If you love to hike and go antiquing Bay City State Recreation Area is a park you should stay at. North of beautiful Bay City on the Saginaw Bay the park contains the Tobico Marsh with miles of trails for the outdoor enthusiasts. A few miles away, is downtown Bay City with its large antique shops and unique specialty stores.
- Excelent place for hiking and birding
- Not a long drive from Metro Detroit and other cities
- Near downtown Bay City
- Newer bathroom facilities
- Playscape and splash park
- Beach can be mucky at times or even closed
- no campsites overlooking the bay
- You have to cross the road to get to the beach
- No boat launch in the park
For the most part, the campground is flat and the sites are level. It’s also wooded and the sites are shaded except for the sites nearest the entrance which has fewer trees and can be full sun. The park laid out perpendicular from the beach that is across the road from the park. The sites closest to the entrance are closest to the beach. If you are in the back of the campground it’s a long walk to the beach. The sites in the back of the park are near the road and they can be a little noisy.
Reservations at the campground are usually easy to get as it’s not one of the most popular parks in the system for camping. As always you should book as early as you can for holiday weekends. I did get a spot a few weeks before Labor Day. I checked and a few days before the holiday it was full. If you are going to camp in October be sure to book early since the park’s harvest festival is extremely popular.
The bathrooms at the park are both newer bathroom buildings and identical so if you like to be near the bathroom either one would be good. They are what I call the typical design with the walkway with the row of showers on one side and the men’s and women’s bathrooms on the other. They seem to be well maintained.
The beach is a nice large beach on the Saginaw Bay. The staff does their best to maintain the beach but it’s kind of a hit or miss thing. Being near wetlands and marshes the water along the edge of the beach can get mucky. It rare but the big issue is that the beach has been closed a few days in the summer for high levels of E-coli. I would say if swimming is a high priority you may not like Bay City SRA. They do have a large playscape and sprinkler park. I am wondering if they built them because of the beach closures.
If you need some groceries there are a couple of party stores a few miles south of the park. Walmart and home depot and just about anything else is about 7 miles south of the campground. If you don’t feel like cooking Muscle beach is right around the corner. I have not eaten there but several people tell me it’s good. They also serve ice cream if you’re looking for a cool treat to end a hot summer day. with some of the largest antique stores in Michigan, downtown Bay City is the perfect place to shop for the exotic one of a kind item. They also have lots of bars, restaurants and gift shops. You could easily spend an afternoon or a whole day wandering around all the stores.
Things To Do
The best part of Bay City R.A. is the Tobico Marsh north of the campground on the other side of the road. It has miles of trails through forests and wetlands that will make any nature lover happy. A map of the trails through the Toboco Marsh can be found HERE. I am not a birder but if you are going for a big year there must be a lot of bird species that can be spotted in the wetlands. A paved rail trail the runs behind the campground that goes for miles north through the Tobico Marsh. I rode my bike down it with the intention of reaching the end but after a long ride, I was getting tired and turned around before I could find the end if there is one. I am sure a devoted cyclist who is in better shape than me would enjoy riding their bicycle through the marsh. In August the park has a waterfowl festival and in October a Harvest Festival. The Bay City Recreation Area is also home to the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center with nature-based activities and programs for kids of all ages. you can find out what is happening at the center HERE
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