Among Michigan’s 103 state parks, Craig Lake State Park is renowned for being the most secluded. Nestled in the central Upper Peninsula, this hidden treasure epitomizes the ultimate outdoor haven.
Craig Lake State Park, with its picturesque trails, peaceful lakes, abundant wildlife, and rustic camping experiences, offers an unparalleled opportunity for travelers to experience the raw beauty and tranquility of Michigan’s wilderness. It’s a perfect retreat for those looking to connect with nature away from the busy world.
About Craig Lake State Park
Craig Lake State Park spans a little more than 13 square miles across Marquette and Baraga counties on land that was once the property of former Miller Brewing Company President, Frederick Miller.
His influence can still be felt in the park today. He built both of the park’s rental cabins, and three of the park’s six lakes are named for his kids: Claire, Craig, and Teddy. A neighboring lake NW of the park has recently been named “High Life Lake.”
When Miller died in 1954, the family sold the land to a logging company. In 1966, the State of Michigan purchased more than 2,000 acres of his estate, and the park was established in 1967. It now spans more than 9,700 acres in Baraga and Marquette Counties.
Getting to Craig Lake State Park
Craig Lake State Park’s primary entrance is situated approximately 40 miles west of Marquette on US-41 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In winter, the state does not maintain the access road. An open/closed indicator on the entrance sign informs visitors about the road’s passability for vehicles.
Travelers making their way to Craig Lake State Park should head one mile west of Michigamme and turn onto Craig Lake Road, following signs for the park. Approximately seven to eight miles down the access road, there is a small dirt parking lot.
Driving to the park can be a little challenging for the inexperienced, but it’s not impossible. Vehicles with four-wheel drive and high ground clearance are strongly recommended due to the road conditions. During winter, access to the park is only possible via snowmobile, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
Travelers hiking the North Country Trail can enter the park from the west near Teddy Lake or the east at the border of Marquette and Baraga counties.
Note: A Michigan Residential Vehicle Passport is required to enter the park. Annual and daily passes are also available.
Things to Do at Craig Lake State Park
From wildlife viewing to fishing and hiking, Craig Lake State Park can be a hidden paradise for travelers seeking the tranquility of the outdoors.
Cast a Line on One of the Park’s Tranquil Lakes
Craig Lake State Park’s location and unspoiled natural environment make it an ideal destination for fishermen seeking a peaceful and rewarding fishing experience. The picturesque forested scenery is the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day of fishing.
Craig Lake, the park’s largest lake, in particular, is a popular spot where anglers can try their luck fishing for Northern pike, bass, walleye, and muskellunge.
Anglers can also explore the park’s other smaller lakes (including Crooked Lake and Keewaydin Lake) and streams, which offer additional opportunities to catch different fish species. Keewaydin Lake is the only body of water in the park with a boat launch, but fishing from shore and putting in a canoe or kayak to fish are encouraged.
Whether casting a line from the shore or paddling out onto the calm waters, anglers will appreciate the serenity and quality of fishing in the park.
Enjoy the Majesty of Nature in an Undisturbed Environment
Because of its location, Craig Lake State Park is home to an undisturbed natural environment. This environment is the perfect setting for a diverse array of wildlife. The park’s forests, lakes, and wetlands provide habitat for numerous animal species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers.
While exploring the park, visitors may encounter everything from white-tailed deer, black bears, and moose to wolves, foxes, beavers, and otters. The moose in the park are an exciting sight to see in the spring, summer, and fall.
Birdwatchers will especially appreciate the park’s variety of bird species, with opportunities to spot species such as loons, bald eagles, ospreys, and songbirds. The sights and sounds of birds add richness to the experience of staying in the park, and a good pair of binoculars is recommended.
Whether hiking the park’s trails or enjoying a few peaceful moments by the lake, visitors can encounter a fascinating mix of wildlife during their stay.
Explore the Ruggedness of the Park’s Hiking Trails
Craig Lake State Park offers a network of scenic trails that wind through the park’s pristine wilderness. The park also has access to some of Michigan’s most rugged hiking trails, allowing visitors to get a real taste of traveling through the wilds of Michigan.
The park features more than 15 miles of hiking trails, which provide opportunities for day hikes and multi-day backpacking adventures. While visitors are advised to be aware of their surroundings on the trails, taking pictures or videos of the tranquil lakes and dense forests is a great way to capture memories of your trip.
An 8-mile loop trail around Craig Lake presents wonderful opportunities for viewing wildlife, plants, and the shoreline. The park also features a 7-mile stretch of the North Country Trail.
Cross-country skiing is possible in the park during winter, but the trails aren’t groomed, so skiers should be careful and mindful of conditions before heading out.
One of the most popular trails is the Craig Lake Trail, which loops around the perimeter of Craig Lake. This trail offers hikers the chance to experience the park’s rugged beauty and diverse ecosystems while enjoying the peacefulness of the lake.
The park also offers several other trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels, providing options for hikers of all abilities. The North Country Trail, which stretches from North Dakota to Vermont, also passes through the park for approximately seven miles.
The trails within Craig Lake State Park provide a fantastic opportunity for hikers to immerse themselves in the unspoiled natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula and gain a deeper appreciation for this hidden paradise.
Lodging at Craig Lake State Park
Despite its remote location, Craig Lake State Park has several options for travelers seeking a true rustic outdoor experience.
Depending on what reservations you make, lodging rates range from $15 to $90 per night.
The park has two seasonal cabins available for rent, a six-bunk cabin, and a three-bedroom lodge (which sleeps 14). Fred Miller built both cabins, perfect for large and small groups.
The cabins are nestled in the middle of the woods, about two miles from the parking area. Both cabins have no electricity but feature a grill, a fire ring, a vault toilet, a heat pump for water, and onsite firewood.
The Teddy Lake yurt is located in the forest surrounding Teddy Lake and sleeps up to four people. It’s outfitted with mattresses, bunk beds, utensils, a wood stove, a bow saw, and an axe. A canoe with paddles and lifejackets is also provided from May to October.
The yurt is also pet friendly, and up to two pets are allowed for an additional daily fee.
The Keewaydin Lake yurt measures 20 feet in diameter and sleeps up to six people. It includes identical amenities as the Teddy Lake yurt and adds a small propane grill, tables and chairs, and an armoire.
Craig Lake State Park features 22 designated backcountry campsites. The distances to these reservation-only sites vary, with the shortest hike being 0.2 miles and the longest around 6-7 miles.
Each campsite is marked with a number and equipped with a metal fire ring. The sites are designed to accommodate a maximum of six campers each. To deter bears, campers must hang bear bags at least 12 feet off the ground and away from trees to prevent animals from reaching or jumping onto them.
Campsite check-in and camper pass collection are conducted at Van Riper State Park. Campers should check in at the campground office, not the park headquarters.
More to Explore Near Craig Lake State Park
Craig Lake State Park is less than two hours from Marquette and Ishpeming, but there isn’t another major city close by.
What is close, however, are nearly a dozen scenic waterfalls of the many that dot the Upper Peninsula landscape. Within an hour and a half of the park (via driving) are Power House Falls, Daults Falls, No Name Falls, Upper Sturgeon Falls, Upper Silver River Falls, Upper Silver Falls, Harley Falls, Tioga Falls, and Plumbago Falls.
Every set of falls is unique and is the perfect spot for a day trip. The tranquility of the scenery is a gorgeous backdrop, and the sound of water crashing or gently splashing over rocks is the perfect soundtrack to a nature adventure.
Make Plans to Visit Craig Lake State Park
Whether you’re an avid backpacker, a dedicated hiker, or a wildlife enthusiast, Craig Lake State Park has something for everyone.
As the most remote of Michigan’s state parks, getting to this park can be a hike. But those ready and willing to make the journey are rewarded with incredible views, tranquility, and a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities.
So, if you’re itching for a new experience, make plans to stay at Craig Lake State Park. Even in the middle of the wilderness, this park offers all the ingredients for a memorable Michigan adventure.