We’re talking about camping all this month here at HDT. It’s a great time to squeeze in that last minute camping trip with the family before the school year starts, a trip with your best pals, or a solo trip all by yourself! Whoever is involved, it’s one last time to relax in your hammock, lounge at the beach, get your heart beating on a hike, or hang around the campfire while enjoying the summer weather. Time in nature has a multitude of mental, physical and emotional health benefits. You can read all about them in our previous blog. But to sum it up, time in nature helps us hit the reset. It’s a chance to relax, unplug from our screens, clear our minds, analyze life’s challenges with a different perspective, and to appreciate all the natural beauty in the world around us.
“Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.” – Sigurd Olson
For folks who are relatively new to the world of camping, it can be a little overwhelming as there are endless ways to camp! There are public campgrounds and private campgrounds; state parks, national parks, and regional parks; you could camp in a tent, RV, yurt, or cabin; you can get to your campsite by car, boat, bikes, horses, feet, and probably a few other ways I haven’t been creative enough to think of. Even once you decide what type of camping is for you, you have to decide where to go, what to bring, how to select your site, what safety precautions to consider, what you’re going to eat and how to keep yourself entertained once you’ve arrived. It’s all a lot to consider, but we’re going to try our best to walk you through it in this month’s blog posts! The first thing you have to decide is where you’re going to go.
You essentially have three main options – private campgrounds, public campgrounds, or wilderness camping locations. I’m using “wilderness camping locations” to refer to sites that you can’t drive to – you have to put in some effort to get there, one way or another. We’ll discuss these in the “Wilderness Camping” post, so for now, we’re just talking about our drive-to locations.
Privately owned campgrounds and/or resorts tend to offer extensive amenities, such as swimming pools/water slides, mini golf, sports courts, playgrounds, restaurants, game rooms, candy shops, ice cream stands, toy stores, etc. It can be easier to book a site at a private campground, but it’s almost always more expensive. The sites tend to be smaller and less private, allowing owners to maximize their profits. That’s what you have to remember – these campgrounds are about the profits and are trying to get you to buy just about anything and everything. They tend to be more commercialized than public campgrounds.
A spacious site at Itasca State Park.
Public campgrounds in Minnesota include campgrounds owned/operated by State Parks, State and National Forests, Cities/Counties/Municipalities, and the Army Corps of Engineers. In other areas of the country they may be operated by National Parks, the US Forest Service, or the Bureau of Land Management. Public campgrounds can be harder to reserve due to their lower cost and locations in highly scenic areas. These areas have been set aside due to their beauty and natural resources, providing a great place to connect with nature. They tend to offer a wider variety of outdoor recreation opportunities in regards to trails/public land use and usually have larger, more private sites than many privately-owned campgrounds.
The most extensive list of campgrounds in Minnesota that I have come across is offered by Explore Minnesota. This list is comprised of 780 campgrounds in Minnesota and you can sort by what you’re looking for in your campground – private vs. public, which type of public, location, amenities, pet friendly, accessibility for people with disabilities, recreation options, and more. If you’re not sure which type of camping is for you, try out both a public and private campground! It can be hard to know without getting the feel for each.
Other Resources to Explore:
HipCamp – Every time I look at this website, it has more and more options, and more and more places I’d like to go! Think of this as the AirBnB for camping. It offers unique camping experiences across the nation in a variety of forms. In some places, you might just be renting a space where you could put a tent or RV, others include a tent, RV, tree house, cottage, yurt, inflatable bubbles, and who knows what else!! The sites are located in a variety of areas, including parks, private land, vineyards, ranches, farms, and more!
FreeCampsites – Are you looking for free/low cost camping locations? Or are you planning a road trip and looking for campgrounds along the way? Check out this resource! You can enter your start/end locations, plus add in stops along the way, and this trip planner will show you all the free/low cost options along the way!
National Parks – Minnesota is home to only one National Park – Voyageurs National Park. This park is a maze of waterways, so some sort of watercraft is pretty much a necessity. We’ll discuss this park more in our wilderness camping blog. In the meantime, don’t overlook these parks as great places to camp! Just like our state parks protect Minnesota’s gems in the natural world, the National Parks protect some of our country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.