Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days
We’ve all been there. Excited to buy a new permit for something fun, only to realize you have to stick it onto a nice clean windshield because of the trouble it will take to get off.
According to some Minnesota State Park pass holders, there are different hacks out there that make it a synch to get off. I’m going to put them to the test. We’ll also cover everyone’s favorite free park day and other MN State Park Pass hacks.!
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What is the Minnesota State Parks Annual Pass?
The MN State Parks Annual Pass is a 1-year pass to all MN State Parks. It cost $35 for the entire year. For those that plan to only visit a few times a year, it’s $7 a day. The fees go toward the maintenance of the State Parks.
What if you have two cars?
If you have two cars in the same household, a second permit is $9 cheaper.
Are there any other discounts?
Motorcycles have a discounted rate, as well as state-owned vehicles, law environment vehicles, and cars with disability license plates.
Active military personal and their dependents, purple heart recipients, and veterans with service-related disabilities all are eligible for free year-round vehicle permits.
Check with the MN State Parks office for more information.
What if I get a new car or windshield?
Not to worry, if your MN State Park Annual pass is damaged, it is replaceable for free. Just turn in the old sticker with the current year and date visible to any park office for a new sticker.
What if I don’t want a sticker on my car?
They have a solution for people that don’t want a sticker on their car, get custom license plates. Custom license plates are double the cost of a normal sticker and have to be re-issued every year.
There is an extra charge the first time the plate is issued and an annual charge of $60. I would not recommend this unless you are planning on re-upping your permit every year.
Having a permit doesn’t guarantee a parking spot
The shocking part of MN State Parks is that they have been turning away cars because of the number of visitors. This trend started in 2020 but I expect it could continue. In order to get in, arrive early in the day.
Also, consider visiting parks further from Minneapolis. Trust me when I say there is so much to explore, and each one has its own unique features.
Places like Afton State Park and Lake Maraia fall victim to this, as well as Wiliam O’Brien State Park.
Minnesota State Park Annual Pass Tricks and Hacks
On Facebook and other sites, hikers are quick to share their tips for their Minnesota State Park Annual Pass stickers. Unfortunately, most of them are out of compliance. I’ve noticed some State Park Rangers are getting stricter with the rules as park traffic has increased.
Corner of the sticker
The Hack: MN State Parks Annual Pass must be affixed to the lower side of the passenger’s side window completely to be valid. The simplest way to make sure you can get it off is by leaving a bit of the sticker backing still on the sticker. This gives you a tab to grab when it comes time to remove it. When putting it on, tear off a small corner of the backing. I’ve used this for several years and it works great. When it comes time to remove it, there is a solid place to grab it.
The Concern: According to official rules, the sicker needs to be completely affixed to the car in order to be official.
I learned this from a State Park Ranger who said they could ticket me for leaving the corner of the sticker back still on. He understood why I was doing it, but didn’t care. After being told this, I removed the backing and secured it all the way.
The Hack: After getting the sticker, put the sticker on a piece of cellophane, leaving an inch on all sides to fold over the sticker. It will cling directly to the glass. If it doesn’t cling immediately, add a little moisture between the cellophane and glass.
The Concern: This hack is NOT MN State Park compliant. Having a layer of cellophane between the sticker and the windshield means it’s not stuck to the window.
In my testing on this one, I found it challenging to get the cellophane completely flat. If it’s not, it will show wrinkles on the pass. Do it at your own risk.
The Hack: This one came directly from the State Park Rangers, so you know it’s compliant. Before putting the sticker on the car, put the sticky portion on your shirt a few times.
This gets rid of the extremely sticky factor. Then stick it to the window like normal. When it’s time to take it off, it peels right off.
The Concern: If you collect too much dirt and fuzz from your shirt, you may remove too much sticky backing and prevent it from sticking to the window.
If your sticker gets damaged, the park will replace it. This is the most compliment and the preferred method of dealing with state park vehicle permits.
See Related: DIY Compression Stuff Sack for Camping
The Hack: Using a hairdryer to heat the sticker on the windshield will cause the glue to loosen up. Then pull the sticker off slowly. If any remaining residue is left, use a bit of goo gone. This only seems to be an issue during winter.
You don’t need an annual permit on your windshield to park
The annual permit takes effect the day you purchase it. If you purchase it online, you’ll get a temporary printable pass to put in your dash while your official one gets mailed to you.
A permit is purchasable at all MN State Parks with offices. If the park office is closed, there is a self-service station at each park. Fill out the payment envelope and drop it in the box. Put the paystub on your dash.
Money-Saving Tips for Minnesota State Park Pass
Save your daily permit toward the purchase of an annual permit
The daily Minnesota State Park permit fees can be applied toward the cost of an annual permit. Since an overnight camping stay at an MN State Park requires two days of parking, it puts you a third of the way to your annual permit.
This only works while the pass is active. You cannot save up your daily permit stickers and cash them in for an annual permit.
So, if you are on the fence about getting an annual state park permit, spend a day at the park and decide if you want to visit a few more that year.
Get an extra month on your Minnesota State Park Pass
The one-year permit expires on the last day of the month. If you purchase it on July 1 st, it doesn’t expire until July 31st, 2021.
You can squeak out another month of state park access taking advantage of this. I have done this one many times before. I don’t immediately renew my permit when the old sticker expires either.
If you are thinking of getting a hiker a MN State Park Annual permit for a gift, get you a gift card instead. That’s because the permit takes effect the day the permit is purchased. It may not align with when their current permit ends.
If they are a fair-weather hiker, they may not go to a park for a couple of months after you purchased the permit. If you give them a gift card, they purchase the annual permit on the day they plan to use it.
Free Days at MN State Park
If you aren’t sure you want to commit, attend one of the free days in 2022. I’ve done this a few times. Once on National Get Outdoors days (get there early) and again on Black Friday when I wanted to take my alternative vehicle exploring.
- Saturday, February 18
- Saturday, April 22
- Saturday, June 10 (National Get Outdoors Days)
- Friday, November 24 (Black Friday)
From past experiences, people only are taking advantage of this in June. But the parks are way better in the Fall and Winter.
We got up to Split Rock Lighthouse in Winter and Nerstrand and got to see the frozen waterfalls. Grand Portage is usually iced over then too. Temperance River State Park is absolutely stunning in the Fall.
Other Considerations for a Minnesota State Park Pass
MN State Parks have so many fun things to do. Spending $35 a year on activities for all seasons is budget-friendly entertainment.
I cannot believe all sights and activities I’ve done while working towards my hiking goals. If that means dealing with a sticker on the windshield, it’s a small price to pay.
Check out my newest guide on Enjoying the Hike Again. It’s a free guide I put together, spilling all the dirt on hiking. Based on what I’ve seen online, we’ve all lost our way.