I’ll admit, I love spending time outdoors but hate sacrificing a good night’s rest for a sleeping bag on the cold, hard ground. “Glamping,” or glamorous camping, is more my speed. Naturally, when we received an invite for a hosted stay at Big Rock Creek in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, I jumped at the opportunity.
The year-round camping, glamping, and event venue sits on a 1,000-acre estate just outside Minnesota’s border and an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities. The property is rich in history. It was a flourishing commercial trout hatchery in the 1800s and, in 1929, was purchased by two railroad tycoons. Big Rock Creek’s most recent endeavor began in 2018, when two families bought the property to host weddings, retreats, and weekend getaways.
If you blink, you’ll miss the sharp turn off Highway 8. The venue’s entrance is impressively unassuming, but don’t be fooled—we were pleasantly surprised by the hidden oasis that appeared as we descended into the river valley. Tents, cabins, and a few Scottish Highland cows dotted the sprawling landscape ahead. A golf cart toting a just-hitched bride and groom sped off in the distance.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by Josh Hansen. The Hansens are one of the two families now running the venue; Josh is the oldest of the adult children. He escorted us to the Lakeview Family Tent, one of Big Rock Creek’s eight glamping rentals. And it certainly does put the “glam” in “glamping.” The tent comes fully furnished, complete with hotel-style amenities such as a mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, a combination space heater and air conditioner, a grill, and a firepit. If you, like myself, aren’t a die-hard camper, you’ll appreciate the addition of a nearby porta potty, and a communal shower is available for those looking to freshen up. Sleeping options include a queen bed and bunk bed, along with two small couches for lounging. Supported by a wooden a-frame and platform floor, the canvas tent is around 10 feet tall at its peak, which provides ample room for standing and walking around without having to crouch.
The tent’s private deck, steps away from the lake, served as a cozy place to read and admire the late fall foliage. The other on-site lodging options, including cabin rentals, smaller glamping tents, and a geodesic dome, can accommodate groups of varying sizes. The Geo Dome, Lakeview Family Tent, Family Cabin, and Clubhouse are available for winter stays.
Although there were plenty of ways to stay busy on-site, we wanted to take advantage of Big Rock Creek’s convenient proximity to the towns along both sides of the St. Croix River. We headed back across the Minnesota border to explore Taylors Falls, stopping briefly at Interstate State Park to peer into glacial potholes and marvel at the fall colors from cliffside overlooks. We shopped and dined along the main drag before returning to the Wisconsin side to explore St. Croix Falls. Here, we hit a few more shops and chatted with locals.
Later, we headed back to our “glampsite” to hang out by the fire. Despite having a few neighboring guests and a wedding reception just up the road, the size of the property and space given to each site made it feel like we had the place to ourselves. But if traditional camping is more your thing, Big Rock Creek also has a campground area where you can pitch a tent or park your RV.
We woke with the sunrise the next morning before embarking on our next adventure: taking the Polaris Ranger UTV for a spin through Big Rock Creek’s hiking trails, which was a highlight of our stay. Along our 3-mile loop, we passed by a lotus pond, filled up our water bottles from an artesian well, and stopped at an overlook to appreciate treetop views. Depending on the season, other on-site activities include swimming, fly fishing, biking, canoeing, and kayaking, with equipment rentals available. Winter guests can enjoy ice skating, sledding, or a snowy hike.
As we packed our bags to head home, my partner and I discussed how good it felt to have spent the last 24 hours outdoors. Our one-night stay left us feeling refreshed and relaxed, and we weren’t quite ready to return to city life. If camping was always like this, I could certainly get used to it.