Best Places to Camp: 7 Top MN State Parks for Camping
cliffs are a top destination for rock climber and hikers.
State Park offers spectacular overlooks for fall colors.
Spend the Night Under the Stars at These Top MN State Park Camping Spots:
There are many well-trod MN State Parks that are popular every year. But where can you go if you're looking for a unique Minnesota camping getaway? Try one of these top spots (plus one popular – yet close to the Twin Cities – destination) for your next camping getaway.
1. Glendalough State Park
Try to keep our secret – this is one of our favorite Minnesota State Parks. The beautiful park has sandy beaches for swimming and trails across forest and prairie for hiking and biking. Several lakes are contained within the park to enjoy fishing, canoeing or swimming, including Annie Battle Lake, Molly Stark Lake, West Battle Lake and Silver Lake. Camp sites here are cart-in, requiring visitors to take their gear by wheeled cart. Three sites are canoe-in (also accessible by hiking or biking). The park also rents four prairie-style camper cabins April through October, which include electricity and a propane fireplace. Or, stay the night in one of two yurts that can accommodate three to seven people (sorry, no electricity).
2. Upper Sioux Agency State Park
Camping in a tipi should be on your bucket list, and at Upper Sioux Agency State Park, you can accomplish it. The hilly park offers prairie vistas and a place to gaze at the brilliant night sky. It’s situated at the confluence of the Yellow Medicine River and Minnesota River, and offers hiking and horseback riding trails. Make sure to hike to the historic site preserving the history of the Yellow Medicine Agency, which was destroyed in the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict. Along the river, fish for walleye, northern and catfish, and watch for a variety of birds, including white pelicans, great blue herons and spotted sandpipers. For camping, three 18-foot diameter tipis book quickly, so plan ahead. There are also traditional camp sites here, as well as RV and horse camping.
3. Blue Mounds State Park
Endless prairie, stunning rock outcroppings, and Minnesota’s own Stonehenge? You’ll find this and more at Blue Mounds State Park. The park’s quartzite cliffs, nicknamed the Blue Mound, are a top destination for rock climbers, and offer stunning overlooks for hikers. Along the mound’s southern end, a 1,200-foot-long line of stone stretches east to west. And while its origins are unknown, twice a year on the spring and fall equinoxes, the sunrise and sunset perfectly aligns with the stones, leading some to dub it Minnesota’s Stonehenge. The park also preserves Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie and is home to a herd of bison. If you visit in the summer, watch out for the pear cactus blooming along the trails. This park offers both traditional drive-in campsites and RV camping, with plenty of spots available.
4. Forestville/Mystery Cave
According to park rangers, this park has almost no mosquitos. That’s because the county in which the park is located – Fillmore – has no natural lakes that are prime habitats for growing the biting bugs. Beyond this major advantage, the Forestville / Mystery State Park also offers top tourist destinations right within its borders – the Historic Forestville site, an 1850s preserved town, and Mystery Cave, Minnesota’s longest cave. Both are available for tours seasonally. As if that’s not enough, the park’s also a destination for fly fishing, with three trout streams. Traditional camping, RV sites and camper cabins are available in the park. At dusk, visitors may hear the howls of coyote, which have returned to the area in greater numbers in recent years.
5. Frontenac State Park
Put this park on your list if you want a top destination to visit in the fall. It’s located along the Mississippi River, and its beautiful bluffs are spectacular in peak fall season. Hikers will also enjoy watching for the more than 260 species of birds that have been seen in the park, including bald eagles. The park offers traditional and RV camp sites, as well as several cart-in sites. It’s just minutes from Red Wing, MN for those looking to extend their getaway with dining and shopping in the historic town.
6. Jay Cooke State Park
A beautiful park, minutes from a top getaway destination – what more could we ask for? Just outside of Duluth, MN Jay Cooke is located along the Willard Munger trail, a top destination for bikers and hikers. Its famous swinging bridge over the St. Louis River is a must see and offers top hiking trails along the river. Black bear, timber wolf and coyote have all been spotted in the park, along with hundreds of bird species. Plan early to reserve one of the state park’s camper cabins, with electricity and heat, making them an option year-round. The park also offers drive-in, RV and backpack camping, with bear boxes available at backpack sites.
7. William O’Brien
This park makes our list for its proximity to the Twin Cities. It’s a great destination to consider when you want to get away – but not too far away – since it’s just an hour drive. While here, canoe on the St. Croix; hike along the river; fish for northern, walleye, bass and trout; swim in the park’s Lake Alice beach; and watch for wildlife, including raccoons, beavers, woodchucks and a variety of birds. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent at the park office. The park is located in Marine on St. Croix. If you want to head out for the afternoon, head to the historic downtown, which has a historic mill site, Marine General Store, The General Scoop ice cream store, a coffee shop, chocolate shop, and café.
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