Nothing says wilderness adventure like camping in Minnesota. Did you know that Minnesota is home to six national parks, monuments and recreation areas? Minnesota state forests provide more than 2,000 miles of forest roads and thousands of logging trails, including 46 campgrounds with 1,000 campsites. Minnesota state parks offer more than 5,000 campsites or a variety of cabins, guesthouses and other lodging. Plus, there are thousands of miles of rugged or paved state trails and state water trails that can lead you there. Yet, for all that land, all those trails, and all the hiking, Minnesota is known most for its 1,000 + lakes! See what we mean? Adventure!
Minnesota state forests offer four different kinds of rustic camping opportunities. Dedicated campsites generally include:
|● Cleared area
● Fire ring
|● Vault toilet
● Picnic table
|● Garbage cans
● Drinking water
Minnesota state forests trust you to take care of your campsite. They have to. Unlike state park campgrounds, forest campgrounds don’t have resident managers. While the campgrounds are patrolled regularly to provide security and service to visitors, it’s up to you to protect the forest and its campsites. While their campsites don’t offer organized nature programs, or modern facilities such as showers and flush toilets they do furnish the basic needs and provide opportunities for recreationists to pursue a variety of unstructured outdoor activities.
Protect state forests by only using designated campsites. The designated campsites have firerings to contain flames, and litter containers that prompt campers to dispose of garbage properly. However, dispersed camping is allowed in state forests. Please practice the “leave no trace” camping ethic if you camp outside of designated areas. Overnight camping is not allowed at developed day-use areas.
When camping in state forests, please:
● Use existing camping areas.
● Avoid cutting or damaging trees and other plants.
● Avoid camping under large trees because branches may fall.
● Light fires only within fire rings and charcoal grills in state forest designated-use areas. Do not leave fires unattended, and extinguish all fires before leaving. Don’t burn household refuse.
● Protect our state forests — don’t move firewood. Wood that is dead and lying on the ground may be gathered for campfire use onsite. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/firewood/index.html
- Use toilets where available. In areas without toilets, bury human waste.
● Remove all rubbish and keep your campsite clean and tidy.
● Keep dogs and other pets under control at all times.
Individual campsites in all state parks and forests are available on a first-come, first-served basis. These sites provide only basic camping amenities. Individual campsites are designated for individuals or single families. Fees collected on site.
Group campsites are designated for larger groups, and provide only basic camping amenities. For more information, call the state forest’s campground listed contact.
Only designated horse campsites allow horses. In addition to the basic camping amenities provided, these sites may also have picket lines and compost bins for manure disposal. First-come, first-served sites. Fees are collected on site.
If you enjoy camping far from others and with no amenities at all, dispersed camping is for you. With dispersed camping, you may camp outside of designated campsites and campgrounds on state forest land. First-come, first-served.
Minnesota’s National Parks and Monuments
MORE INFO HERE
36 Reservation Ave
Pipestone, MN 56164
(507) 825-5464 x214
“When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.” -Black Elk
Pipestone is a national monument, famous for the red pipestone rock found at the site. American Indians have quarried the red pipestone for generations. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today. Native Americans believe the site to be sacred because the pipestone quarried there is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. For the last 5,000 years or more, tribes across the central region of North America traveled to this site, and still do. They come to quarry pipestone, taking 4-6 weeks to extract the rock with only hand tools like sledgehammers, pry bars, chisels, wedges, and steel bars allowed. Since 1946, the 56 active pipestone quarry pits have been managed by issuance of a quarry permit. It is possible to get a permit to quarry your own rock. https://www.nps.gov/pipe/learn/management/request-quarry-permit-application.htm
Grand Portage National Monument
MORE INFO HERE
Grand Portage, MN 55605
If you like reenactments, you’ll love Grand Portage National monument, a living history site where volunteers and park staff in period attire reenact and describe the site’s importance to the French-Canadian fur trade of the early 1800s. The living history activities take place in and around the Historic Depot, with a log-built great hall, kitchen and canoe warehouse, and an adjacent Ojibwe village and voyageurs’ encampment. The Heritage Center offers museum exhibits, films and books shedding light on the site’s significance.
On the second weekend of August each year the annual Grand Rendezvous Days, and Pow-wow is held. It’s the biggest celebration of the year and is an event for the whole family. Enjoy music, dancing, craft demonstrations, interpretive programs, and interactive workshops throughout the event. http://www.exploreminnesota.com/events/8738/grand-portage-national-monument-rendezvous-days–powwow
Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
MORE INFO HERE
8901 Grand Ave Place
Duluth, MN 55808
Superior National Forest, located in the northeast corner of the state, covers just under 4 million acres. More than a quarter of the forest is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a world-renowned destination for wilderness canoeing and kayaking, almost all of which is “paddle only” with no motors allowed. The Boundary Waters has more than 2,000 remote campsites accessible via 1,500 miles of canoe routes, with overland portages between lakes, along the Minnesota-Canada border. Superior is known for its boreal forest ecosystem, numerous clean lakes, and a colorful cultural history.
The one million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/superior/specialplaces/?cid=fseprd555184 lies within the boundaries of the Forest. Popular recreational activities include fishing, hunting, camping, canoeing, swimming, hiking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and ice fishing.
If you’re not a boater, the forest has more than 1,000 car-accessible campsites within developed campgrounds, as well as rustic and dispersed camping with minimal or no facilities.
Chippewa National Forest
MORE INFO HERE
Hwy 2, Cass Lake, MN 56633
The Chippewa National Forest is a forest of half water, with more lakes and wetlands than any national forest in the country. The forest boundary encompasses 1.6 million acres with approximately 665,000 acres managed by the USDA Forest Service. The area boasts one of the largest populations of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48, giving those who enjoy the majestic birds the opportunity to get their fill of the creatures. With 23 developed campgrounds, 100 backcountry sites, 160 miles of hiking trails, 900 miles of river and three of the largest lakes in the state the Chippewa National Forest is a fantastic place to visit. Fees are charged only in developed campgrounds. There are no entrance fees charged on the Chippewa National Forest.
The Chippewa National Forest was the country’s very first national forest, established in 1908. Originally known as the Minnesota National Forest, the name was changed in 1928 to honor the original inhabitants.
Voyagers National Park
MORE INFO HERE
360 Highway 11 East
International Falls, MN 56649
Phone: (218) 283-6600
Fax: (218) 285-7407
Phone 2: (218) 286-5258
More than 40% of Voyagers National Park is water! There are roughly 500 islands and 655 miles of shoreline to explore within the park’s more than 200,000 acres. The park interior is accessible only by water. There are 240 sites designated for houseboats, tent camping or day use. This national park is Minnesota’s premier destination for houseboat vacations. A variety of campsites dot the shores of four large, island-studded lakes. Because Voyageurs is a maze of interconnected water highways plan ahead. This is essentially a huge waterpark, and not the theme park kind of waterpark either. Bring your own boat or reserve a watercraft. You can also take a park ranger boat tour. If you don’t like small boats, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore. Reservations are required for all tent camping permits. Visit http://www.recreation.gov for more information, make a reservation, or to buy boat tour tickets.
Itasca State Park
36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470
Itasca State Park has more than 200 campsites, but it’s also home to “Minnesota’s Own Resort,” the historic Douglas Lodge, located near the Mississippi Headwaters. The lodge is well-known for its guest rooms, meeting rooms, dining room, lobby and office. Lodging facilities include log cabins, a clubhouse, and a ten-room log building ideal for family gatherings. Located on a Lake or River. Other amenities:
● High Speed Internet Available
● Children’s Programs (scheduled, supervised)
● Evening Entertainment (regularly scheduled)
● Swimming Beach
● Fishing Boats Available
● Canoes or Kayaks Available
● Hiking Trail
● Bike Trail
● Bicycle Rental
● Lake/River Access (Boat Ramp)
● Fishing Boat Motors Available
● Pontoon Boat(s) Available
● Cross Country Ski Trail (groomed)
● Snowmobile Trail (groomed)
● Snowshoes Available
● Accessible to disabled
● Open in Fall
● Open in Winter
● Fireplace in Room(s)
● Air Conditioned Units Available
● Open to the general public, no membership required
● Accommodations for tour groups of 40 or more
● Unit(s) that accommodate groups of 10+ people
Paul Bunyan State Forests
MORE INFO HERE
There are two campgrounds in the Paul Bunyan State Forest – Gulch Lake and Mantrap Lake Campground and Day-Use area. You can camp, or enjoy day use facilities and destinations. Visitors usually like to explore the Paul Bunyan State Trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail,
The Martineau OHM Trails , or the Round River Drive ATV Trail.
The Gulch Lake and Mantrap Lake campgrounds and day-use area in the Paul Bunyan State Forest often serve as handy overflow campgrounds or as a great alternative to the more developed and heavily used Itasca State Park.
A fee for camping is required A camping fee is charged in campgrounds with developed facilities that include drinking water, garbage containers, and toilets.
Individual campsites are $14 per night.* No reservations required.
Equestrian campsites are $16 per night.*
Group campsites, where available, are $50 per night for the site, or $3 per person (whichever is greater).**
* Registration is required via envelopes provided at each campground where a fee is charged.
* Individual sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
** Group camp reservations are available by calling the contact number listed for the state forest.
No fees are charged for other recreational use of state forests.
MORE INFO HERE
East Gulch Forest Rd.
Laporte, MN 56461
Gulch Lake Campground is located near Nelson Lake, Lake 21, and Bass Lake. The campground also serves as a great access point to hiking trails, water accesses, and picnic sites. The campground is adjacent to the public landing, so expect some traffic early in the morning and late afternoon as boaters and anglers put-in and take-out here. The campsites are primitive, with only a cleared area, fire ring, and table. Vault toilets, garbage cans, and drinking water are available. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The campground and day-use area are located in a game refuge and a non-motorized recreation area. That means no ATV use.
MORE INFO HERE
Jack Fish Dr, Park Rapids, MN 56470
Phone: (218) 699-7201
Mantrap is also located near Nelson Lake. The campground also serves as a great access point to hiking trails, water accesses, and picnic sites. The campground is adjacent to the public landing, so expect some traffic early in the morning and late afternoon as boaters and anglers put-in and take-out here. The campsites are primitive, with only a cleared area, fire ring, and table. Vault toilets, garbage cans, and drinking water are available. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The campground and day-use area are located in a game refuge and a non-motorized recreation area. That means no ATV use. Mantrap Lake is a designated muskie lake – making it a destination adventure for avid anglers. The campground and day use area also offer swimming, water access, fishing, a dock, five picnic sites, and a mile of nature trails.
● 36 drive-in sites
● 2 campsites (accessible)
● 2 toilets (accessible)
● 1 well (accessible)
● drinking water
Recreation & Trails
● lake access
● 1 dock (accessible)
● 1 mi of nature trails
● 5 picnic tables
Rules You May Not Be Aware Of For Minnesota Parks
Every state, and every park has its own set of rules, and Minnesota is no different. For instance:
● Metal detectors are prohibited in all Minnesota Parks.
● Fireworks are prohibited in all Minnesota Parks. It is unlawful for any person to possess explosives of any kind.
● Biking is permitted only on designated trails or park roads where motor vehicles are allowed, unless otherwise posted. Sorry – no off road exploration allowed.
● You can pick the mushrooms, but not the flowers. Harvesting edible fruits and mushrooms is allowed in Minnesota state parks, as long as they are for personal consumption. Commercial harvesting is not allowed. It is not allowed to pick wildflowers or other plants (edible or not), even for personal use.
● It is against the law for any person to possess a firearm (including an air gun) unless the firearm is unloaded and completely contained in a fully enclosed gun case or it’s unloaded and contained in the closed trunk of a vehicle. A person who is legally permitted under MS 624.714 to carry a handgun in the State of Minnesota may legally carry that handgun in state parks.
● Take your wild (or not) party elsewhere. It is illegal for any person to consume intoxicating liquors, or to display liquor containers in public. State laws apply to possession and use of drugs.
● Rock climbing in state parks is allowed only in designated areas and only by permit. Permits are available at the park office.
● Are you staying in the camp? Excellent. I hope you registered. Campers must register at the office or self-registration station. Are you just visiting? Only registered campers are allowed in the park after 10 p.m. Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
● You can’t park on the grass. Parking is only allowed in designated parking areas.
● You’re welcome to do research in the park – but only with a permit. Get it here.
● Pets are welcome in Minnesota’s state parks, as long as they are kept on a leash six feet or shorter and are personally attended at all times. Only service animals are allowed in state park buildings, lodging, cabins, camper cabins, yurts, tipis, on tours, or in beach areas.
● While we understand the beauty of Minnesota should be photographed, if you’re in a state park, leave your drones in the car. The use of unmanned aircraft in state parks, state recreation areas, and state waysides is prohibited. Unmanned aircraft or drones are defined as “aircraft” by the Federal Aviation Administration. Because of the impracticality of their operation under existing rules its unlawful to land any aircraft on lands or water totally within the boundaries of any state park, state recreation area, or state wayside. Because of the prohibition on “landing,” operating unmanned aircraft in these areas is not practical. The parks division is also concerned about the impact of unmanned aircraft to natural resources (especially wildlife), to division buildings and infrastructure, and to other visitors’ safety, privacy, and quality of experience.
● Are you disabled, or other abled? In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, state parks are working to make facilities accessible to people of all abilities. Call the specific state park you are planning to visit for up-to-date information on accessibility. Discounted or free vehicle permits are available to some people with disabilities, disabled veterans, and active duty personnel. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html
● Put a permit on it. All vehicles entering a state park must display a valid year-round or one-day Minnesota state park vehicle permit affixed to the lower right hand corner of the windshield. Learn more about vehicle permits. Funds from state park vehicle permits and fees are used to help manage park resources and facilities.
● Hunting is prohibited in all Minnesota Parks, unless it’s part of a special season, like these: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/hunting.html
● Except on state forest roads or forest road right-of-ways, anyone riding a horse on land managed by the DNR—including state parks, state recreation areas, state trails, and state forests—must have a valid horse pass in their possession. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/horseback_riding/horsepass.html
● Geocaching is very popular in Minnesota! That’s why it is allowed in Minnesota state parks, state recreation areas and waysides managed by the DNR. All caches placed in these locations require a signed permit prior to placement. Download permit applications and geocaching guidelines, or pick them up at the park office. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/geocaching/placing_a_geocache.html