Looking for a way to enjoy Minnesota’s natural beauty this summer? Take a look at this compilation of the top 10 places to camp in the state of 10,000 lakes. Whether you like fishing, hiking, or just relaxing in a secluded area, there’s something for everyone.
- Afton State Park
Just a 25-minute drive from downtown St. Paul, this park is filled with 20 miles of hiking trails, four miles of paved biking trails, and five miles of horseback riding trails. There are 28 rustic sites, along with canoe and group sites, and a few cabins and yurts, providing all sorts of accommodation. With gorgeous view of bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River, lush forests, and sandy beach areas, Afton State Park is the perfect way to get out of the city without venturing too far.
- Bear Head Lake State Park
A secluded gem just south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, this state park is home to black bears, moose, eagles, and wolves. Canoe or fish on the calm lake, lounge on the beach, or hike through 14 miles of trails. There are 73 “semi-modern” sites, 45 electric sites, five cabins and backpacking sites for the adventurous types, and the activities don’t stop in the winter. Bear Head Lake State Park also has nine miles of cross country skiing trails and 4.5 miles of trails for snowmobiling.
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
If you really want to go wilderness camping, there is no other place in the world like this well-known area. Sharing 150 miles along the International Boundary with Quetico Provincial Park in Canada, in the northern third of the Superior National Forest, it expands over one million acres in size. It offers 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 different hiking trails, and 2,000 designated campsites. A wilderness permit and adventurous spirit is required to explore the Boundary Waters–it’s completely rustic and many of the sites are only accessible by canoe. Paddle from island to island, hike through miles of hardwood forest, and enjoy the serenity of untouched wilderness. Reserve sites here.
- Lake Maria State Park
Located between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, this state park is filled with remote lakes and ponds, a maple, oak, and basswood forest, rolling terrain, and the Blandings turtle–one of Minnesota’s threatened species. Identify it by looking for bright yellow spots as you hike along 14 miles of trails, or ride horseback on six miles of designated paths. With only 17 backpack sites, two group sites, and three camper cabins, Lake Maria State Park is never too crowded, and the perfect place to relax in the Minnesota wilderness.
- Scenic State Park
The crystal clear lakes and virgin pines make it clear where this peaceful wilderness area northwest of Duluth got its name. There are tons of options for camping, with 93 drive-in sites, 23 electric sites, backpack and canoe sites, and even two wheelchair accessible sites. Hike along 14 miles of trails, or snowmobile in winter along 10 miles of designated trails—the Chase Point Trail—running between Coon and Sandwick Lakes, offers a nice breeze and very few bugs. There’s also a historic Civilian Conservation Corps facility with interactive displays, holding up to 225 people for special events.
- Tettegouche State Park
Possibly the best way to soak up the North Shore experience, this gorgeous park has plentiful scenic outlooks, rocky cliffs and bluffs to explore, trails overlooking the Sawtooth Mountains, and a trail leading to High Falls of the Baptism River. Tettegouche is known for spectacular bird watching and is one of only five Minnesota state parks that offer rock climbing. Camping accommodations range from drive-in to electric, walk-in to kayak, with something for every type of camper. There’s also 23 miles of hiking trails, 1.5 miles of mountain biking trails, and in winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing trails. Other attractions include four picnic areas and a golf course 10 miles away in Silver Bay.
- Voyageurs National Park
The only national park in Minnesota offers free park access, pristine shorelines, and the opportunity to explore the “water highways of the North Woods.” All campsites, front-country and backcountry, are only available by watercraft, so this is the place for all things water! Bring your boat, canoe, kayak, or even houseboat, and rent out campsites right on the water. Don’t have a boat? No problem! Rowboat and canoe rentals are available with combination packages (camping + boat rental) for less than $30 a night. Voyageurs National Park also offers guided tours and ranger-led programs from June to September, so you can learn more about the history and environment of the North Woods.
- Jay Cooke State Park
A great destination for hiking fanatics, this park—near Duluth—has over 50 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and backpacking. Sights include wildflowers in the spring and summer, and vibrant colors in the fall, which can be seen from the signature swinging suspension bridge above the St. Louis River.There’s also the gorge at Thomson Dam and the historic cemetery to explore, six miles of horseback riding trails, and over 30 miles of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails in winter. Stay in any of the 79 drive-in sites, 21 electric sites, four walk-in sites, or one of the five cabins for a getaway in pure Minnesota wilderness.
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park
This stunning volcanic canyon in the “North Country” is filled with waterfalls and northern hardwoods such as fir, cedar, and spruce.Try out some of the 24 miles of the best backcountry trails in all of Minnesota where you might see bears, deer, wolves, or moose, or go fishing on Benson Lake where you might catch a splake (a hybrid of brook trout and lake trout). Five miles of the Superior Hiking Trial also wind through this park, and there’s a playground within 10 miles if you’re traveling with kids. With just 21 backpacking sites, this state park is a great place to experience northern Minnesota in secluded wilderness.
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
While this park is known for its historic lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior, it offers much more than just that. Check out six miles of self-guided hiking trails, 12 miles of other hiking trails with sections that run along the lakeshore, or part of the Superior Hiking Trail that winds through the park. You can also connect to the Gitch-Gami State Trail, an 86-mile paved bike trail that connects Two Harbors and Grand Marais. While its still under construction, over 28 miles have been completed. If that’s not enough, fish for lake trout or salmon, picnic at some areas along the Lake Superior shoreline, and in the winter, take your fat bike—a bike with thicker tires meant for snow and rough terrain—on 8.7 miles of designated trails.