MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Camping in the Twin Cities

For many, a lake vacation is a hop, skip and jump from home.

A camper cabin at Baker.

© Beth Gauper

Baker Park Reserve has four camper cabins near Lake Independence.

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.

Baker has showers and electrical hookups, but the 204 campsites make it very busy on weekends — "like a little city,'' said one reservation agent. The park includes Baker National Golf Course, which has an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole executive course.

Baker also includes the Near-Wilderness Settlement, where groups of up to eight  can rent one of eight rustic log cabins for $115, $175 for two nights.

The cabins have wood stoves, and firewood is provided. and cooking/eating utensils is provided.

The eight cabins and a nearby log lodge with modern restrooms and an institutional kitchen can be rented together up to a year in advance, but individual groups can rent a cabin during eight weekends that include naturalist programs.

Tent campers might prefer the rustic 57-site Lake Auburn campground at Carver Park Reserve in Victoria, which is connected by the Lake Minnetonka Regional LRT Trail to the lakeside village of Excelsior.

Excelsior has many shops and restaurants, and the bicycle trail continues east to Hopkins, connecting with the rest of the Twin Cities trails.

For more, see Bicycling through the Minneapolis suburbs.

Cleary Lake Park Reserve in Prior Lake has just five rustic sites at the Red Pine Hike-In Family Campground. It's a busier park and includes the nine-hole Cleary Lake Golf Course.

In 2014, reservations open at 8 a.m. March 10. Holiday weekends fill in the first few hours.

For camping farther west of the Twin Cities, in Wright, Meeker and Kandiyohi counties, see Camping out west.

Eastern suburbs

A campsite at Baker Park Reserve.

© Three Rivers Parks

At Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain, a camper is just half an hour from downtown Minneapolis.

On the St. Paul side of the metro area, Washington County offers campgrounds in Lake Elmo Park Reserve in the town of Lake Elmo, east of St. Paul, and St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, overlooking the St. Croix River south of Afton.

Campsites are available from late April to late October. Reservations open the first business day of January.

Weekend reservations must include Friday and Saturday nights, and there's a three-night minimum on holiday weekends.

Southern suburbs

Dakota County offers campgrounds in Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, not far from the Minnesota Zoo, and Lake Byllesby Regional Park on Lake Byllesby Reservoir, just west of Cannon Falls.

Campgrounds are open from May through mid-October.

Northern suburbs

Anoka County offers tent, RV and cabin camping in Bunker Hills Regional Park in Coon Rapids, near Bunker Beach Water Park and Bunker Park Stable.

It also offers camping in Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve in Lino Lakes, near Wargo Nature Center and Chomonix Golf Course.

Reservations open the first business day of January. Call Bunker Hills at 763-862-4970 and Rice Creek at 651-426-7564 or reserve online.

It also offers first-come, first-served canoe camping in Rum River North County Park and Rum River Central Regional Park.

State parks within an hour

Many state parks are near the Twin Cities. East of St. Paul, there's camping and four camper cabins in William O'Brien State Park in Marine on St. Croix. There's camping and four camper cabins at Afton State Park in Afton.

Both parks are on the St. Croix River.

Just across the Wisconsin border near Hudson, there's camping in Willow River State Park.

West of the Twin Cities, there's camping in Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area along the Minnesota River, in an area popular for bird-watching.

Northwest of the Twin Cities, just of I-94, there's camping and three camper cabins at Lake Maria State Park, near Monticello.

For more about reserving campsites in state parks, see Camping in state parks.

For more about camper cabins, see A roof in the woods.


Last updated on January 22, 2014

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