Minnesota summer is here! And you know what that means — at long last, it’s time to explore the state’s iconic waterways and snooze under the dazzling night sky in the middle of the wilderness. One thing’s for sure: it’s pretty easy to get away from it all in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We’ve drummed up a list of favorites, along with some of the best campsites to post up at while visiting.
To enjoy that classic MN lake life this summer, head to one of these five spots:
Itasca State Park
Photo credit: Lisa Meyers McClintick / Explore Minnesota
Idyllic and serene as can be, the glass-like Lake Itasca serves as the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. Here, 32,690 acres of glacier-formed landscape is replete with old-growth pine forests and tons of spots to fish, take a swim, or hike around. At 3.5 hours from the Twin Cities, it somehow manages to feel a world away.
- Where to camp: Bear Paw Campground or Pine Ridge Campground — Despite being Minnesota’s oldest state park, both of these campgrounds are equipped with full amenities, including flush toilets and showers.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 3 hours and 40 minutes
Bear Head Lake State Park
Photo Credit: Brian Powers
Up in Minnesota’s Northwoods, Bear Head Lake State Park is an undeveloped, pristine wildlife experience. The park offers year-round recreation, including (but not limited to): canoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. Abundant wildlife and a campground with fairly secluded drive-in sites make this a formidable destination for campervan travelers. Take a gander at the lake at sunrise — it’s pretty magic (yes, even if you’re not a morning person).
- Where to camp: Woodenfrog, Ash River or Wakemup Bay campground — Also managed by Bear Head Lake State Park, these grounds are right within the oh-so tranquil Kabetogama State Forest.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Photo Credit: Sarah Christian Photography (@sarah_chrisitian)
Just north of Duluth along Lake Superior’s famous, well-loved North Shore is Gooseberry Falls State Park: A postcard-like stretch of rugged coastline offering top-notch hiking, fishing and more. The park’s titular falls are the main attraction, but the Lake Superior shoreline, covered in agates, and the hiking trails up along the park’s escarpment are equally striking natural features. Don’t forget to reserve a spot ahead of time; this one is pretty sought after by campers, especially in summer.
- Where to camp: Gooseberry Falls Campground, Two Harbors — Hiking paths in front of the sites and on the water. Full amenities, including toilets and showers.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Photo Credit: Tony Webster via Flickr
Even though it’s a relatively new state recreation area, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is stealing the show when it comes to lake activities, and sweeping views that stretch across the entire forested horizon. As a former iron mine, the landscape has both natural and human-made lakes — all of which can be explored by boat or canoe. You’d truly never guess it was dotted with mining pits back in the early 1900’s, making it an even more interesting experience, doused in history.
- Where to camp: Portsmouth Campground — On the northwest shore of Portsmouth Mine Lake, reservations required
- Distance from Minneapolis: 2 hours and 20 minutes
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the nation’s best-preserved pieces of wilderness. Stretching up along the Canadian border, the Boundary Waters offer unparalleled fishing and canoeing opportunities. While many people associate the Boundary Waters exclusively with canoe-in campsites, it is possible to find a place to sleep without leaving the comfort of dry land. The Sawbill Lake Campground offers vehicle camping opportunities, among others.
Minnesota offers a number of exciting camping opportunities for people hoping to escape the city and get outside. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the state’s iconic lake life this summer, consider visiting one of these five enthralling sites.
- Where to camp: Sawbill Lake Campground – Next to an outfitter, and great entry point into BWCA
- Distance from Minneapolis: 4 hours
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