Best camping sites in Minnesota

15 of the best camping sites in Minnesota for outdoor lovers!

If you’re looking for the best camping sites in Minnesota, look no further than this list. We’ve compiled a list of the best state parks in Minnesota, so you can find the perfect spot for your next camping trip.

When it comes to outdoor recreation, few states can rival Minnesota. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is home to some of the best camping, hiking, and fishing in the country.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken my family to all four corners of the state to find the best camping. We stayed in hammocks, rustic camping, tented in the BWCA, and pulled our Travel Trailer to see it all.

Each part of the state is so diverse. I’ve saved up some of my favorite camping locations to help you plan out your summer!

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Best Camping Sites in Minnesota

Itasca State Park

  36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470
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Itasca State Park is the oldest state park in Minnesota and is home to the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. The park has more than 100 lakes, as well as hiking and biking trails.

The campgrounds offer a variety of amenities, including showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits. You can also enjoy biking, hiking, fishing, and boating on the park grounds.

There are also many things to do in Itasca State Park for those who don’t like camping such as guided tours of the Mississippi River or visiting some of Minnesota’s historical monuments.

My favorite part about Itasca State Park was getting to explore the different hiking trails, and interpretive centers and getting to climb the observation tower for a bird’s eye view of the park.

There are two different campgrounds in the park, Bear Paw and Pine Ridge campground with 223 drive-in sites, 160 of which have electricity. If you can secure a spot at Bear Paw, you’ll have a view of the lake, or it will be within walking distance of your site.

For more privacy, they have 11 backpack sites and 11 cart-in sites. You can also stay in their camping cabins.

Things to do at Itasca State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

  3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616
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Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is a beautiful park located on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The park has miles of hiking trails, as well as a historic lighthouse. Not to be confused with the southern park, Split Rock Creek. You’d be surprised how many people make reservations at the wrong location.

What I love about Split Rock Lighthouse is the shoreline hiking. Walk along the shoreline and skip rocks.

You can put your paddleboard or kayak in at the harbor and paddle over to the shipwreck located near the lighthouse.

There is also the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. This 17-mile trail connects Split Rock Lighthouse to Gooseberry Falls State Park. The trails are always expanding with the end goal to allowing visitors to travel the entire length of the north shore.

Split Rock Lighthouse used to be exclusively cart-in, but they just added a campground for drive-in visitors. It goes by the name Shipwreck Creek Campground and all 46 sites have electricity.

The best campsites at Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota are along the shoreline. They are the cart in sites. It’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to sleeping on Lake Superior.

For those looking for more rustic accommodations, there are 4 backpacking sites, ½ to 2 miles from the campground.

Hiking at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Jay Cooke State Park

  19041 MN-74, Altura, MN 55910
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Jay Cooke State Park is located in the Duluth area and is home to a historic swinging bridge, miles of hiking, as well as the St. Louis River.

Jay Cooke State Park’s crown jewel is defiantly the St Louis Rivers waterfalls, all converging right near the swinging bridge. Even if you can’t secure a campsite, make a stop here to see it.

Aside from hiking, you can also do white water rafting in the river. There are outfitters just north of the state park.

The campground has 79 sites, mostly all wooded. 21 of those sites have electricity. There are also four backpack sites, ranging from 2 to 3.3 miles from the parking lot. Each backpack site has a picnic table, fire ring, latrine, and bear box.

Jay Cooke State Park Bridge in Winter

Whitewater State Park

  19041 MN-74, Altura, MN 55910
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Whitewater State Park is located in southeastern Minnesota bluff country and is home to miles of hiking swimming and epic overlooks, as well as the Whitewater stream.

This state park has some of the best features, including Chimney Rock and Coyote Point. These overlooks require many steps. It’s been reported that there are over 500 stairs within the park.

Just outside the park is the Elba Fire Tower, another seemingly impossible hike with hundreds of steps before you get to the tower. If your legs are up for it, I highly recommend it.

The Whitewater Stream is a great trout fishing location. Plus, the cool waters make it unique in that the park doesn’t have any mosquitos.

There are 110 drive-in sites, 85 of which have electricity. They also have a few pull-through sites and wheelchair-accessible options.

For more seclusion, stay in one of their 8 cart-in sites.

Hiking Whitewater State Park

Afton State Park

  6959 Peller Ave S, Hastings, MN 55033
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Afton State Park is located in the St. Croix River Valley and is home to miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as the Afton Alps ski area. It is the closest state park to the Twin Cities that you can camp at.

There are miles of trails to explore, a small beach plus plenty of opportunity to fish in the Mississippi River.

The park has 28 backpack sites that are open year-round. You can also stay in a seven-person yurt or a wall tent.

The campground also has a canoe site that is accessible from the hiking/bike trail if you aren’t paddling in.

St Croix River Shoreline at Afton State Park

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

  Ely, MN 55731
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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a large wilderness area located in northeastern Minnesota. The Boundary Waters is popular for canoeing, camping, and fishing.

One trip to the BWCAW and you’ll know why it is so protective of the waters. The BWCA is a series of lakes all connected by portages and short hiking trails where you carry your canoe and gear across.

The wilderness area has free camping available on a first come, first serve basis. Some of the most sought-after sites are islands, but there is plenty of great location, just start paddling.

Each campsite has a fire ring and a latrine.

Before you can get in the canoe, you’ll need to get an entry permit. This helps manage the flow of campers and ensures everyone has a spot. There are a few entry point lakes that allow motorized boats. Otherwise, it’s undisturbed wilderness.  

Canoeing the BWCA
Canoeing the BWCA

Voyageurs National Park

  International Falls, MN 56649
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Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota and is home to miles of adventure, with exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, and forests. It’s a transition between the Sothern boreal and northern hardwood forests.

Voyageurs National Park can be explored by land, water, or ice. There is plenty of opportunity for paddling around and exploring. Unlike the boundary waters, most camping is the primary lake.

This area is prime for seeing the Northern lights.

There is great fishing, waterfalling, and guided adventures you can take.

Voyagers National Park is a water-based park, that requires a watercraft to camp at the site. The park has lots of camping options, from staying in a houseboat to paddling in, to backcountry camping via water taxi and hiking to a site.

These trips take a bit more planning but are so much fun! I highly recommend the escape.

Voyageurs National Park Houseboat - Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats
Voyageurs National Park Houseboat – Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats, Crane Lake, Minnesota” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Frontenac State Park

  29223 County 28 Blvd, Frontenac, MN 55026
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Frontenac State Park is a great park located in Southern MN at the start of bluff country. They are home to miles of hiking trails and scenic overlooks.

One of my favorite things to do at the park is hike the trails. There are a couple of great hikes to do, including one that goes past an old mining operation, and past Tap in Ye Rock.

The park is right by Red Wing Minnesota, making it easy to stop in for a quick bite or do some day activities.

There are 58 drive-in sites on four different loops. Of those 19 have electricity. These sites sit along the bluffs and have quick access to the hiking trail. Almost all of them have tons of shade.

If you are looking for more privacy, do the two backpack sites or the 6 cart-in sites. They are a third of the mile from the parking lot.

In Yeopa Rock at Frontenac State Park

Bear Head Lake State Park

  9301 Bear Head State Park Rd, Ely, MN 55731
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Bear Head Lake State Park is located in northeastern Minnesota and is home to miles of hiking and tons of great fishing, as well as 23 miles of lakeshore on Bear Head Lake.

Bear Head Lake is as close as you can get to the BWCA without actually needing a permit. They have great amenities at the campground, like a swimming beach and trail center.

Bring a paddleboard or a kayak and paddle around the lake.  

Nearby the campground is the town of Ely with tons more to explore.

There are 73 semi-modern drive-in sites with 45 of those being electric.

For more solitude, reserve one of the four backpack sites or the two canoe sites.

Bear Head Lake State Park

Temperance River State Park

  1410 161st St, Luverne, MN 56156
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Temperance River State Park is located in northeastern Minnesota and is home to miles of hiking and waterfalls, fossils, as well as the Temperance River.

This is one of the best places to stay on the North Shore. It’s just far enough north that most people don’t travel, but not too far north, you can’t get there in a day.

The prime feature of the park is the Temperance River as it makes its way through the river gorge that separates the two campgrounds. It’s beautiful any time of day.

On the north side of the park, just past the roadside parking lot, there is a beautiful display of fossils on the rock face.

The park has 52 drive-in sites between the two campgrounds. Of those sites, 18 are electric. They also have 6 cart-in sites.

Some of the best waterfront views are in the lower campground. Most of the sites are shaded in wooded areas.

Sunset at Temperance River State Park

Superior Hiking Trail

  1410 161st St, Luverne, MN 56156
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Superior Hiking Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that runs along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The trail is popular for day hikes and overnight backpacking trips.

Backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail is the ultimate escape. While it’s heavily hiked, there are sections that are more remote. The trail is incredibly popular in Fall.

My favorite thing to do on the trial is take the spur trails to see some of the great overlooks.

All of the campsites are free to use, with no permits required. They ask that you camp in the designated campground to preserve the trail. The sites are all shared with other campers and have a fire pit and latrine.

Section 13 on the Superior Hiking Trail

Blue Mounds State Park

  1410 161st St, Luverne, MN 56156
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Blue Mounds State Park is located in southwestern Minnesota and is home to miles of hiking, bison, and rock climbing as well as the Blue Mounds.

The most notable features are the Bison enclosure. You can hike all along the outside edge and even take an open-air guided tour of the enclosure.

The park is home to a prickly pair cactus that blooms in late June and early July.

You can also view the epic quartzite cliff face that gave the park its name. This is a popular rock-climbing location.

Blue Mounds State Park has 73 sites along a shaded paved road; 40 of those sites have electricity. They do have two wheelchair-accessible sites.

The park has 14 cart in site, all close to the parking area.

If you want a unique experience, stay in one of their two tipis available seasonally at the park.

Blue Mounds State Park

Camden State Park

  1897 Camden Park Rd, Lynd, MN 56157
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Located in southwestern Minnesota, Camden State Park is one of those rare treasures. It has a little bit of everything from swimming, to hiking and mountain biking, to trout fishing.

The park comes alive with wildflowers in the spring and early summer.

The hiking is absolutely stunning. I highly recommend doing the hiking club trail right next to the swimming beach. It starts off following a stream with tiny waterfalls before swinging into the prairie and back through the woods.

The swimming beach and freshwater pond that the family will love cooling off at.

There are 80 drive-in sites at the park with 47 electric sites split between the upper and lower campground.

You can even bring your horses and stay at one of the 12-horse campsites.

They have both an upper and lower campground. If you’d like to be closer to the redwood river, swimming pool, and other features, I recommend staying at the Lower Campground. The upper campground is further away but the sites have a lot of privacy.

Morning at Camden State Park

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

  15066 Kathio State Park Rd, Onamia, MN 56359
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Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is located in central Minnesota and is home to miles of hiking and fishing, a historic site as well as Mille Lacs Lake.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is a large state park on one of the biggest lakes in Minnesota. Surprisingly much of the park is inland of the lake.

There are some great trails to explore, including one that takes you right by the Cooper Site. It’s a historical dig site where they uncovered an indigenous settlement.

Take a climb up the fire tower and see the park from above.

There are two campgrounds, the Petaga Campground and the Ogechie Campground. The Ogagice campground is more rustic and smaller, whereas the Patega campground has more amenities. It’s close to the swimming beac, playground and more.

We loved getting to explore the Petaga Campground with plenty of things to do.

The park has 70 drive-in sites with 22 of them being electric.

There are an additional 4 backpack sites all near water, 3 walk-in sites, and 10 Horse Campsites.

Thigns to do at Mille Lacs State Park

Tettegouche State Park

  5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614
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Tettegouche State Park is located in northeastern Minnesota and is home to miles of hiking, waterfalls, and of course Palisade Head.

The state park is a popular spot for hikers and visitors. Partly because it’s a roadside stop. With picnic areas and flush toilets, everyone like to stop here.

There are some great hikes to do but none are more popular than Shovel Point. This 2-mile hike is along the shorelines of Lake Superior and includes great overlooks.

My favorite hike is to High Falls and Two Step Falls which includes a trip over the swinging bridge. Be prepared as this hike has some 400+ stair steps.

Also, make sure you stop at Palisade Head just south of the state park’s main entrance. This overlook is absolutely stunning. The best part is you can almost always find parking at the top making it accessible to everyone.

The park’s campground is tucked back from the lake, giving it a secluded feeling. There are 28 sites available year-round, 22 of which are elected. They are located on the Baptism River.

There are also 6 walk-in sites that come with bear-proof storage lockers and 13 cart-in sites. The cart in the site is closer to Lake Superior’s shoreline. You can also stay in one of the five backpack sites. They are all along the superior hiking trail and are a first come first serve site.

Swinging Bridge at Tettegouche State Park

Big Bog State Recreation Area

  55716 MN-72, Waskish, MN 56685
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Big Bog State Recreational Area is an often overlook campground because it doesn’t have the State Park Classification, but it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Located in North Western MN on the banks of Upper Red Lake, there are some great opportunities to fish.

On a calm day, there is a great swimming beach.

You have to do the mile-long bog walk into the wilderness. I also recommend climbing the fire tower and getting the view from above.

The park is broken up in three sections, with some miles apart from each other. What I love about the campground is all the modern amenities.

In addition to the camping, half the sites are right on a backwater channel complete with your own dock that leads directly into Upper Red Lake.

There are 31 campsites, with 26 of them being electric. They are all 100 years from the Tamarac River.

You can also rent six camper cabins available year-round.

Things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area

What campgrounds did I leave off?

You’ll probably notice that popular places like Gooseberry Falls State Park are not included. That’s because while I love the location and the fun things to do, it tends to get crowded with day visitors, making it undesirable.

I also left off any private campgrounds. While there are some good ones like Country Camping with river tubing and some in Lanesboro that I’d go back to, I find them too commercialized for my taste.

My kids, on the other hand, love the great amenities like a game room and playground. But you tend to get stuck when you leave the park.  

What is my all-time favorite camping spot in Minnesota?

That all depends on the season. I find traveling at the right time of the year makes all the difference in the world. When the summer heat is at the max, I go north.

In spring I love the Southwest part of the state. In Fall, I’m all about the southeastern bluff country. 

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