The First Steps Toward A Fabulous State Park Camping Trip

Story by MN Department of Natural Resource staff



Maybe you’ve thought about camping for a while. Minnesota state parks and recreation areas feature more than 5000 campsites throughout the state. Now is a good time to pick a location and make a campsite reservation. Whether you use a Recreation Vehicle (RV) or you walk in and sleep beneath the stars, there’s a place for you.

If you are brand new to the idea of camping, consider taking an I Can Camp! Program through Parks and Trails. All the necessary equipment is provided, and you’ll learn camping skills like how to set up a tent and build a fire, and lots more. For a schedule of programming, go to

Next, you will need a destination. The ParkFinder tool at is a great way to search for a state park that offers facilities and amenities to meet your needs. Most state parks offer drive-in sites close to a shower building, and many parks offer sites with electric hook-up, popular for campers with RVs. Backpack, walk-in or cart-in sites offer a more quiet and rustic camping experience. You’ll have to carry your gear to your campsite, but the online reservation system will tell you just how far your walk will be from your parking spot. 

Group campsites are a great choice for family or friend groups who wish to camp together and fit up to 50 people. Reservations may be made for all state parks at or make reservations by phone at 866-857-2757. In addition to your campsite reservation, you’ll need a state park vehicle permit, which you can buy at the same time you reserve your campsite or when you arrive at the park. The cost is $7 per day or $35 for a full year.

There are a few things to do before you leave home. Always check the park website for notices or alerts that may impact your trip, and check the weather forecast to make sure you’re prepared with proper clothing and gear for the weather conditions.

Skipping ahead: consider what activities will keep you and your friends and family occupied and happy once you arrive at the park. The park websites list lots of activities. While in the planning stage, you can start to look forward to hiking, swimming, outdoor cooking, moonlight walking, marshmallow roasting, birdwatching, fishing, naturalist programs, photography of breathtaking scenery, tours and more. Some parks have children’s play areas. Many parks let you borrow or rent equipment, from a canoe to a birding kit or a fishing pole with a tackle box.

You’ll find a camping checklist, campsite rules and much more on the Minnesota DNR website at Camping, for a nominal fee, opens the outdoors for children while giving adults a chance to take in new scenery, breathe deeply, and learn new skills. State parks are a great place to begin a new chapter of camping adventures.

Images Courtesy Minnesota DNR

Horse camping is pretty specialized, and not something that a person is likely to try for their first camping experience. I think we can remove horse camping for this “101” type article.  [B(1]

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