1 site · RV, Tent40 acres · Empire, Leelanau
Echo Valley Forest Reserve is a backcountry tent site located deep within hardwood forest near the center of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, five minutes from Empire Beach, Glen Haven, and Glen Arbor, and just a mile south of Big Glen Lake. This site is completely private, with only one site rented at a time, in the center of a 40-acre parcel, by thousands of acres of National Lakeshore and private forested land. It is abundant with wildlife; listen for thrush, barred owls, ravens, and coyotes. Walk the trails on the property, cook dinner over a wood fire and watch the stars come out, or enjoy fine dining La Becasse or Funistrada, just 2 miles from the site, or a burger at the Friendly Tavern in Empire or Art's Bar in Glen Arbor, both about 5 miles away. Swim at Old Settler's Park on Big Glen or drive to several Lake Michigan beaches in 5 minutes.
The camp site is unmaintained and there is no water or toilet, but it is a spot to pitch a tent and experience the northern forest without the filter of a busy campground. We have just finished installing a graveled drive up the steep hill that leads up to the camp site, so you no longer have to walk up (YEY!). We ask that you please stay on the gravel, and do not drive around the camp in order to keep it as wild as possible. There is room for 2 or 3 cars to park next to camp. Keep in mind it is deep in the woods, so bring a flashlight and perhaps some LED lanterns.
You can explore the property by hiking west from the camp. There is a rough trail from the camp site that runs up a valley to the hill top with treed views of Big Glen Lake and evening sunshine. The trails are being developed (your foot traffic helps!) so keep an eye out for the pink flagging tape. There is also a big kettle hole formed by glacial ice deposits across the road from the driveway, about 150 feet to the north (no trail).
There are a ton of great activities close to the camp. Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore has great beaches, swimming, and hiking. Empire Beach is six miles and Glen Haven is 8 miles away. The Heritage Trail in Glen Arbor is a road bike trail that runs from Empire to Bohemian Rd. There are a few mountain bike trails in the area as well (Palmer Woods in Glen Arbor, Arcadia Bluffs trail south of Frankfort, etc). Big Glen access is just a couple miles from the camp at Old Settler Park or at then end of Agnew St (by Funistrada). There isn't a beach on Big Glen but you can swim or hand-launch a boat. There are two nearby restaurants, La Becasse (French) and Trattoria Funistrada (Italian), as well as bar food in Empire and Glen Arbor.
VEHICLE ACCESS - Welcome to Northern Michigan! The camp is accessed off Echo Valley Road, which is a rough, seasonal, unmaintained two-track road that can be sandy, rocky, and rutted. If you have 2-wheel drive, I recommend accessing Echo Valley Road from Benzonia Trail end. Most vehicles are fine on Echo Valley Rd if you drive mindfully. I do not recommend driving an RV or towing a fifth-wheel down Echo Valley Road.
FIRES AND WOODS - Keep fires in the pit or ring, and always put out completely before leaving the site. We have had some very dry summers lately, as well as wildfires - if you get a Fire Ban notification from HipCamp, because the local Fire Department has issued it due to high risk of wildfire.
Please do not bring wood from home. Moving firewood is one of the main ways tree pests and diseases are introduced to a region, resulting in a huge loss for our forests (emerald ash borer, beech bark disease). If you would like pre-cut firewood there are several roadside stands on Benzonia Trail and Plowman Road. Please do not cut into live trees!
SAFETY - We have BLACK BEAR and other curious critters. Practice bear-safe camping by storing food and anything "smelly" in a bear can, by hanging it, or in your car when you are sleeping or not on site. Do not store food in your tent or the critters will come scratching around. Leelanau County also has deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease. Check for ticks daily!
CONTACT - Please TEXT, or message me on HipCamp, if you have any questions of if you need directions or recommendations.