed that, depending on your GPS or what map you are using, you could find yourself on the wrong entrance road. There is a “back way” that appears shorter. But, as we accidentally discovered, it is a much rougher road that I would only recommend if you have some type of off-road or lifted vehicle that can do some small rock climbs.

In the winter, the only way to access the park would be by snowmobile, snowshoe or cross-country skiing.

Parking Situation

Once you make it down the 7-mile road you will find a small, unlevel dirt parking lot that holds maybe 10 to 15 cars if they all park decently. Unfortunately, because of the state park’s remote location, it’s about a 99% chance that anyone parking there is planning to backcountry camp for the night so they’re likely not leaving (especially if it’s mid- to late afternoon).

The lot was completely full the day we visited. People even parked cars along the roadway (not recommended since it’s so narrow). There was absolutely no room for our Roadtrek which was a huge bummer because we’d planned to go hiking.

Ari stayed with the van and just double-parked behind a few cars while I headed off to explore a bit. 

Camping, Hiking and Fishing at Craig Lake State Park

Lakeside tent site on Craig Lake

Camping options at Craig Lake State Park include the choice of hauling in your own tent (22 sites), or you can rent a yurt (2) or a cabin (2). The regular sites are first come-first serve. You can rent the yurt and cabins in advance.

Keep in mind that most of these options are a minimum of a mile hike in from the parking lot, and some are up to 5-plus miles in, so you have to haul all of your camping gear from the car. In some cases, a couple of the sites are reachable by canoe or kayak. The exception is the two yurts which are located relatively close off the side of the seasonal road.

Campsites at Craig Lake State Park

Hiking options include an 8-mile rugged trail that loops around Craig Lake, and a 7-mile section of the North Country Trail that traverses through the park.

Fishing is a popular activity in the park’s six lakes. Only artificial lures are allowed and only one lake, Keewaydin, permits motorboats. Check the regulations for which species are catch-and-release and other requirements.

Is it really the most remote state park?

Craig Lake State Park is truly an outdoorsman’s paradise buried deep in the woods. It is definitely remote and not for just anyone, however, it is still easier to access than Lime Island State Park, which is only accessible by charter boat!

If you get a chance and have a vehicle that will survive that 7-mile road, I highly suggest taking the opportunity to get out there and get some hiking in, even if you don’t spend the night. There are great chances to see wildlife and enjoy the quiet of the forest. For more typical camping accommodations you’ll find Van Riper State Park right down the road.

Craig Lake

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Craig Lake State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see each of the parks we visited on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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