Best Secluded Places to Camp in Minnesota This Summer
As soon as the snow melts and the days grow longer, lots of people in Minnesota understandably want to spend most of their time in the outdoors and sleeping under the stars. Which is all well and good until the campgrounds overflow with RVs and generators and parties until all hours of the night.
If you’re looking for the comfort of car camping with the seclusion of backpacking, here are some of our favorite secluded places to camp in Minnesota from Best Tent Camping Minnesota by Tom Watson.
Wild River State Park Campground
Contact: 651-583-2125, http://dnr.state.mn.us /state_parks/wild_river
Anytime you get a chance to enjoy camping along the St. Croix, do it. The farther north you can get, away from the larger communities closer to the Twin Cities, the purer the experience will be. Wild River State Park offers spacious sites, wonderful hiking trails, river access with a few shoreside campsites, and dense Minnesota hardwood forests. The park is long and narrow, stretching for a dozen or so miles right along the west bank of the Wild and Scenic St. Croix River.
A few campsites are close enough that you can park nearby and make short trips to the campsite. Others are a bit farther apart and are actually better accessed by the river. These are rustic sites by definition but offer a basic tent space, picnic table, fire ring, and pit toilet. The sites are in isolated spots along the river and are accessible by canoe or by the trail that follows the riverbank. If you are a self-sufficient camper who wants to be away from even the smallest gathering of tents, these sites are for you. However, if you are bound to the land or don’t want the long haul, check out the five loops at the northern end of the southern section of this park.
Sibley State Park
Contact: 320-354-2055, dnr.state.mn.us /state_parks/sibley
Seems like every state park in southern Minnesota is located at the heart or edge of a key natural history area. This is no truer than at Sibley State Park, situated in that area of Minnesota where the eastern edge of the expansive great prairies meets the hardwood forests of the Big Woods region beyond those grasses. It’s an area where an even more ancient history reveals a landscape strewn with the rock and rubble from four glaciated periods. The staggered entrance driveway to each site along a narrow, serpentine road creates secluded and private camping sites throughout the first loop.
The lake and hills of Sibley Park are geological reminders of the receding ice fields and melting monolithic chunks of glaciers that left their mark on this region of not only Min- nesota but also the entire upper Midwest. The shoreline of the lake drops away sharply to the bottom—no long, sloping shelf. These are glacier-born lakes—bodies of water formed when glacial ice, once embedded in the landscape, melted. Those lakes are surrounded by ridges and hills formed when gigantic drain fields from retreating ice melts spewed gravel and boulders out across the plains. Today, those harsh reminders are subdued by tree-lined hills, ridges, and knolls and by flowing prairie grasses with clusters of renegade sumacs and the occasional gnarly oak sapling.
Fenske Lake Campground
Contact: Concessionaire: 218-365-2963, camprrm.com/parks/fenske-lake -campground; Kawishiwi Ranger District: 218-235-1299, tinyurl.com/fenskelakecg
By the time you’ve driven into Ely, the spirit of all that is northern Minnesota sur- rounds you. This is Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) country. Up the famous Echo Trail, every turn brings you closer to the remoteness and beauty of this country. Entering the campground at Fenske Lake brings it all home as the road climbs up a ridge guarded by stately white pines with a solid understory of balsam firs and old-growth aspens. As the road continues to the campground, the forest expands to include jack pines mixed with paper birch.
Fenske Lake looks the part of a BWCAW lake: it has the rocky, boulder-strewn shoreline and the islands and outcrops of the exposed Canadian Shield bedrock, and it has been graced with a full forest of red and white pines. Campgrounds closer to BWCAW access points may get crowded during the summer. Fenske Lake and other forest campgrounds can provide the perfect alternative for your camping outing. It’s also the perfect lake to perhaps avoid the BWCAW area for a weekend of swimming, canoeing, or fishing.