Wilderness State Park

This happens every year. It's right around this time, when the snow settles, the gray skies are abundant, and we're ready for a change of scenery that we start talking daily about the places that are next up on our travel list.

Italy and Jordan, another trip to Colombia...those were all on the list. But alas we decided on something short and sweet, close, but also an adventure. Off to the rustic cabins of Wilderness State Park we went! We spent 2 nights in the Sturgeon Bay rustic cabin aka a 3.5 mile trek into the woods, to the most secluded winter cabin.

There was no electricity, no running water, no cell service. Just an outhouse, a wood stove, and each other.

Now that is MY kind of getaway.

What’s great about Wilderness and staying in the winter is there isn’t much to do and there’s a lot to do at the same time.

Sure, it’s a great place for snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and getting outside, but it’s also a great place to shut off your phone, play some cards, read a book, take a nap and repeat. We did a lot of the latter. The cards and books and just being right there in that little cabin.

We headed up on Thursday afternoon with all of our gear. It’s a balance of not needing much but making sure you have enough. In went the bed sheets, and food, and lights, and water, but we left a lot of everything else behind.

After checking in and getting our key at the Park Headquarters, we continued further down the winding road to the parking lot. It's from there that you have to haul all of your supplies in.

We got all of our goods in Scott's ice fishing sled, threw on a backpack, and started making our way down the trail.

Luckily, it was a perfect day and a beautiful walk. The groomers had been through and packed the path down a few times so walking in just our winter boots was no problem.

As we were pulling all of our gear, 3 snowmobiles passed us pulling the same types of sleds we were carrying. That seemed a lot easier and a lot more fun to be honest. But nonetheless, this was a journey and the hike out was just part of it.

We had stayed at the Sturgeon Bay cabin once before so I knew what to expect but still, as we approached the marker about a mile out, pointing toward Sturgeon Bay Trail, my stomach jumped a little from the anticipation of reaching our "home" for two nights. We were almost there.

We made it to the cabin right before the sun started to go down and man oh man those cabins get dark quickly!

We walked in and the coals from a fire the Ranger had started for us were still hot. We quickly threw a pre-cut log into the wood stove and headed down to the Lake to catch the last bit of daylight.

As we got closer to the water's edge, we noticed large stacks of ice chunks had been pushed up on the Bay and much to our surprise, there was blue ice! Blue ice is in fact, not blue, but appears that way because of the way the sunlight is reflected off this particular form of ice.

We started to make our way back and suddenly heard a coyote call out a-ways down the Bay. No big deal. But then we heard another yip closer to us. And then another call out right from our cabin. They were yipping and chatting in a little triangle and it stopped us in our tracks. A bit from fear (Steph) but mostly because it was such a beautiful scene.

We were surrounded by the vastness and even in its simplest form, the ruggedness of nothing but nature.

We spent the rest of the night next to the fire, playing cards and eating veggies, losing track of time, and feeding the ever hungry wood stove with new logs.

I’ll admit the beds weren't the best. I mean, people, you have a roof over your head and you’re in the middle of absolutely nowhere in a rustic cabin built by an old CCC group. I am grateful and also telling it like it is. Ha!

The next day we had a slow morning playing cards and making coffee, putting our camping stove and mess kit to good use. I love having to cook in "challenging places" like Wilderness, challenging being something besides a typical stove and oven that I'm used to, because you can get really creative. Even simple rice tastes like it came from the finest rice shop in the world.

Finally, we decided we should go for a walk or at the very least get some fresh air and move our bodies.

Usually we like to explore and do all of the things but there was something about being hunkered down, without being connected to the outside world and nowhere to be, that made us want to stay near the cabin all day.

It might have had something to do with our 3.5 mile walk in and thinking about the 3.5 miles we had the next day that made us smitten on staying right where we were.

We ended up going for a short walk down a narrow trail and then headed back to the cabin and down the trail to the blue ice.

Shortly after, we made our way to the cabin and used the last bit of daylight to cozy up with our books. And then, we took the most delightful 20 minute nap as the sun went down.

We said it many a times in the 48 hours that we were in Wilderness, it really feels like you have nowhere else in the world to be.

We spent the rest of the night playing cards, making supper, and being nowhere else but Sturgeon Bay cabin.

Our last morning we woke up and did more of the same.

Cards and coffee. Scott carved, I watched. Reading. More coffee. We took our sweet time, adding another log and then another to the fire.

If you know us, you know that we're rarely on time and as we were taking the packed sled out the door, the Ranger was coming to clean the cabin.

He offered to give us a ride back and haul our gear if we waited 30 minutes. Oh heck yeah!

*Side note, they will, but generally don't help people haul their stuff. Yes it's a bit of a hike out there but it's what you sign up for! We were grateful, that's for sure.

We made our way back to our Jeep and hit the road for the 45 minute drive back home.

We couldn't stop talking about how good we both felt. Something in our bellies and hearts just felt right.

We're forever grateful for this little getaway so close to home.

If you're looking for a short and sweet, or heck, even longer getaway for this Michigan winter, definitely check out Wilderness State Park!


Wilderness State Park is as far northwest as you can get in the lower peninsula of Michigan, just west of Mackinaw City. The 10,000+ acres of land are right on 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. There are endless trails and paths winding through the dense trees and different types of camping opportunities, year round.

They have 6 rustic cabins and 3 bunkhouses as well as campgrounds. Each of them vary in different ways and sleep different numbers of people so be sure to check them out for yourself.

The rustic cabins are about as off grid with a shelter over your head as you can get! There is no electricity nor running water in the cabins. They do have a wood-burning stove with pre-cut firewood, an outhouse, and an outdoor water pump. Oh and in the winter you have to park and make the trek out to them, the closest being .75 miles away and the furthest, 3.5 miles.

We brought our ice fishing sled and backpacks. Others had snowmobiles and that looked a heck of a lot more enjoyable. Some people had cross country skies and snowshoes as well.

The bunkhouses are closer to the Park Headquarters and sleep up to 24 people. They have electricity, a ceiling fan, and outlets. We usually go up there with the family and spend a few days together. It's always a blast. They're definitely still rustic, but a little more forgiving and without the trek in.

Three things to note:

  1. 1. Dogs aren't allowed in the cabins or bunkhouses.

  2. 2. Cell reception isn't great. Out at Sturgeon Bay cabin it was almost non-existent, at the bunkhouses it was spotty.

  3. I've said it throughout the post but there really isn't much provided beyond the basics of a bed, table, and wood stove + firewood. You have to bring your gear, water, food, and bedding with you, but that's part of the fun!


Here is an example of our packing list to give you an idea of what to bring. It's not quite EVERYTHING we brought but you get the idea. This was for 2 people for 2 nights.

  • 3+ gallons of water

  • Bedding (2 sheets, 2 sleeping bags, a blanket and 2 pillows)

  • Lights (3 headlamps, a lantern, 2 Luci lights, 3 candles, a flashlight, 2 phone lights)

  • Clothes (snow pants, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, coats, sweatshirts, warm socks, shirts, comfy pants, slippers, etc.)

  • Food (rice, soup, noodles, pre-cut vegetables and ranch, salad, venison, oatmeal, eggs, pretzels, pistachios)

  • Camping stove and mess kit

  • Cooking and eating utensils

  • Helle knife

  • Swiss army knife

  • Playing cards

  • Books

  • Fishing sled

  • Camera gear

  • Bag for garbage

  • Hand sanitizer

There you have it! If you're looking for something a little different this winter, definitely put Wilderness State Park on your radar!

I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about Wilderness, just let me know!



*Affiliate links are used throughout this post which means I might make a small commission at no additional cost to you*

If you liked this blog post, check out these other ones:

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