11 Great Places for Camping in the Twin Cities

11 Best Places to go Camping near the Twin Cities

The Twin Cities area is blessed with an abundance of natural attractions, and you don’t have to travel far from the metropolitan area to find yourself in the peace and tranquility of the great outdoors. For residents and visitors alike, here’s our list of 11 great places for camping in Twin Cities.

1. Afton State Park

One of the most attractive options within easy reach of the Twin Cities is Afton State Park. Lying on the St. Croix River near Hastings, only about a half-hour drive from St Paul’s, this is a haven for lovers of all outdoor activities. You’ll find 20 miles of hiking trails as well as 10 miles of bike trails and five miles of horse trails. There’s also fishing and swimming – and cross-country skiing in winter.

2. Baker Park Reserve

A hugely popular destination – and with good reason – is Baker Park Reserve. Located near Maple Plain on Lake Independence, the 2,700-acre site boasts over 200 campsites, all equipped with a picnic table and fire ring, ideal for preparing your camping coffee in the morning or hot meals in the evening. A wide range of activities is available, including golfing, fishing, boating, biking, horse riding – and cross-country skiing in winter.

3. Cleary Lake Park

Cleary Lake Park at Priory Lake is a destination for those who don’t like things to get overcrowded. The two camping grounds here, Red Pine and Basswood, are both tent-only, giving the place a more peaceful atmosphere than busier places full of RVs. This year-round destination has plenty of activities on offer to suit all tastes, including golf, fishing and hiking. There’s a swimming beach for those who feel like taking a dip in the lake as well as off-leash dog walking areas for visitors with pets.

4. William O’Brien State Park

Set against an alluring backdrop of tall white pine trees and impressive limestone bluffs, William O’Brien State Park is a camping area offering plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. There are various hiking trails, from the short 1.6-mile Riverside trail to longer and more challenging options. There are also good opportunities for swimming, boating, canoeing and bird watching. The camping ground boasts 112 drive-in campsites among others, making it a great option for those who enjoy camping comforts like a hot cup of coffee in the morning.

5. Lebanon Hills Regional Park

For a true taste of wilderness right next to the city, head to Lebanon Hills Regional Park. This 2,000-acre expanse of lakes, grassland and forest offers an escape from city life right on the doorstep of the Two Cities metropolitan area. Campsites include fire rings and picnic tables, and the on-site caretakers ensure the park remains in perfect condition. The 12-mile bike trail is also a big draw for mountain bike enthusiasts. One of the most convenient outdoor destinations in the area.

6. Lake Auburn Camping Ground, Carver Park Reserve

For a more rustic and authentic camping experience, you can head to Lake Auburn camping ground in the Carver Park Reserve. Here, you will find 57 campsites with no electricity or running water – just the opportunity to be close to nature. Wildlife is a highlight in the area, and you stand a chance of spotting trumpeter swans, ospreys, barred owls, mink, white-tailed deer and more. The area has plenty of hiking trails for all abilities that allow you to explore the surrounding Three River Park area.

7. Three Rivers Park

Close to Carver Park Reserve, the greater Three Rivers Park area offers over 2,700 acres of parks and trails to explore. The park offers a full range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding, golf, paddling and archery. There are also several educational activities available to help you understand more about the local environment and its conservation. A great option for those who want a quick escape into nature.

8. Lake Maria State Park

Lake Maria State Park is located to the northwest of the Twin Cities, near Monticello. It is possibly at its most spectacular during the fall when the leaves change color and the area is transformed into a tableau of orange and gold. However, there are also some great winter destinations, including ski-in or walk-in camper cabins. This area is also known for wildlife, and you have the chance to spot many interesting species of bird.

9. Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Located in the eastern suburbs, Lake Elmo Park Reserve is another convenient destination for those looking to escape the city without needing to travel too far. The area covers 2,165 acres, of which 80% is set aside for protection and preservation. You will discover a variety of picturesque landscapes where wildlife abounds. There are plenty of interesting hiking trails, and you have a real chance of spotting weasels, white-tailed deer, red fox and squirrels as well as a large number of bird species.

10. Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is another camping area within easy striking distance of the metropolitan area. As the name suggests, you can expect to find some prime forest full of intriguing hiking trails waiting for you to explore. The colors are stunning in fall, but the park is equally vibrant in spring when the flowers begin to bloom. The 51 drive-in campsites on offer make this a practical destination for short breaks from the city.

11. Bunker Hills Regional Park

A range of camping options are available at Bunker Hills Regional Park, including rustic campsites, 30-amp or 50-amp campsites with water hook-ups, camper cabins and an RV sanitation. Showers and restrooms are also available. You will find a full range of activities, including hiking, biking, golf – and during winter, cross-country skiing.

So many choices only a stone’s throw away from the Twin Cities…

As you can see, residents of the Twin Cities and visitors alike are spoilt for choice with a wide range of camping options only a stone’s throw from the metropolitan area. The most difficult part might be deciding which outdoor area to explore first.

Read next: Minneapolis/St. Paul rank #1 for best parks