I Can Camp!

Two children reading in a tent by flashlight.

Overnight programs for beginning campers


2024 programs are now open!

How does someone who's more comfortable with computers than campfires get introduced to the fun of camping? With an I Can Camp! overnight program—no experience necessary. Our I Can Camp! crew will be on hand day and night to answer all of your "how do I do it?" questions. Whether your goal is a night in the campground or in the backcountry, we'll make sure you go home with all the skills needed to continue camping on your own.

  • A variety of trip formats to meet all interests and needs, including our new backpacking program.
  • Hands-on instruction on setting up camp, starting a campfire, camp cooking and more from our experienced I Can Camp! instructor crew.
  • Use of tent, air mattresses, cook stove and other gear included. Bring your own sleeping bag.
  • Pre-trip participant information packets are provided to make packing and planning as simple as possible.
  • Geocaching, fishing, hiking—each program offers additional unique activities that will entertain both adults and children.
  • Programs take place in state park campgrounds or group camping areas—see the Common Questions for more information. Each registered group will have their own space with a private picnic table.
  • Advance registration is required.
One night programs

Our flagship program, the one-night I Can Camp! program is perfect for people brand new to camping or those looking for a refresher. This overnight program will cover all the basics of camping in a state park campground.

  • $75 per group/family (up to five people per reservation).
  • All programs begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and end by 10 a.m. on Sunday.
  • A Minnesota state parks one-day vehicle permit is included.
  • Participants under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

2024 schedule

Ready to sign up? Reserve now!

Two night programs

Spend a little more time at camp with our two-night programs. We’ll cover all the basics from the one-night program but with more time for activities, and to relax and explore the park. We’ll teach you a few more camping tips and tricks with the extra time, too.

  • $105 per group/family (up to five people per reservation).
  • All programs begin at 2 p.m. on Friday and end by 10 a.m. on Sunday.
  • A Minnesota state parks one-day vehicle permit is included.
  • Participants under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

2024 schedule

Ready to sign up? Reserve now!

Backpacking programs

It can be daunting to step out of the campground and into the backcountry for the first time. Our backpacking programs will teach you all the basic skills needed for a successful backpacking trip.

  • $105 per pair (up to two people per reservation).
  • Reservation includes meals and backpacking equipment. (Sleeping bag not included.)
  • Participants must be at least ten years old.
  • Participants under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • All programs begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and end by 11 a.m. on Sunday.
  • A Minnesota state parks one-day vehicle permit is included.

Additional information for participants

We will email you an informational participant packet after you register. This packet will include information on how to prepare for your trip and what to expect, including packing lists. You'll also receive an email and/or a phone call from one of our program leaders to help you with trip planning and to discuss meal preferences.

Each registered pair will have their own individual campsite. The group will be spread out over about one-third of a mile at Lake Maria, and a bit closer together at Afton.

Please note: The I Can Camp! backpacking program will including walking at least 1.5 miles to (and from) camp. Participants will be expected to carry their own backpacks the entire way. The weight of your pack will vary based on the personal items you bring; packs may weigh up to 35 pounds.

2024 schedule

Ready to sign up? Reserve now!

I Can Paddle! Canoe Camping

Our overnight canoe camping programs will help prepare you for future paddling trips to lakes and riverside campsites. We'll help you plan for your trip and make sure that you learn all of the necessary canoeing and camping skills as we paddle and camp along the St. Croix River through St. Croix State Park, or on Savanna Lake located in Savanna Portage State Park.

  • $105 per canoe, with up to two people per canoe.
  • Reservation includes meals and all canoeing and camping equipment. (Sleeping bag not included.)
  • Participants must be at least 10 years old.
  • Participants under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Advance registration is required.
  • Programs begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude by noon the following day.
  • A vehicle permit is required to enter all Minnesota state parks ($7/day or $35/year). One-day vehicle permits ($7 value) are included with all I Can Paddle! programs where a permit is required.

Additional information

Participants will be provided with a pre-trip packet that includes additional program information, logistics and packing lists to help you prepare for your trip. These packets will be emailed out following your registration. Participants will also receive an email and/or phone call from program leaders regarding meal preferences.

Note that the participant experience differs slightly between the two locations:

St. Croix State Park: We'll meet at the park and then shuttle together up-river to the river access. We'll spend the day paddling to a remote rustic group campsite along the St. Croix River, where we'll focus on camp skills and spend the night. The next day we’ll break camp and paddle down-river, back to our vehicles at the park. These programs offer a more remote canoe camping experience, but you will need to shuttle up-river with us and you will not be near your vehicle overnight.

Savanna Portage State Park: We'll meet everyone at the group camp and paddle out directly from there. We'll spend the day paddling, and then return to the group camp to focus on canoe camping skills and spend the night. The next morning we’ll break camp and offer some additional canoeing instruction before we end the day at the group camp where we began. These programs are a bit more convenient for participants, since you won't need to shuttle.

2024 schedule

Ready to sign up? Reserve now!

Date Location
Saturday, June 29St. Croix State Park
Saturday, July 27St. Croix State Park
Saturday, August 10St. Croix State Park
Saturday, August 24Savanna Portage State Park
How much does it cost?

The one-night I Can Camp! program costs $75. The two-night program and the backpacking programs cost $105. Fees include use of camping equipment except for sleeping bags, and all camping and activity instruction.

If you arrive by vehicle, a daily vehicle permit will be provided as part of your program fee. You may buy an annual Minnesota state parks vehicle permit for an additional $35.

How many people can I bring?

One and two night programs

Each reservation is for up to five people. We will provide you with one tent and two queen-sized air mattresses. Note that having five people in one tent is only recommended for two adults and three small children. If you have multiple adults or older children, you may only be able to fit four people in your tent comfortably. If your group has more than five people, or more than four adults/older children, you should make additional reservations to ensure everyone has adequate space.

Backpacking programs

Each reservation is for up to two people. We will provide you with a two person tent and two sleeping pads. The two person tent also works well for solo use. If your group is larger than two, you will need to make additional reservations. Upon request we can provide four person tents for a group of 3 or 4 so you can share a sleeping space, but you would still need to make two reservations.

What age do my kids need to be?

One and two night programs

Kids will have a great time; however, young children require much more care and attention in an outdoor setting. For this reason, we do not recommend infants or toddlers for this program.

Backpacking programs

Participants in the backpacking programs must be at least ten years old.

Which programs are in campgrounds and which are in group camps?

Programs in state park campgrounds:

Each registered group will have their own non-electric drive-in campsite.

  • Afton State Park
  • Flandrau State Park
  • Itasca State Park
  • Jay Cooke State Park
  • Lake Carlos State Park
  • St. Croix State Park
  • Sibley State Park
  • Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
  • Wild River State Park

Programs in state park group camps:

Each registered group will have their own space within the group camp, and a private picnic table.

  • Fort Snelling State Park
  • Interstate State Park
  • Minneopa State Park
  • Whitewater State Park
What is different about the two-night program?

Our two-night programs will take your camping experience to the next level. We provide all the same information as in the one-night programs, plus even more. Two-night programs offer more time for activities like hiking, swimming, and relaxing with the family. We also spend time learning some more advanced skills such as putting up a tarp and cooking over an open fire.

Can we bring our dog?

Please do not bring pets. The attention your pets will need during the program will interfere with your experience. Pets are not permitted inside the tents provided for use at I Can Camp! programs.

What should I bring?

We provide the tent, air mattresses, firewood, cook stove, cook gear and most other basic camping equipment. You need to bring your own sleeping bags or bedding, groceries, and personal items. We'll send you a packing list after you sign up for a program. Meals and snacks are provided at backpacking programs only.

How do I register?

You can reserve your spot in an I Can Camp! program online. Or, if you prefer to sign up by phone, call us toll-free at 866-857-2757, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

We'll mail you a packing list and other pre-trip materials shortly after you register.

How long does each program last?

The one-night programs begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and conclude at 10 a.m. the next morning. Although the program ends in the morning, you are allowed to enjoy the park and campgrounds until 1 p.m.

The two-night programs begin at 2 p.m. on Friday and end at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The backpacking programs begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and end at 11 a.m. the next morning.

What will we be eating?

One and two night programs: You will bring your own groceries. We'll send you a recommended shopping list after you register. Our list will suggest particular meals and ingredients, but you may of course adjust the menu and quantities to your own budget and dietary needs. You will be responsible for all of your own food preparation, but we’ll help show you how to do everything.

Backpacking programs: We will provide pre-packaged dehydrated meals for this experience (dinner and breakfast). We will also provide pre-packaged snacks such as granola bars and trail mix. We ask that you bring your own lunch and any additional snacks you may want. You will be responsible for all of your own food preparation, but we’ll help show you how to do everything.

Can I sign up for more than one program?

Sure, if you'd like to. Our goal is for you to have the skills and confidence to try it on your own after you've attended a single program, but if you still want more, consider trying one of the two-night programs.

Will there be a lot of bugs?

Bugs are an unavoidable part of the camping experience! What kind and how many will depend on park location, weather and time of year. We've put bug spray on your list of items to bring, and we strongly advise against using aromatic sprays or soaps when you are outdoors because strong smells can attract mosquitoes and bees.

Will I have to sleep on the ground?

No, we will loan you good air mattresses and sleeping pads. You just need to bring your own bedding or sleeping bag.

What if it rains?

Your program will be held as scheduled unless there are severe weather conditions such as tornado or hail warnings. Check the weather report before coming to get an idea of what the weather may be like. Bring a rain jacket and some extra warm clothes to be safe.

What is there for kids to do?

All our activities will be child-friendly. Most kids have a great adventure when they go camping!

Can my family bring bikes or other recreation equipment?

Absolutely, but it's a good idea to check out the park's web page before hauling your equipment. (If you bring a canoe to a state park that doesn't have a lake nearby, you'll likely be sorely disappointed!) Once you've decided which park you'll be going to, you can find its web page here.



Sign up now!

Pre-registration is required for all I Can! programs.

Early registration is recommended, as these programs tend to fill up fast. Online reservations can be made 24 hours a day. Reserve now! Or, if you prefer to sign up by phone, call 866-857-2757.


All programs are subject to cancellation due to inclement weather or hazardous conditions. Cancellations for I Can! programs can be made up to one week prior to the program for a full refund minus the reservation fee.


Still have questions? Please contact the DNR Information Center. You can also get more information by emailing [email protected].


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