Sylvania Wilderness

This 18,327-acre federally designated wilderness area and adjacent recreation area is famous for its numerous pristine lakes and old growth forest.  The Sylvania Wilderness is a great place to hike, canoe, kayak, fish, photograph the outdoors and observe nature.

Pristine Lakes

Six of Sylvania’s 35 named lakes are over 250 acres in size.  Numerous smaller lakes, ponds, and bogs lie scattered among the rolling hills.  Some of the lakes have beautiful wash-in sand beaches perfect for picnic lunches, swimming, and relaxing in the sand.  Paddlers can see far below the surface while gliding across the exceptionally clear water. The larger lakes are connected by portage trails, allowing for many days of exploration.

Virgin Forest

Much of Sylvania’s appeal comes from its magnificent trees, many of them 300 to 400 years old.  One can see virgin northern hemlock-hardwood forest and towering red and white pines standing like sentinels along the shorelines.  A visitor to Sylvania experiences the forests and lakes of the Northwoods as they were prior to European settlement.  Approximately 26 miles of hiking trails wind through the forests and shorelines.

Cool Wildlife

Sylvania is home to a variety of wildlife. Fish thrive in its protected lakes.  Commonly found fish include large and small mouth bass, lake trout, walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch, bluegill and sunfish.  Loons and eagles are often seen and heard.   Paddlers occasionally encounter otter, beaver, mink and  and other shoreline creatures. The woods is home to deer, squirrels, coyotes, wolves, porcupines, bear and more!

Protected wilderness

Designated wilderness is the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands. Special rules apply to preserve Sylvania’s wilderness character and natural condition.

Motorized, mechanized or gas-powered vehicles, including motors, portage wheels and bicycles, are not allowed within the Wilderness portion of the park.  Gas motorboats are not allowed on any of the lakes in the Sylvania Wilderness Area with one exception.  A few Crooked Lake property owners and their guests are allowed to take their gas motorboats into the wilderness area on Crooked Lake. Electric motors are allowed in the Wilderness Area on Crooked Lake only. Electric motors are limited to an equivalent of 48lbs of thrust or 4hp.

Special fishing regulations apply on most Sylvania’s lakes (Crooked Lake is exempt from these special regulations) so the unique resource with its older and larger fish can be maintained. Larger size limits apply, only artificial lures can be use and bass are catch and release only. Look for the Sylvania section on the Michigan DNR’s fishing regulations that come with your license.

A special permit is required to enter the Sylvania Wilderness Area. We have these permits available for our guests.

For additional information on the Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area, please contact the Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area entrance station at 906-358-4404, the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center at 1-906-358-4724 or the Ottawa National Forest Watersmeet Ranger District at 1-906-358-4551. The Friends of Sylvania website,, is a good source of information about the park and also provides a way to help care for the Sylvania Wilderness.