The 23 Ways to Camp on Minnesota Public Lands
$28 Fee Sites $14
Easily accessible, less equipment & expertise required
Remote, more equipment & expertise required
Primitive or No Amenities
For those who spend nights outside on Minnesota's public lands.
This project is an attempt at a simple but holistic guide to increase awareness of the full variety of camping experiences found in our recreation landscape.
In the state parks.
For many, the state parks are the first and too often, the only place folks know to look for camping opportunities. The state parks campground system became 100% reservable in 2016, and they booked fully and rapidly, securing plans for many happy campers as well as great revenue for the parks. For many other new and interested participants, fully reserved campgrounds is a discouraging reality. Regular users unable to secure their favorite annual sites wondered if the camping landscape had changed for the worse. It hasn’t.
Minnesota has a robust public lands system beyond state parks, offering a wide variety of camping experiences differentiated by fee structure, usage rules & regulations, reservation ability, mix of amenities, and the amount of equipment or expertise required to safely and comfortably access them. This guide uses two major variables to better organize all of our public land camping opportunities. First, is the approach vehicle; by car camping, backpack camping, bike camping or paddle camping. Second is the land manager; typically a state or federal agency. City and county offerings are not covered here.
This guide is an aide and an invitation for you to unlock the full potential of Minnesota's public lands inventory. Car camping in a state park is a great first step into a vast regional outdoor recreation landscape. Go deeper. Drive into a state forest or national forest car campground and find many familiar amenities. Pull off of a forest road and make camp self-supported. Learn new skills with new equipment and hike, bike or paddle into more remote campsites - within a state park, national park or wilderness area.
State park car campgrounds are feeling the love. Let’s spread it so the rest of our public lands feel it too.
Let's go camping...
When the state park campground system became 100% reservable a lot of folks who couldn't find availability attempting to book their favorite campsites began to wonder if the camping landscape had changed for the worse. It hasn't.
There is more.
This guide is an illustration of the greater outdoor recreation landscape on Minnesota's public lands. It is an attempt at a simple, but encompassing overview of camping experiences to be pursued beyond car camping at the state parks.
It's all here.
This is the accumulated knowledge of a quest for information across realms digital and physical. From government websites, guide books and park office phone requests, to a hand drawn, three ring binder of maps living in one Chippewa National Forest ranger station, here is a collection of as many campsite locations as one individual could curate to complete a map of camping opportunities on Minnesota's public lands. There is a lot of opportunity.
Use more public land.
This is an invitation to go deeper. Elevate your comfort and capability to a style of camping that unlocks new territory and brings you outside for more time, more often. Take some pressure off those state park campsites. There’s so much more to explore. The more public land we use, the less we stand to lose.