Michigan State Parks: McLain

Sunset over Lake Superior at McLain State Park

F.J. McLain State Park is a quaint state park in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is located just north of the city of Hancock on the shore of Lake Superior. The state park is a perfect camping spot if you’re looking to explore the Keweenaw Peninsula and catch a gorgeous sunset.

The state park is named for Frederick J. McLain, a former Houghton County Commissioner from the 1930s. He was instrumental in securing the land to get it dedicated as a state park.

McLain State Park has seen a lot of changes in recent years. We visited in 2016 and again in 2019 and couldn’t believe the difference in just three years.

Crumbling road in front of Lake Superior at McLain State Park
One of the campground roads that is being claimed by Lake Superior

As a result of increasing water levels and major shoreline erosion, a section of campsites and the road to the cabins fell into Lake Superior. The state park adapted, closing off certain areas while building new campsites and new access roads to maintain camping options.

Camping at McLain State Park

With the addition of the replacement campsites, there are now a variety of different styles of campsites available – with around 110 sites total. Check out our video of the park around the 2:08 mark to see the different options.

Class B van at a campsite by a lake at McLain State Park
Our campsite with a view of Lake Superior

The original sites are located close to Lake Superior among the trees. Most of them are grassy/gravel sites with 20/30-amp electricity. A section of newer paved sites are located further into the campground, but still among the trees.

Both sections are perfect for tents, or smaller trailers/vans/truck campers. Many of them are packed very tightly together with very little space or privacy between sites. Also, bring an extension cord as many of the power boxes are not super close to where your trailer may sit.

I would consider the newest sites parking-lot style. They are much larger, paved, out in the open, and have been upgraded to 50 amp. A handful actually are located in what used to be parking spaces along the road and are designed to handle the larger 5th wheels, motorhomes, and toy haulers.

Mini cabin at McLain State Park
A mini cabin that overlooks Lake Superior

If you don’t have your own tent or trailer, there are seven mini cabins available to rent with gorgeous views of Lake Superior.

The park recently built a new shower and bathhouse. Online reviews designated it “first class” – I’m not sure I’d go that far, but for a state park it is very nice and so much better than the old bathhouses.

McLain State Park Activities

In addition to watching the sunsets, the park provides options for swimming, walking trails, fishing, beachcombing, hunting and more.

The outlet of the Portage Lake canal marks the southern boundary of the state park. On the end of the canal seawall is the Keweenaw Waterway Lighthouse. You can catch a great view of it from the McLain State Park swimming beach.

Lake and lighthouse at McLain State Park
Keweenaw Waterway Lighthouse

The beach is accessible via a paved walkway that is handicap friendly. A large concession building with bathrooms and changing houses is open during the summer. Specific designated areas of the beach allow dogs.

Three shelters are available to rent for organized gatherings. Two of them have stone fireplaces, and all have grills and picnic tables.

Nearby attractions to explore

Image of a double decker bridge
Portage Lake Lift Bridge

Due to its prime location, McLain State Park is a great place to stay if you are interested in checking out the local area. There are many old mining operations now open to tourists and ghost towns from the Copper Country heydays. On the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula sits Copper Harbor, with the famous Brockway Mountain Drive and Ft. Wilkins Historic State Park. Throughout the peninsula are a number of lighthouses and waterfalls.

On your way to the park you’ll pass through the Houghton-Hancock region and cross the double-decker Portage Lake Lift Bridge, the only one of its kind in Michigan. And right down the road is Michigan Tech University.

If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, 1.5 hours to the west is Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Park with the famous Lake of the Clouds overlook. This is a must-see!

A man and woman in front of the McLain State Park entrance sign

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about McLain 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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