State park escape: You reserve it

Whether hidden in the woods or overlooking a lake, state-owned cabins offer serene respite.
Lighthouse Cabin

By Jim DuFresne

If you don’t have a secluded little cabin up north, take heart. The Michigan State Park system does, 81 of them to be exact. These rustic cabins range in shape and size and from being built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to wealthy beer barons. 

Best of all they’re hidden in the woods, often overlooking a lake or stream and are an escape from more hectic home life for however long you have reserved it (800-44-PARKS; midnr

Lighthouse Point Cabin. Located in Cheboygan State Park, Lighthouse Point sleeps eight and is situated on a dune with a screened-in porch overlooking a Lake Huron beach. The cabin is well-named as the ruins of  Cheboygan Point Lighthouse, built in 1859, are only a short hike away while twinkling at night offshore are Poe Reef Light and 14-Foot Shoals Light, the navigational lights which replaced it. 

Nebo Cabin. Built by the CCC, this classic log cabin sits on a pine-covered knoll overlooking Nebo Trail in the heart of Wilderness State Park. During much of the year you’re allowed to drive the two miles to this five-bunk cabin but the hike is so pleasant, it seems a shame not to walk in. If it’s cold at night, the wood-burning stove will have you toasty warm in no time at all.

Miller Lodge. Spend a night in Craig Lake State Park courtesy of Frederick Miller of Miller Brewing Company fame. The beer baron built this 14-bunk lodge in the 1950s overlooking the lake he named after his son in what at the time was his personal wilderness. The huge single-pane picture window overlooking Craig Lake has since been replaced but the original fireplace, capable of burning logs six feet long, is still there. The lodge is a two-mile hike in but features a rowboat. Bring a rod-and-reel and catch a walleye for breakfast.

Big Carp Six-Bunk Cabin. Another hike-in cabin, Big Carp Six-Bunk is a four-mile hike from the nearest road in Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park. The trek is well worth it. The beloved Porkies feature 19 walk-in cabins, and this is the most scenic with one row of windows framing Lake Superior and another with a view of the Big Carp River. Outside a bench overlooks a bridge and a large pool in the river where more than one person has enjoyed their morning coffee.

Rolston Cabin. Not every secluded cabin is in northern Michigan. A drive of not much more than hour can take you from the urban sprawl of Detroit to the porch steps of Rolston Cabin, located on a small pond in the heart of the Holly Recreation Area. Built in 1939 as a weekend cottage, the park has long since upgraded it but left intact its polished wood floors, the stone fireplace and the loft where kids love to sleep at night. The Roston Cabin does have electricity with an electric stove and a refrigerator in the kitchen but outside there is still that outhouse.

It wouldn’t be a log cabin in the woods without one.


BLUE “Top 5” columnist Jim DuFresne is an international travel writer and main contributor to

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