Our favorite part of this trip was renting stand up paddle boards. The lake water was crystal clear and glass like calm.
The weekend we camped it was scorching hot. Most of the hiking trails in the park were through the prairie grass. The High Peak Trail did have some lovely views though!
We booked our stay at the Lower Campground on a whim as it was one of the only campsites available in MN on a two week notice during Covid. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise! The park is perfect for a short weekend trip. Campground was well maintained with easy access to the hiking trails and a nice view of the lake. There was enough exploring to fill a day or two. The sites are close side-to-side, but trees line the outside sites and there is good back-to-back space between the inner sites. Not all sites have hammock trees though. We got very lucky with the August weather as the bugs were completely manageable both at the campground and on the hikes. The Lower Campground is the only one with electric sites, but the Oak Ridge had nice shade and space. Preferred sites in Lower Campground would be 7 for non-electric for privacy and lake views, and 14e, 16e, and 18e for electric. Bathrooms were not open for use when we came. Also, the water fill and dump stations are on the opposite side of most campers which was the only downside. There was not water supply at the dump station to rinse out the tank. But overall, it’s nice trip that’s only two hours from the Twin Cities. We enjoyed the prairie views and the lake. Will be back!
We tent camped in the non electric sites in the Lower Campground. They were shady thank goodness, but not very flat or large. Your tent will be on rocks, not grass.
When we were visiting, the shower house was closed due to Covid, so no review of that. The vault toilet was stocked with TP and fairly clean. The portapotty was near full and smelled awful. Didn’t look like it had been emptied all summer! Gross.
The lake was really high when we visited, which led to a useless campground fishing pier and a boat dock that you had to swim to to use. There was no beach, but there may have been if the water level was normal. Watch out for biting sunnies in the swim area and enormous snapping turtles stealing the fish off your hook at the fishing pier near the swim area.
We did go into Starbuck which is 5 miles away. Very impressive beach, groceries and a DQ all an easy drive away.
Glacial Lakes is approximately two hours from my home, which makes it an ideal campground to make an impulse day trip if the weather is right. If you are coming from the Twin Cities you pass through a lot of countryside with the occasional house or small town. Despite it being a slightly shorter drive than the trip to Duluth from my house, it felt like eternity in comparison. It also felt very very unlike the Minnesota that I’m familiar with.
It was a relief to get Lake Minnewaska, which is enormous and the little lake community gives you something to gape at. It also means that you are almost there- thank goodness. Glacial Lakes is relatively unknown considering its proximity to the twin cities, and the scale of its facilities definitely reflect that.
The entrance station was closed when we were there, but it looked nice and it is on the newer side. The parking area at the end of the road is not expansive, so come early if you are doing a day trip on amazingly nice days. I didn’t see the the group campsite or the Lower Campground(or the cabins that are in it) because the road was closed off to it, so I can’t speak on the quality of those campsites, but I’m assuming that they are nice because there is actually a restroom/shower building there.
I would not camp at the Oak Ridge Campground. The sites were rarely level and generally on top of each other with minimal privacy. There are also a handful of hike-in sites. Kettle Lake hike-in campsite is the iconic image of camping at this park thanks to the two little lakes that butt up right next to each other right at your campsite. I also wouldn’t camp here because there is no shade and I would cart-in, but NOT hike-in to a shadeless campsite.
Reviews of this park also mention a lot of ticks, so keep that in mind. There is also horse camping! Minimal shade here too, but there were some young trees. The road to the horse camping is NOT wide enough for two vehicles to pass, so if you are coming here with your equine friends cross your fingers that you don’t encounter anyone on that road.
We visited for the very first time on a nice day in March. The main parking area is in a wooded area, so you have to hike through quite a bit of hilly woods to get to the prairie section. This meant that there were a few treacherous icy and/or muddy spots despite the surrounding areas being snow-free. It also meant wading over a boardwalk that was covered in water that got higher on our way back from all the melting ice.
The prairie part was definitely beautiful and I will definitely visit again when the spring flowers are in bloom or on a nice fall day when the grass changes color. I don’t think it will be a park that I frequent often though, mostly because of the never-ending drive. We did the High Peak Trail, which was a nice point with a strong wind that almost ripped my beanie off the day that we visited.
Nice campground. The water in the lake is nice and clear. The swimming area isn’t awesome, but I have seen much worse.
We stayed in camper cabins that were really amazing. Fishing Pier and a small lake to canoe and kayak on. I’d definitely come back.
No shade or shelter is provided. Right next to water but it will clog up your water filter if you're using one. We saw beavers swimming; They were not fearful of campers. Due to the grass, there were many ticks, pets should be treated for ticks ahead of time. We didn't stay overnight due to the amount of then. Parking was easy, hike in was very easy and clearly defined. It's a good spot for camping in the fall or spring.
Possibly bring your own shade. Note that you CANNOT hammock camp at Kettle Lake. Firewood will also be slightly harder to find here due to lack of trees. It would be smart to carry your own in (if possible).