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).