There's nothing like finding the perfect campsite.
I look for them wherever I go, and when I was at Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, one of the most popular campgrounds in Wisconsin, I found it: Campsite 435.
It's framed but not enclosed by trees, has a lovely view of Crystal Lake and is on the edge of its sand beach. It's near the shower house and not too close to latrines, easy to reach but not heavily trafficked and off a paved bicycle trail to nearby towns.
No summer vacation is more fun than a Circle Tour of one of the Great Lakes — and nothing is more of a pain than planning one.
Fans of sand and sun love Lake Michigan, which is lined by state and city parks with gorgeous stretches of sand and dunes. You can’t buy a better beach vacation at any price, but you have to plan ahead.
Planning is tricky because you pass through four states, 30 state parks and two big metropolitan areas, each of which floods beaches with hordes of sun-worshippers on weekends.
Not all the beach camping in the Upper Midwest is in a state park or even in the countryside.
In the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Three Rivers Park District offers camping and camper cabins on lakes in three park reserves. They’re a great deal for visitors and also for locals who want to save gas money and travel time.
The campsites at Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain, near the beach on Lake Independence, are most popular. The campground includes four camper cabins with screened porches; three sleep six and one is accessible and sleeps five. They’re $50.
For people who love the outdoors, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.
Is it a Jacuzzi or a latrine? A four-course breakfast or a fire ring?
The answer is not so obvious. If the choice also includes starry skies, silence and snow-laden pines, many folks would take a camper cabin over a fancy inn, even if they have to use vault toilets and cook over a fire.
In summer, the nomads are on the move.
These days, their dwellings might look the same whether they’re herding yaks on the steppes of Kyrgyzstan or exploring
tidepools along the Oregon coast.
The round, cloth-sided hut called a yurt — or ger, in Mongolia — originated in Central Asia but now can be found in state parks across North America.
At its best, camping is like going to a resort, except cheaper.
You've got everything you need to have fun, except a roof. In Grand Marais, the municipal campground is right on
Lake Superior and next to the city's indoor pool and hot tub.
In Lanesboro, the campsites of Sylvan Park are right off the Root River State Trail, and campers can buy morning
pastries across the pond at the Saturday farmers' market.
Even if you camp, you don't have to rough it.
A lot of state parks have plenty of woods, water and wildlife, but they're also just a short bike ride or walk away from the finer things in life — say, a pizza parlor or ice-cream stand.
Nearby restaurants make packing easy because you can leave the pots, dishes, soap and firewood home. Even if you like cooking over a fire, it's still nice to go out for a treat.
People who want choice campsites in popular state parks need to plan ahead. Here's how to do it.
For general information, see How to find the best campsites.
For specific spots, see 30 great campsites.
On the northwest corner of Lake Superior, a 1,000-foot-high sleeping giant stretches across the horizon.
It’s mesmerized onlookers for millennia. In 2007, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. listeners voted it No. 1 of Seven Wonders of Canada, far outpolling Niagara Falls.
From Hillcrest Park in Thunder Bay, it looks exactly like a cigar-store Indian, with a square jaw and arms folded over a
In Kandiyohi County, it's thanks to the last Ice Age that life's a beach today.
Near Willmar, a lobe of the last glacier came to a grinding halt 12,000 years ago, dumping massive blocks of ice that made big dents in the ground.
Now, they're lakes, popping up like mirages at the edge of soybean fields, behind screens of ash and cottonwoods. Farther north, they're hidden amid rocky meadows and rolling hillocks full of glacial rubble.
Had it with mosquitoes? Head for southeast Minnesota.
That's karst country, where porous limestone lies just under the surface and rain sinks into fast-moving underground streams that are chilled to 48 degrees when they run through the many cave systems.
Trout like it, but mosquitoes don't. There's no standing water, so there's nowhere for them to breed.