Located on the St. Croix River, just 20 miles east of Saint Paul, Afton State Park is great for those looking for camping near Minneapolis and is 1600 acres of rolling prairies, oak woodlands, and limestone river canyons amid an ancient glacial landscape. The land for the park was acquired in 1967, but it took almost 15 years of planning revisions and compromises with local residents before the park finally opened in 1982. Little development has gone into Afton State Park in an effort to maintain its natural characteristics, and former farmland atop the bluffs are continuously being restored to their original state. This makes Afton an ideal destination for campers looking to experience the outdoors in a wilder setting.
Load up your backpack with all you’ll need for your stay, as camping at Afton State Park requires a hearty, 0.75-mile hike in from the parking area. The year-round campground offers 27 rustic sites with picnic tables and fire pits, with options for pitching your tent in either open or wooded areas. There is drinking water, a vault toilet and firewood is supplied within the camp area. There is also three boat-in campsites, and two group campsites that can accommodate up to 60 people each. If you’d rather not rough it, the park also offers four camping cabins and two yurts, some of which are wheelchair accessible. There are also several picnic areas and restrooms within the park. Campsite rates range from $15–$23/night; cabins range from $55–$70/night, and yurts $50–$65/night.
When you’re ready to explore, start at the park’s Nature Store where you can pick up information about the park’s flora and fauna, or join a nature walk. Then choose from more than 20 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, as well as a short barrier-free path. If you’re visiting in winter, many of these trails are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Bring your GPS and go on a geocaching treasure hunt, or bring your binoculars and go on safari for a variety of migratory birds, waterfowl, and wildlife, including deer, foxes and badgers. And little ones will love becoming Junior Park Naturalists and learning about bugs, birds, plants and other critters. If you’re looking for a real outdoor adventure, Afton State Park has what you’re looking for.
Great state park with lots of amenities. This was only my second camping trip, my first being the superior trail with an 8 mile hike in and no amenities. More fun in my opinion to search for your own firewood and really rough it, but it was to have water and wood available close to the site we were at (site 22) because we got in later and lost some daylight. The hike in was shorter and far less strenuous than my first trip, but note that it is uphill. If you’re carrying a heavy pack, expect to sweat a bit. Paved sidewalks into the park, wide dirt and rocky paths into the camp site which was nice given the amount of other day hikers (space to spread out). My boyfriend and I loved that our site was so secluded. There is also a lot of variety to the sites. The sites 1 through about 10 (if my memory doesn’t fail me) are fairly wooded. Our site had a nice balance of wooded area and open terrain/sky. We were lucky to get to see some beautiful fall colors.
A few notes: the wood provided is THICK. They must haul the logs in with a truck. Saws are provided at the wood site, but be prepared to take some time on it. We had a hand saw so we were able to pack our packs with some large pieces and do some sawing at our campsite as the sawing station was busy with families and other campers. Lots of bark available to get a good fire started. The wood is not covered so if it rains the night before you come in, be ready to deal with some damp wood.
Water station takes about 30 seconds to start up. There are also two bathrooms within the camp site that are what you expect them to be. Hand sanitizer and TP stocked.
Never saw a ranger while we were there. We loved the privacy. Lots of spiders. Comes with the terrain.
The site was perfect for our hammocks. They are super kind if you want to call ahead to get an idea of what your site looks like. It was also great to be able to see what other sites were occupied on the day we decided to make a reservation. There is a grill top on your fire pit (we packed our own grill top, could’ve left it at home).
Overall it was a great overnight trip. Close to our home so I’m sure we’ll be back for a quick trip next year.
Site 27. This is a river landscape. Spiders and snakes..oh my. The parking lot is paved and has a dumpster. This is also where the nature center is. There are often music festivals and family events here. It is also next to Afton Ski resort. This park has a lot of beautiful prairie landscape with some temperate forest features. Wildflowers, shrubs, fungi, evergreens, and deciduous trees. Backpacking to the top hill sites has gotten easier as the park has curved the new wide groomed and wood chipped trail to spiral around the hill instead of a straight climb. There is a solar panel generated drinking water pump at the top and a honor system fire wood station. There is a bathroom, but not super close to this site. This site has a fire pit with grate and table but no bear box. This site does have a clear view to the trail and the site next to it, but it is set back a little bit. I can hear the joggers along the trail that wraps around the site. The sites are mapped out on a wide open prairie ground with some sites tucked back in the trees along the trail. There is not a water front view, but there is plenty of wildlife. The dear and flowers are beautiful. There is partial tree covering but we did bring a tarp for the rain.
Sites are nice and private, and the campground was quiet the whole time. The firewood available ($6) was dry and burned well, although you do have to cut it yourself. There are saws provided at the pile near the water spigot. The ranger was very friendly too. No doubt about it, it's not the easiest hike in but wasn't too bad. I don't suggest doing it on a 90 degree day like we did, but jumped in the river (1/2 mile or so from campground) right after which felt great! One of the bathrooms (the one near the water and woodpile) smelled SO STRONGLY of ammonia from the vault toilet that you could taste it and feel it when you took a breath inside of the bathroom! I have a very strong stomach and it was tough for me to be in the bathroom long enough to use it. Park was notified. I would stay here again, although I personally think that $27(20/night + 7/reservation fee) for one night of backpack camping is pretty steep. Pics are of the woodpile and site 22. Sites were clean and maintained.
Backpacking up the trail to the campgrounds was strenuous with a 45lb pack and 9 person tent (overkill but that’s what the kiddo wanted, so 🤷🏽♂️). Beautiful views on the way up, gorgeous views upon entry. Self-serve firewood was $6 for all you can cut/carry. The saws worked great and made quick work of the wood!
Right next to the self-serve firewood was the solar powered water pump, which had delicious water! We ran into many deer, saw plentiful stars and constellations. On our way out we stopped at the beach to take a breather, get our feet wet, and compose ourselves before the last leg of the trail to the parking lot.
Will definitely be returning to enjoy ourselves again!
A great location along the St. Croix River, easily accessible from the Twin Cities or from West-Central Wisconsin. The sites offer some privacy with most being laid out to benefit RV's and only a few tent-only sites.
This is a great park if you have a boat of any kind as you can launch from within the park in order to enjoy time on the St. Croix River. We spent time both on the river and on the hiking trails within the park.
Many families come here for day trips as well since it was once a corporate retreat and, as such has open (lightly tree-covered grassland) with picnic tables. Once the day-use people leave, it is a pretty quiet campground with most of the campers having younger children. You might encounter some groups who come to spend a day on the water before returning to the campground later at night, but most campers are respectful of others and it's rarely very noisy.
The hike to the campground is short and grueling. A few of the sites are in wooded areas, but we stayed in one of the prairie sites. The terrain is just hilly enough - and in August - the grass long enough to give the sites a sense of privacy and seclusion.
No shortage of lovely trails at Afton to spend your day on.
Less than an hour from the cities, this is a perfect little camping getaway. If you are looking for a nice backpacking experience, Afton has this and more. We pulled a sled and hiked 1.4 miles to our campsite. The hike was very challenging and uphill. The campsites are nicely spaced and diverse. Some are more wooded and others in the open prairie. We selected campsite 11 as it had some nice trees and was down a ridge, very private. There is a vault toilet, solar well water (year-round) and a wood pile available right at the campground (pay later) - these amenities were closest to campsite 10 and 11.
The state park is gorgeous. There are rolling hills throughout and some of the hikes can be deemed as “difficult”. We opted to get off the beaten trail and snowshoed in the woods, following deer tracks. This is one nice thing about winter hikes as you are allowed to leave the trail. We went up and down ravines and got in a beautiful hike and workout. They offer xcountry skiing, snowshoeing and hiking in the winter. We hiked 19 miles in 2 days.
We camped here 2 years ago in the spring and really enjoyed campsite 1 and 2. They are wooded and private. Campsite 2 has a few great hammock spots. We snowshoed around and really enjoyed campsite 18 as well, as it overlooks the river. They also have a beach and swimming in the summer on the St Croix. Afton really has it all. I HIGHLY recommend this state park.
Beautiful site in the winter for a winter camp-out. The ski hill help light our way to the campsite in the winter. The trail and sites were marked well for winter campers so for our night hike-in after a 2.5 hour drive north was a bit frustrating but that didn't take away from the experience. Nice site overall. The lights from the ski hill took away from the experience of being further out from the standard camp site but the hiking was beautiful, nice views along the trail and we hiked. I would recommend for someone who has gone winter camping before.
Spent a portion of the day at the park as the campground was closed. Right near the St Croix river and the park offers a great swimming beach and hiking trails. There is a golf course and ski hill as additional opportunities. Looking forward to the campground opening.
This may be an ongoing issue but none of the fwater faucets or water pumps on the trails at Afton State Park are working. The good news is you can fill up on cold drinking water at the visitor center before trekking around the park's beautiful hiking trails!