12 Top-Rated Campgrounds in Minnesota

Written by Brad Lane
Jun 8, 2020

With the many state parks, national forests, and bountiful wilderness areas in Minnesota, there is no shortage of great spots to pitch a tent. Campsites in Minnesota are interwoven with the lakes and waterways of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and are found throughout the swaying prairie grass in the southern portion of the state.

While every place to camp in Minnesota is different, all campgrounds in Minnesota offer immediate access to outdoor adventure.

Whether you are looking for a place to park an RV for a while, or you want to be able to sleep out of sight of your vehicle, a great campground in Minnesota is not far away.

The summer is a great time to camp in Minnesota, though the autumn is equally beautiful and sees far fewer mosquitos. No matter when you want to go, discover the best places to visit with our list of the top campgrounds in Minnesota.

1. Woodenfrog Campground, Kabetogama State Forest

Woodenfrog Campground, Kabetogama State Forest | daveynin / photo modified

Minnesota is home to a remarkable 58 different state forests. Many state forests offer campgrounds, like Woodenfrog, that are more affordable than what you'll find in adjacent state parks and often provide less crowded conditions.

All state forest campgrounds in Minnesota are considered primitive, containing established camping spots designated by picnic tables and fire rings, with pit toilets and freshwater spigots throughout.

While all state forest campgrounds can save you a little money on your Minnesota vacation, in terms of scenery and access to nearby attractions, they all deliver.

In the far northern part of the state, Woodenfrog Campground within Kabetogama State Forest is a great example of a state forest campground. Containing 61 non-electrical campsites, it not only offers easy access to adventure in the surrounding Kabetogama State Forest, but it sits at the front door of Voyageurs National Park and offers a launching point into a whole new world.

Serving as one of the few drive-in campgrounds with access to the water-fed Voyageurs National Park, this primitive campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The sites are known to fill up quickly.

A longer adventure in Voyageurs is easily accomplished with the many paddle-in campsites available throughout the national park. Even if your itinerary doesn't include an overnight visit in Voyageurs, the surrounding Northwoods and Kabetogama State Forest offer plenty of reasons to stay the night. The campground is on the shores of Kabetogama Lake and provides access to the water with a boat ramp and swimming beach. Vault toilets are available at the campground.

Address: Co Rd. 122, Ray, Minnesota

Official site: http://dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/facilities/cmp00032/index.html

2. Split Rock State Park Cart-In Campgrounds

View of the Split Rock Lighthouse from cart-in site # 4 | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Stretching from Duluth to the US/Canadian border, the North Shore of Lake Superior provides endless adventure. Activities range from cross-country hiking to sailing in the frigid waters of Lake Superior.

On top of the many things to do, great campsites stretch all along this recreation destination. Nearly halfway up the shore, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park offers a great example of these North Shore overnight accommodations. With just a little bit of effort, campers at this lakeside destination are afforded some of the best views found in the state.

Split Rock Lighthouse features 20 cart-in campsites that are approximately 2,000 feet from the parking lot. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring and include the cart to haul in your gear. Flush toilets, showers, and clean water are available to all campers at Split Rock, but the real draw for the cart-in campgrounds is the immediate access to the stunning surroundings.

A strong recommendation when staying the night at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is to reserve one of the campsites on the lakeside portion of the campground loop. These all offer personal views of the rugged shoreline and Split Rock Lighthouse in the distance. Campsites can be reserved one year in advance, and many are during the popular summer season.

Address: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/split_rock_lighthouse/index.html

3. Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park in autumn

Home to some of the best hiking trails in Minnesota, Jay Cooke State Park is also a popular destination for camping. The state park is adjacent to the St. Louis River, near the western tip of Lake Superior, and features over 80 sites ranging from walk-in tent sites to electric spots to park an RV.

The campground also features camper cabins and restroom facilities with hot showers.

The state park has over 50 miles of trails spread throughout its 8,125 acres. The 300-mile Superior Hiking Trail originates at the Minnesota/Wisconsin border near Jay Cooke State Park.

The state park also connects with the Willard Munger State Trail. The campground is located near one of the most popular hikes of the park, the Silver Creek Trail, which includes crossing over a scenic bridge that swings above the St. Louis River.

Address: 780 MN-210, Carlton, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00187#homepage

4. Portsmouth Campground, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Huntington Mine Lake

Serving as one of Minnesota's newest state recreation areas, Cuyuna Country is quickly becoming one of the most popular. This former iron mine encompasses abandoned pits now filled with turquoise-tinted water and 25 miles of some of the best mountain bike trails in Minnesota. The best way to experience it all is by staying at the Portsmouth Campground within its boundaries.

Portsmouth Campground is on the eastern side of the 5,000-acre Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and near the shores of Portsmouth Mine Lake. The campground features 18 electric sites, 15 non-electric sites, and four walk-in sites.

All campsite occupants at Cuyuna Country share freshwater facilities, and more notably, quick access to all the recreational opportunities within Cuyuna Country.

The State Recreation Area includes more than 20 natural and manmade lakes, an abundance of mountain bike singletrack trails, and generous views that stretch beyond the horizon.

The neighboring community of Ironton makes for a great basecamp, with camping supplies and bike rentals. Cuyuna Country also has three seven-person yurts, which are available year-round.

Address: 307 3rd Street, Ironton, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/cuyuna_country/index.html

5. Afton State Park Backpack Sites

One of 27 backpack sites at Afton State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Located less than a half hour east of Saint Paul, Afton State Park is a popular prairie-filled park that attracts campers from the Twin Cities and beyond.

What makes the campgrounds at Afton unique within the Minnesota state park system is that they are only available for those willing to backpack their gear to the sites. The 27 backpack sites at Afton State Park are located less than a mile from the parking lot, and all include a picnic table, fire ring, and plenty of space to pitch a tent or two.The campsites also share access to a communal pit toilet and water spigot.

The backpack sites at Afton vary from shaded to exposed, and all offer views and access to the surrounding wooded and prairie environments. This includes the extensive trail system that winds its way through the park.

No campsite is a direct neighbor to another, offering more privacy than your average campground, but it's not uncommon to hear the crackle of a nearby campfire throughout the night, reminding you that you're not completely alone in the woods.

Address: 6959 Peller Ave S, Hastings, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/afton/index.html

6. Wild River State Park Campground

One of Wild River State Park's many river views | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Situated along 18 miles of the St. Croix River, Wild River State Park is one of the larger state parks in Minnesota. Amid the many hiking, horseback, and canoeing opportunities, it also has an abundance of worthwhile camping spots.

While Wild River does have a wide variety of backcountry camping sites only accessible by non-motorized transportation, the most popular spots are at the Wild River State Park Campground, with more than 90 sites.

A third of the camping sites within the Wild River State Park Campground provide electricity, and all include a picnic table, fire ring, and plenty of space to pitch a tent or park an RV.

Despite the high number of spaces available, advanced reservations are strongly encouraged at Wild River State Park, especially on the weekends. But with 6,000 acres to explore and wild waters to paddle, there's plenty of room at the park to explore by yourself.

Address: 39797 Park Trail, Center City, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/wild_river/index.html

7. Itasca State Park

Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park

Home to the Headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, this popular state park is also host to several scenic camping options. Located in the northern part of the state, 30 miles southwest of Bemidji, Itasca State Park features over 200 sites ranging from RV-accessible to walk-in only.

Campsites are split between two campgrounds within Itasca: the Bear Paw Campground and the Pine Ridge Campground.

All campers have access to a range of amenities, including flushing restrooms and hot showers. Campers also have access to potable water and playground areas throughout the campgrounds. More importantly, campers have quick access to the vast expanse of Itasca State Park, including more than 100 lakes and 50 miles of hiking trails.

Address: 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00181#homepage

8. Fall Lake Campground, Superior National Forest

Fall Lake Campground, Superior National Forest

There is no shortage of campsites within the Superior National Forest of northern Minnesota. Throughout this rugged and wild part of the country, overnight visitors have a wide variety of camping options ranging from boat-access-only backcountry sites to RV-accommodating campgrounds with modern amenities.

Fall Lake Campground, located just east of Ely, is a great example of a contemporary campground within the Superior National Forest.

The campground features clean water and flushing toilets, and all 64 campsites provide picnic tables, tent pads, and fire rings. The campground also provides spectacular North Woods scenery, including the forested shoreline of Fall Lake.

What really makes Fall Lake Campground so great, however, is its immediate access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. With just a single paddle stroke, campers at Fall Lake Campground can find themselves exploring the Boundary Waters.

Additional permits are required to spend the night in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This proximity to such a vast expanse of waterways makes Fall Lake one of the best campgrounds near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Address: Fall Lake Road, Ely, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/superior/recarea/?recid=37045

9. Lakeview Campground, Father Hennepin State Park

A floating dock on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake near Lakeview Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Situated on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake, Father Hennepin State Park is named after a 17th-century priest who first wrote about the area. Mille Lacs Lake is one of the largest inland lakes in Minnesota, and the Lakeview campground within Father Hennepin State Park gives overnight users a front row seat to it all. Split between non-electrical and electrical, the 60 campsites at Lakeview all share access to flushing toilets, showers, and water spigots.

The campground also provides easy access to Mille Lacs Lake in the form of a fishing pier and places to moor a boat. Tents, pop-up campers, and RVs up to 60 feet long are welcome at Father Hennepin. If the Lakeview Campground is full when you go to reserve a spot, the Maple Grove Campground hosts another 40 campsites nearby.

Camping reservations at Father Hennepin State park, and all state parks in Minnesota, can be made one year in advance.

Address: 41296 Father Hennepin Park Road, Isle, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/father_hennepin/index.html

10. Glendalough State Park

Glendalough State Park

In western Minnesota, approximately two hours northwest of St. Cloud, this scenic state park offers a true chance to get away with cart-in and canoe sites available. Avoiding the hustle and bustle of the usual drive-in campsites, the more remote offerings at Glendalough State Park feature quiet surroundings and easy connection to nature. All 22 cart-in sites at Glendalough have access to potable water and restroom facilities with hot showers.

In the transition zone between Minnesota prairie and the hardwood forests to the north, Glendalough State Park is also surrounded by several bodies of water. The nearby Annie Battle Lake is a 335-acre non-motorized lake that is popular with canoes and kayaks. Campers have quick access to the water, as well as a paved bike trail that skirts the lake.

Address: 25287 Whitetail Ln, Battle Lake, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00167#homepage

11. Cedar Hill Campground, Whitewater State Park

Cedar Hill Campground, Whitewater State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

There are many factors that make Whitewater State Park one of the best state parks in Minnesota. Between the bluff-lined hiking trails and churning waters of the Whitewater River, what really ties everything together at Whitewater State Park are its spacious and scenic campsites.

More than 100 campsites are available, and the most abundant and most popular sites fall within the Cedar Hill Campground. The reservable campsites at Cedar Hill abut the Whitewater River and provide immediate access to activities like tubing, wading, and fishing.

Two communal sanitation buildings are located within Cedar Hill Campground, and another can be found in the neighboring Gooseberry Glen Campground. All three provide toilets, showers, and clean water throughout the camping season.

Every campsite at Whitewater State Park provides a picnic table and fire ring, and they vary from pull-in to pull-through, with a few requiring a short walk from a parked car.

For those looking for more solitude, on the other side of the river from the Cedar Hill and Gooseberry Glen Campgrounds, Whitewater State Park also offers six walk-in sites averaging 500 yards from the parking area. These quiet campsites allow for a little more space and just as many views.

Whitewater State Park also features winter-ready camper cabins for cross-country and snowshoe enthusiasts to enjoy in the off season.

Address: 19041 MN-74, Altura, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/whitewater/index.html

12. Stony Point Campground, Chippewa National Forest

A pop-up tent next to Leech Lake at the Stony Point Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Easily accessed from the city of Walker, three hours north of Minneapolis, the Stony Point Campground places visitors onto the shores of Leech Lake. The campground is a great launching point into the surrounding Chippewa National Forest. The campground features 44 reservable sites all sharing access to the lake, as well as flush toilets, shower stations, and clean drinking-water spigots.

RVs are welcome at Stony Point, and campers are encouraged to use the boat ramp and two different harbors. The campground also provides easy access to a swimming beach and picnic area. The campground doesn't just entice anglers, however. With hiking and biking trails like the North Country Trail and Paul Bunyan State Trail surrounding the area, the campground is also popular for those that like to explore on foot.

Address: 5510 US-2, Cass Lake, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/chippewa/recarea/?recid=26820

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Other Adventures in Minnesota: The state of Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 lakes and there's much to explore. For an overview of the top spots for adventure in Minnesota, our guide to the best state & national parks in Minnesota highlights the varied terrain found throughout the state.

More Places to Visit in Minnesota: The cultural capital of the state, Minneapolis, is one of the first places to head for city attractions and events. In southern Minnesota, the city of Rochester, home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, is also a fun place to visit throughout the year.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Minnesota