Travel Recreation

More Michigan state parks to offer tiny houses as camping alternative

LANSING, MICH. — Tiny houses are popping up at state parks and recreation areas across Michigan as part of the Department of Natural Resources’ ongoing effort to broaden lodging options for campers.

Waterloo Recreation Area, located in Chelsea, opened its first tiny house this spring, and several more parks are set to follow suit with their own tiny-house offerings in spring of 2022, including Clear Lake State Park, McLain State Park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, and Sterling State Park.

Tiny houses are typically under 400 square feet and built on trailers. Popularized over the past decade on social media and television series, including HGTV’s “Tiny Luxury,” the teensy abodes are part of a movement that advocates for smaller, more energy-efficient living spaces, according to the DNR.

The Waterloo tiny house, located in the park’s Sugarloaf Lake Campground, offers a deck with a lake view, and amenities such as air conditioning, ceiling lights and a fan, and a kitchenette with a mini-refrigerator, a microwave and a coffee maker.

“The tiny house has resulted in new visitors that previously would not have stayed at Sugarloaf Campground because they may not have camping equipment,” Jim O’Brien, unit manager at Waterloo Recreation Area, said in a statement. “It is a great way for people to test out camping before making a major investment.”

The tiny houses are one of several new types of lodging the DNR has been adding to its campgrounds as a way to stay in step with evolving travel trends, such as the ever-growing popularity of Airbnb and “glamping.”

In some cases the DNR has partnered with private companies to offer these new lodging experiences, such as safari tents, geodesic domes, cottage cabins and full-amenity cottages. A portion of proceeds from those rentals go back to the DNR.

Additionally, the DNR is working with a professional designer to refresh some of its existing overnight cabins and lodges.

“Understanding the allure of Airbnb, many state parks and recreation areas have new and unique overnight lodging options, some boasting amenities of home,” said Chuck Allen, an analyst with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “These locations are modernizing and exploring lodging options for the next generation of traveler, including tiny houses, public-private partnerships and revitalizing aging infrastructure with a more modern experience.”

A full list of current lodging options can be found on the Lodging page at the DNR’s website. Lodging reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance of planned arrival dates; visit and click on the “Lodging” tab, then choose the lodging you’re looking for.

Waterloo Tiny House

The exterior of Waterloo Recreation Area’s new tiny house. Photo by Michigan DNR


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