Camping in Minnesota state forests

tent camping in a state forest

Minnesota state forests offer four different rustic camping opportunities—take your pick! Dedicated campsites generally include:

  • Cleared area
  • Fire ring
  • Vault toilet
  • Picnic table
  • Garbage cans
  • Drinking water

Individual campsites

Available on a first-come, first-served basis, and provide only basic camping amenities. Individual campsites are designated for individuals or single families. Fees collected on site.

Group campsites

Group campsites are designated for larger groups, and provide only basic camping amenities. For more information, call the state forest's campground listed contact.

Horse campsites

Horse campsites allow horses. In addition to the basic camping amenities provided, these sites may also have picket lines and compost bins for manure disposal. First-come, first-served sites. Fees collected on site.

Dispersed camping

If you enjoy camping far from others and with no amenities at all, dispersed camping is for you. With dispersed camping, you must camp least one mile outside of designated campsites or campgrounds on state forest land. No fee. First-come, first-served.

For a listing of all state forests, see main state forest page. For information about accessibility of state forest campgrounds and day-use areas, see state forests with accessible features.

When camping in state forests, please:

  • Use existing camping areas.
  • Avoid cutting or damaging trees and other plants.
  • Avoid camping under large trees because branches may fall.
  • Light fires only within fire rings and charcoal grills in state forest designated-use areas. Do not leave fires unattended, and extinguish all fires before leaving. Don't burn household refuse.
  • Protect our state forests — don't move firewood. Wood that is dead and lying on the ground may be gathered for campfire use onsite.
  • Use toilets where available. In nontoilet areas, bury human waste.
  • Remove all rubbish and keep your campsite clean and tidy.
  • Keep dogs and other pets under control at all times.

FAQs about camping in a state forest

Q. How is a state forest campground different from a state park?

A. Unlike state park campgrounds, forest campgrounds do not have resident managers, organized nature programs, or modern facilities such as showers and flush toilets. They are semi-modern areas, designed to furnish the basic needs and provide opportunities for recreationists to pursue a variety of unstructured outdoor activities. Campgrounds are patrolled regularly to provide security and service to visitors.

Q. May I camp anywhere in a state forest, or do I need to stay in a designated campground?

A. DNR Forestry asks all overnight campers to help protect state forests by only using designated campsites. Designated campsites have fire rings to contain flames and litter containers that prompt campers to dispose of garbage properly. However, dispersed camping is allowed in state forests. Please practice the "leave no trace" camping ethic if you camp outside of designated areas. When building a campfire while dispersed camping, select a level spot a safe distance away from trees, low overhead branches, shrubs, dry grass, or logs to prevent the fire from escaping, and clear all combustibles within 5 feet of campfire. Keep campfires no larger than 3 feet wide and 3 feet high. Attend the fire at all times. Completely extinguish your fire before leaving the area. It should be cold to the touch.