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DNR shares tips for planning a summer camping trip in state parks, recreation areas

Mar 30, 2024 06:33AM ● By Editor
Photo by Jonathan Forage on Unsplash

From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - March 30, 2024

As Minnesotans prepare for the summer camping season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is sharing tips to help campers plan their summer camping adventures. 

“We know Minnesotans love being outdoors, and camping at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas is more popular than ever,” said Ann Pierce, state parks and trails director. “Camping provides so many benefits, like connection with nature, relaxation, and quality time with loved ones. While we are experiencing some winter-like weather this week, we know Minnesotans are eager to plan their summer vacations. We want to make it easy and fun to plan a summer camping adventure, so we’ve gathered some of our top tips. We look forwarding to seeing you in state parks and recreation areas this summer!” 

Choose the right location
Looking for something special? Use the ParkFinder tool to find a state park or recreation area with the recreation opportunities, amenities or facilities important to you. Among other things, ParkFinder can screen for accessible campsites and bathroom facilities. Trip planners can search by programs, things to see, camping or lodging types, recreation facilities, trail types or rental equipment offered.  

Book campsites and lodging early, and be flexible
Now is a great time to book summer camping reservations. Reservations for campsites and lodging in state parks and recreation areas can be made up to 120 days in advance. This means all of June and some of July are already within the reservation window. Reservations are in high demand for holiday weekends, campsites with electric hookups and the most popular parks.  

If reservations are full for preferred location and dates, the DNR has three suggestions. First, sign up for the “notify me” function on the reservation website to get notified by email if there’s a cancellation. Cancellations do occur regularly. Second, consider a camping trip on weekdays instead of the busy weekends. Third, look for open reservations at less busy parks. There are more than 70 state parks and recreation areas across the state, and many of them always have camping reservations available. If the first choice park is full, use the ParkFinder tool to find another location.  

Cancel if plans change
If a camping reservation is made but plans have changed, reservations can be canceled on the DNR website opens in a new browser tab or via phone at 866-857-2757. Campers who will not be able to use their reservation are strongly encouraged to cancel, not just to get a full or partial refund, but to open those camping opportunities to other campers. There is no cancellation fee if a reservation is canceled 14 or more days prior to the scheduled arrival.  

Check out the summer activities guide  
The DNR offers an online summer activity guide that provides information on a variety of recreation opportunities in state parks and recreation areas, including biking, birding, swimming, tours, fishing, paddling, picnicking and more. 

Find state park events and programs
Events are scheduled at many state parks throughout the year, offering a wide range of activities from fishing and birding to guided hikes to crafting to learning about park wildlife. No prior experience is necessary to participate, and most events are free. Find event listings on the parks and trails event calendar

People camping with kids will want to check out the Junior Ranger program. Junior Ranger booklets can be picked up at ranger stations during open hours or printed at home. Kids who complete the program earn a badge. There’s no cost to participate. Details are available on the Junior Ranger webpage

Check visitor alerts before leaving home
Staff post visitor alerts on the DNR website to communicate important information related to safety, closures, construction projects and other things that might impact trips. Find visitor alerts at the top of each individual park website

Don’t get lost — use Avenza
The Avenza Maps app uses GPS location tracking so park visitors find their location, even when off the grid. After the app and a park or trail map is downloaded, no internet or cell service is needed. DNR maps can be downloaded for free. Get details on the DNR’s GeoPDF webpage. 

Get a vehicle permit
Each vehicle requires a vehicle permit in state parks and recreation areas. Permits can be purchased on the state park permits website or at ranger stations during open hours. The cost is $7 per day or $35 per year. Save time and get the permit when making a camping reservation through the online reservation system opens in a new browser tab.

Pack appropriately
Make a checklist of essential camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bags, cooking items, food, water, clothing and personal hygiene items. When deciding what clothing and footwear to pack, be prepared for various weather conditions, including rain, wind, and temperature fluctuations. Don't forget to pack health and safety items such as insect repellent, sunscreen and a first-aid kit.

Take photos and share them 
Make sure to bring a camera to document the camping trip, then share photos with the DNR. Images submitted might be featured on the DNR’s social media accounts. Share photos on the DNR photo sharing webpage.

For more information about any of these camping tips, visit the DNR website.  

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