By Trent Jonas
In a state that has more than 10,000 lakes and at least as many campsites, it can be tough to choose the best spots to pitch a tent or park your RV. But we’re here to help you out. Minnesota boats an abundance of beautiful water-side campsites that allow for a weekend of active fun. Here are five campsites that will take your breath away.
Devil Track Campground isn’t in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), but it may as well be. The campground stretches along the northwest shore of Devil Track Lake, just off the Gunflint Trail between Grand Marais and the BWCA. Most of the 16 sites have a view of the lake, which is easily accessible no matter where you pitch your tent. The campground’s location in the Superior National Forest means you’ll get that big, remote North Woods feel that the BWCAW offers. But you won’t have to wait for your name to come up in the permit lottery to camp. Just make a reservation. Bring a canoe or kayak, fishing gear, and your hiking shoes. Take advantage of the angling opportunities on Devil Track Lake, as well as the nearby streams. While hiking, keep your eyes peeled for moose, bear, and the ever-present but often-elusive timber wolf.
Mille Lacs Lake is a vast circle of fresh water in the center of Minnesota. It’s a fishery that attracts smallmouth bass and walleye anglers in all seasons. And when you’re sitting at a campfire, looking out over the water, it seems almost magical. One of the best ways to enjoy a roaring fire on the shore of Mille Lacs is to book a site at Father Hennepin State Park. Located on a peninsula, just west of Isle, Minnesota, the park offers lakefront glory at its best. Don’t settle for just any site, though. Reserve sites 1-7 at the Lakeview Campground. Others in the campground, while close to the lake, are not exactly lakefront. Our favorite is site seven because it’s a little farther away from traffic and other campers.
McCarthy Beach State Park, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, is an isthmus of boreal forest separates Sturgeon Lake and Side Lake. The terrain is hilly, the roads are narrow, but the half-mile of sandy beach on Sturgeon Lake was listed among the best beaches in the country by Highways Magazine. The Side Lake Campground offers a strand of lakefront sites. Our favorites are sites 46 and 50 because of their privacy. About half the sites at the smaller Beatrice Lake Campground are lakefront, but you do have to walk in. On the other hand, this helps guarantee a little more solitude.
Located in west-central Minnesota, Maplewood State Park contains thousands of acres dotted with deciduous forests and punctuated by placid lakes and ponds. It shows it’s true colors—literally—in the fall, when the park’s namesake maples take on their fiery autumn hues. Trees such as these are best enjoyed near water, and the Grass Lake Campground is the place to be for this. On the Main Loop, sites seven, eight, 16, and 27 offer the best lakefront experience. The best sites may be on the Knoll Loop, though. If you can reserve one, grab site 46, 48, 50, or 52 for the best lake views.
Temperance River State Park is located on the North Shore, where the eponymous river flows into Lake Superior. Spectacular rapids that burst into roiling cauldrons mark the river’s gorge as it flows to its mouth at the Big Lake, and this is where you’ll make your camp. While there are some awesome views in the Upper Campground, try and get a site in the Lower Campground so that you’re closer to the lake. The best lakeside spots are cart-in spots, so you’ll need a tent to enjoy them. Sites 46 and 47 are definitely the way to go. If you want to enjoy the park’s ruggedness without carting a tent to your site, you’ll have to work with a little more altitude above the lake: Shoot for site five or six in the Upper Campground.