Van Riper State Park is a very family-oriented park in the middle of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With more than 1,000 acres, it offers plenty of activities including swimming, hiking, playgrounds, fishing, and much more.
Van Riper State Park is located about halfway between Marquette and Munising, right off US-41. The state park sits on the shores of Lake Michigamme and the Peshekee River.
The state park covers both sides of the highway with the campground and day-use area on the south side and a huge section of trails and wildlife viewing areas on the north.
Camping at Van Riper State Park
There are plenty of overnight options at Van Riper State Park including both a modern and rustic campground. A separate rustic group campground also is available.
There are 147 sites in the modern campground, including some sites with 50-amp electric service, and there are another 40 sites in the rustic campground. Plus, there are two mini cabins in the modern campground if you don’t own a tent or RV. All of the campsites have a fire ring and picnic table.
One thing we noticed is that the sites at Van Riper are very large – so much bigger than many sites we’ve seen at other state parks. This means there is plenty of space for your trailer, truck, bikes, screen tent, kids’ toys, etc. without feeling like you’re infringing on your neighbor.
Another plus for the state park is the laundry facilities. Two washers and dryers are located in the restroom building near the beach.
Activities for All Ages
Van Riper State Park is extremely family-friendly, with activities for everyone.
There are approximately 5 miles of hiking trails on the north side of the state park. One trail provides a very nice overlook of Lake Michigamme and the surrounding area. Other trails run along the Peshekee River or through the woods and may even provide the chance to see the moose that live in the area. The trails are not difficult, but there is some elevation to get to the lookout. If you don’t want to hike the whole 5-plus miles from the campground and back, you can drive and park at the group campground and go from there.
A sandy beach awaits both kids and adults on Lake Michigamme. The lake is popular as it is much warmer than most of the lakes in the Upper Peninsula. A large, fairly new playscape is also located near the beach, as well as a swing set.
One of the most unique activities is a bike pump track. This is the only state park that we saw that had one. It was very popular with the kids and is conveniently located between the campground and the day-use area.
The lake is popular for fishing and if you have a boat you can use the launch in the back of the park. It also is a good location for kayaking.
Fall Harvest Fest
In recent years, Michigan’s state parks have been drawing large crowds on fall weekends to celebrate Halloween. There are site-decorating contests, trick or treating, pumpkin carving, costume parades, and much more. Van Riper State Park is no exception. In fact, it is such a popular activity that they devote three weekends in September to the Harvest Fest. Get your reservations in early if you want to camp and participate – and don’t forget those decorations!
Overall impressions of Van Riper
Van Riper State Park is a must-visit if you’re traveling through the U.P. It’s popular year-round, although camping is only open between May and October. Stop for the day to hike the trails and go for a swim, or stay a week and enjoy the sunsets and serenity.
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