The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced some significant changes for backcountry campers at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western Upper Peninsula. The changes include new online reservations for backcountry camping, check-in required at the park during office hours for backcountry campers and cabin and yurt users and the cabin and yurt reservations window is being shortened from one year to six months.

A camper outside his blue tent on a bluff above Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains is shown.This camping season, these new changes will only be in effect at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Upon success, they will later be implemented for backcountry camping at state parks across Michigan.
“In an effort to balance increased backcountry use with resource protection, this new approach will help ensure we retain the pristine wilderness character of the park,” said Porcupine Mountains park manager Jeff Gaertner.

The sequence of changes will begin to unfold May 15. At that time, in-person check-in will be required during office hours for backcountry campers and backcountry cabin and yurt users.

“Many of our park cabins and yurts now have combination locks. To protect the security of cabin, yurt and modern lodge users, we will no longer be leaving keys or combinations out after hours,” said Bob Wild, park interpreter at Porcupine Mountains.

Cabin and yurt users will need to check in, in person at any of three check stations located on the east side of the park. Backcountry campers will need to check in to receive backcountry camping permits.

Check-in hours and locations include (All times listed are Eastern Time Zone): May 15 through Oct. 15 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as follows) Park Headquarters, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Visitor Center, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Union Bay Campground, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 16 through May 14 Park Headquarters, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In response to requests from park visitors, backcountry camping reservations will be available for the first time online beginning June 1. Online reservations will replace self-registration previously offered at the park. Reservations will also be available by calling the Central Reservation Service at 1-800-44PARKS.

“This change will allow us to better understand how many backcountry campers we have at any time. The front side of a cabin at Mirror Lake in the Porcupine Mountains is shown. given time and allow backcountry campers to register ahead of time, at their leisure,” Wild said.

However, online registration is not a backcountry camping permit. Backcountry campers will need to visit one of the three check stations listed above when they arrive at the park to be issued their backcountry camping permit.

In the last of the new changes, the window for making backcountry cabin and yurt reservations for the park will be shortened from one year to six months. This change will be put in place by this fall for those making reservations for the 2017 camping season.

At roughly 60,000 acres, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is Michigan’s largest state park, home to towering old-growth hemlock stands, roaring waterfalls and spectacular sweeping vistas. Annual visitation to the park is estimated at around 300,000 people.