Outside in MN

Tips to get outside for Memorial Day weekend — even if you don't have a campsite

Bear Head Lake State Park, near the Boundary Waters, is one of dozens of designated natural areas in the state open for folks to enjoy this weekend.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The weather is looking pleasant across much of the state Memorial Day weekend as we welcome the unofficial start of Minnesota summer.

Minnesota State Parks make sites available 120 days in advance — which means most of the popular sites are booked. But that’s no reason to stop dreaming of s’mores, stargazing and unplugging. 

Here are some ideas to enjoy state parks, trails and forests.

At this point, campers’ best bets are to check out state forest campgrounds to secure a tent spot, said Sara Berhow with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Trails Division.

Of Minnesota’s 143 campgrounds, almost a third are in state forests and do not take reservations.

Forest campgrounds don’t have modern facilities like flush toilets or showers. They have designated campsites with fire rings and litter containers, but dispersed camping outside those areas is also allowed in forest campgrounds.

“If people want to check out state forests, they could go to the DNR website and learn about those 48 campgrounds. And maybe visit a place they haven't camped before,” Berhow said.

Drive-in campsites at state forests are $17 a night; group campsites are $50.

The Chippewa and Superior National Forests also have several campgrounds with a mix of reserved and first-come, first-served sites. Prices range between $0 for backcountry camping to $26 per night for both reserved and non-reserved developed campsites.

A campsite in Willow River, Minn., sits empty.
Like over 95 percent of other state campground sites, Willow River Campgrounds, in General Andrews State Forest in Willow River, Minn., might be tough to score a spot at. But camping options don't end with state parks.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News 2016

Camping not your cup of tea (or instant coffee)?

“Go for a day or an afternoon or even just an hour,” Berhow said, noting plenty of areas offer equipment rentals.

People can hike, bike, skate or paddle throughout certain state parks. Adrenaline seekers can mountain bike, rock climb, whitewater raft or scuba dive. Have a picnic at a shelter, go birding or fishing, or try your hand at nature photography.

Many state parks also offer free rentals of GPS, birding and fishing kits and no-cost all-terrain, electric-powered chair rentals are available at six parks.

Paid permits are required to enter state parks for most people. Libraries across the state offer free seven-day state park passes.

Swimming at beaches on lakes or rivers could also be in the forecast this weekend. But Berhow’s last suggestion?

“Pack a hammock and go take a nap outside.”

For more ideas, check out the MN DNR’s summer starter kit.

Volume Button
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News