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What’s the Best Campground in NHAL State Forest?
Want to be able to shower and use a regular flush toilet? These are the campgrounds you’ll need to check out. There are no electrical hookups, but you can get a free permit to run a generator is that’s your thing.
- Clear Lake
- Big Musky
- Crystal Lake
Just the essentials—hand-pumped water, pit toilets, and no electricity. However, these campgrounds usually offer wider site spacing than the modern campgrounds. This is what we opted for. Six campgrounds in this list (East Star through West Star) were non-reservable as of Fall 2020.
- Big Lake
- Buffalo Lake
- Carrol Lake
- Cunard Lake
- Indian Mounds
- Plum Lake
- Sandy Beach Lake
- South Trout
- East Star Lake
- North Trout Lake
- Razorback Lake
- Starrett Lake
- Upper Gresham Lake
- West Star Lake
Just the basics—tent clearing, fire ring, picnic table, box latrine.
- Allequash Lake
- Bittersweet Wild Lakes Area
- Clear Lake
- Day Lake
- Nebish Lake
For those looking for even more solitude and adventure, you can request a permit for backcountry camping.
Camping with Dogs at Carrol Lake
Don’t worry, you’re not going to be hauling gear across a football field. It’s more like walking the length of your house (if you have a small, 1300-sq-ft house like me). Easy peasy.
Our site, 102, had a lot of room and a lovely view of the lake. If all the sites there had been open, I might have chosen 103 because it had a little more grassy space and a more open view. However, it was slightly closer to the boat ramp (not that the boaters were noisy, or at least it didn’t sound like it from 102). Site 101 was a bit uphill from us, so more seclusion, but closer to the road. Even from our site you could occasionally hear cars (noisy ones).
There were also regular campsites you could pull right up to and a few other walk-ins at the other end of camp. I don’t think those walk-ins had a great view of the lake though. Plus, on our side (101-103), we were closer to the docks and dog-accessible waterfront. The actual beach area farther into camp does not allow dogs.
Carrol Lake is just a few minutes from town (Woodruff) and from Clear Lake Campground, which has a ranger station and access to firewood.
- Pets must be on leash
- A State Parks and Forest sticker is required for camping (throughout the NHAL State Forest)
Hiking in NHAL State Forest
While we spent part of our trip exploring the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness in Michigan, we did some local hiking as well. We headed up to Escanaba Lake for the first part of our day and then explored Minocqua the second half. The Escanaba Hiking Trail offers several loops, from 2.36 to 8.48 miles. The trails are well-maintained and fairly wide. There is some logging regrowth you’ll hike through, but most of the time it’s just beautiful forest views along with an occasional lake sighting.
Also, bring mosquito spray (this is my favorite stuff for humans and gear)—which should be expected up north. There were basically zero bugs at our Carrol Lake campsite, but we encountered some on the Escanaba hike.