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Chippewa National Forest, MINNESOTA
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Most Recent Chippewa National Forest Camping Reviews
On the lake

Great campground on Leech Lake. Well kept and spacious sites.

Beautiful Park with Activities

Just got back from Itasca State Park and I am very impressed. Stayed at the Pine Ridge campground in the Poplar Circle. This area is more private than the camp circles before and less populated usually. Restroom area was up to date and very clean. Camp sites were nice and clean as well. The next three nights we went backcountry camping to BC #2, 3 and 9 and were very impressed. BC sites 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 we all passed on our trek and all were spacious, beautiful and clean. Highly recommended and will be coming back soon with my kayak, rollerblades and bike!

Hiking

Camping isn't bad. It has everything you expect of a state park, it is the hiking that makes it worth the 5.

Hiking out to chase point is a nice easy hike that is great for a family hike with kids of all ages.

Family camping

Good place for a camping get away. We had 4 groups taking 4 spots adjacent to each other. Children loved the swimming, canoeing and hiking. The sites were spacious enough for a large tent and screen tent.

Not too far from Marcell where you can get any supplies that you may have forgot or just ran out of.

Lone Tents in a Sea of Campers [May 2019]

We wanted to get a jumpstart on the 2019 camping season so we booked a backpacking site (Friday) and two sites here (Saturday) for the first weekend in May. In hindsight, it may have been a bit ambitious as temperatures dropped to the low 30s at night - but hey, it was retrospective fun!

Our sites, E119 and E120, were pretty standard as far as drive-in sites go, and perhaps a bit expensive ($25). That said, after backpacking the previous night, it was nice to be able to charge our electronic devices. Each site has its own picnic table and fire ring, and ample room to place a tent (or two!). If you're camping outside shoulder season, make sure you stock up on firewood as most of the local convenience stores don't seem to have it in stock. Overall, solid spot - but nothing overtly special.

Beautiful and secluded (McKay Lake)

We started the 2019 camping season early and spent the first weekend in May exploring Itasca State Park. We parked at the trailhead near Lake Josephine and took the Red Pine Trail about three miles to our site. We were happy to find BP5 as quiet and secluded as it appeared on the map, and not nearly as close to other sites as some of the other remote options.

The best part about the site is easily the stunning view of Mckay Lake, where we saw a beautiful sunset and sunrise. We also appreciated the bench, vault toilet, and rope left to hang our bear bag. The clearing fit our two tents easily. Overall, a great site if you're craving some distance from the grind for a while.

Ranger Review: Mountain House Hash at Itasca's Deer Park Lake

CAMPGROUND REVIEW

Itasca State Park is a primo destination in northern Minnesota for folks interested in exploring the headwaters of the Mississippi River. There are several campgrounds, group camps, cabins and lodge accomodations in the park that suit most visitors. But for folks who want a wilderness experience while at the headwaters, there are miles of wilderness trails in the backcountry area on the southern end of the park—and there are campsites and Adirondack shelters scattered throughout the myriad glacial lakes of this backcountry, enough so that you could backpack by foot or on snowshoes or cross country skis for a week through the territory, staying at a different lakes every night. April in Minnesota means we are still winter camping—but despite the snow, the sun is bright and warm, and it is great to get out into it. The park is at its peak of solitude in the winter, but if you can find a way to get to a campsite, they are open and reservable. This review is for Remote Campsite 11, located on an isthmus between Coffee Break Lake and Deer Park Lake. It is a several mile hike in from the nearest parking areas, either via Mary Kake and the Ozawindib Trail, or via the Deer Park Trail from Douglas Lodge. The trail is rolling and maintained for cross country skiers, snowshoers and snowhikers in the winter. This campsite is located just past the Ozawindib Adirondack Shelter, which is a good backup if its too windy or cold at the campsite. The campsite itself is down a hill by the lakeshore, between two lakes actually, on a rise that overlooks both. There is an additional campsite nearby on the south end of Deer Park Lake, campsite 10. There is a tent pad sheltered under the tall pines (and currently under the snow!) as well as a fire ring and an outhouse. There is no water provided, but a large bucket is available, so you can get lake water and filter it, or melt snow or bring your own. This is a great location for folks who like winter camping as the trek in is only a few miles, I was able to do it easily carrying a backpack of gear on my back, and a front pack with my dog when she got tired if trudging through the snow. And of course it is an easy hike in during the milder snow-free seasons. The site is scenic, pristine, and largely sheltered from the wind. The vista north over Coffee Break Lake would be awesome for viewing northern lights, this is a dark sky part of the park. It can get a little muddy in the transition season, including around the campfire area, so we hung out at the Adirondack shelter nearby and did our cooking there.

To see a map and reserve a back country campsite at Itasca, check this link:

https://reservemn.usedirect.com/MinnesotaWeb/Facilities/AdvanceSearch.aspx

For more info on Remote Camping in Minnesota State Parks, see this link: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/stateparks/remotecamping.html

For general info on Itasca State Park, go to the homepage: www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00181#homepage

PRODUCT REVIEW

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I ocasionally get camping products to test out. Today I am testing Mountain House Southwest Breakfast Hash https://www.mountainhouse.com/m/product/spicy-southwest-breakfast-hash.html

Mountain House makes lightwieght, freeze-dried trail meals that are "cooked" in their own pouches using only boiling water. The sealed pouches are durable and lightwieght to carry, and the no-fuss no-muss prep of adding boiling water and letting it stand for 4 minutes in the re-sealable pouch is really easy. Since I was carrying my gear on my back, and carrying my tired little dog in a front pack carrier, I certainly didnt want to have extra weight! But these meal pouches are so light you hardly know you are carrying them. This pouch of SW breakfast hash had more than enough for two people plus some leftover for the dog, we served it up on tortillas that we had also packed, but you could eat it straight up. The hash featured beans, corn, potatoes, veggies and shredded beef for a well rounded complete meal as is, but you could extend the servings by scrambling it with eggs to dish up for a larger group. The taste and texture were surprisingly good, tasty without being too spicy, and I would defintiely buy this again. See our video review at https://youtu.be/nB9lBmjUsqU

Wonderful family environment!

The owners go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable, enjoyable, and safe!

Winter camping at Itasca? Why not!

Itasca State Park is a jewel in the state park system of Minnesota, and the park’s Pine Ridge campground is where hordes and crowds of visitors stay when visiting it in summer. The park is very quiet and lightly used in winter, but wow, its the best time of year! The paths to famous spots like the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the visitor centers are plowed and maintained, and there are myriad groomed trails from cross country skiing and snow shoeing. A lot of people go ice fishing too. There is not a big demand for camping so mist if the campsites are closed, but Pine Ridge does maintain a selection of campsites with hookups for those who do want to venture forth. The campground bath houses are closed for the winter and water is shut off, but you can car camp and rv with hookups if you want, or tent camp if you know how to do so comfortably in winter and dint mind using outhouses in the campground. There is running water and regular bathrooms at the main visitor’s center so that is an option, but several miles drive from the winter campsites. So, bottom line, come prepared with all your own supplies, and make sure you know how to stay warm if car or tent camping. A winter visit to the park is well worth it!

Good group camping at Elk Lake

This group site is in a stellar location on beautiful Elk Lake withon Itasca State Park. You can drive in, hike or bike in, or boat in. The campground can accomodate small rvs and tents, though there are no hookups. There is a large screened in shelter perfect for cooking or group activities. There is a good canoe landing on the lake adjacent to the site, though you do have to access it via stairs to the lake. At the camp site there is a water faucet, picnic tables and shelter tables, and outhouses. Firewood is provided. Private secluded location for large family groups, scout troops, etc. The location is amazing but the facilities are older and showing their age hence the 4 rather than 5 star rating.

Rustic camping at Mantrap

This is a typical rustic state forest campground, with basic amenities but meant for a quieter and simpler experience than a stste park. Water is available from a campground spigot, but no hookups of any kind. Outhouses are provided, but no bath houses. The setting is on a beautiful lake with a great boat landing, good for fishing and apparently also for duck hunting as the landing was packed. There is a large group picnic shelter as well as a hiking trail. Campsites are large and spacious, though primarily set back in the woods. Good info kiosks for nature watchers.

Trailer park near Walker Bay

When I visited, the entrance was blocked and office closed. This is in the vicinity of Walker Bay, which is a primo location on Leech Lake, but it is not on the lake itself but set in a mature forest nearby. From the looks if it, it appears to have seasonal rentals that allow overwintering in the off season, the campground currently has a minimal Facebook page but no active website that I could find. I think this is more of a long term private RV and trailer park and may not have facilities for daily or weekly camper stays. It appears to be a decent campground, but I didnt see additional amenities aside from campsites and hookups, and it isnt actually on the lake, so I only gave it 4 stars. Probably best to call for info if you think you might be interested in camping here.

RV camping is only so so, but tent camping area is pretty neat!

If you like boats and boating and the water, this would be a good place to be, but if you are looking for peace and quiet, I doubt it'll be all that. This is mainly an RV camping park for those that have boats. It has a waterway in the campground with slips that you can rent for your boats. There are, however, a few tent sites that are kinda cool!

Most of the RV camping is pretty cramped. But I suppose if you have a boat, you'll probably be on it most of the time. That said, it would do the job. Maybe most people stay on their boats at night? There is also firewood for sale, which is convenient, but I don't know how much it cost. They seemed to be pretty well closed for the season. They did have electric hookup and sewage drains too. And for those that were feeling a little less outdoors-y, they had a few cabins for rent on the water.

There are only a few tent sites, and they are in an obscure spot, but it'd actually be a pretty cool place to drop a tent if you wanted something unique. The tent site(s) are on a little point near the water. It's actually on the opposite side from the RV camping, and they are separated by a little waterway that is the inlet/outlet for the area where the boat slips are. So boats would be passing in and out all the time. If you are the private type, this might not be ideal. But if you were looking for something different, it might be fun. However, there is no bathroom nearby that I could find. There is a fire ring and picnic table. And the coolest part…there is a small lighthouse type structure that is simply a screened in building with a table and chairs. It's screened in and the windows can be closed. So, essentially a bug free zone in the summer. Love it! Right next to the tent area. Although it's not clear if these sites are for rent for the general public, or just for friends and family of the boat/RV people. I see conflicting information about this.

Cold, but beautiful!

Great park with lots of biking trails, hiking and biking. Bike rentals are available at the park. The bog trail was really awesome and saw many cool plants. Very peaceful stay!!!

Clean & Inviting

We most enjoyed Lake Andrusia with canoeing and paddle boarding. In addition to the lake there is a well maintained swimming pool and lodge. There are hiking trails around to explore. Great family spot!

It would be sufficient, but it's crowded and where's the campground?

Their brochure mentions that they have a modern campground, but I can't find it.

This area has a lot of resorts, and they mainly cater to RV campers and cabin campers. This one, however, also mentions a campground, but it isn't clear where it is. This time of year, this one might be closed, but you can still drive around and look. Good reference points for next season. All the cabins were incredibly close together, not terribly well maintained (at least from the outside), and I have no idea where I would pitch a tent. I tried to call the number on the website, but it kicked to voicemail. It appears that the owners live on site.

They did have picnic tables, firewood, a playground for the kiddos and lake views. Easy access to the lake. It's down a long, gravel type road so there isn't much traffic.

Ranger Review: Sign by the road says "campground", but I don't think so

This was a very strange campground. The sign by the road looks well maintained. And at the bottom it says "camping, cabins, rv sites", but they have been painted over, and perhaps that was on purpose. When I drove to the location, there wasn't anyone there. Lots of RV's parked and many covered (this is a seasonal spot). They were very squished together and the property wasn't very pretty because of the congestion. The spaces didn't seem to be marked, and while there were open field type areas where tents could have gone, I didn't see any picnic tables or fire rings. And no signs anywhere.

I can't find a website to verify anything. I wouldn't take any chances trying to stay here.

Well groomed, off the road, quiet and near the lake

While this seems to be mainly an "RV" campground, but there were a few cabins on the lake and two gorgeous tent sites that would be the envy of many other camps. They were ideal, especially for the family that wanted the "tent" experience without having to huff it through the woods with toddlers in tow.

Sleeping Fawn is very clearly marked from the road, and although they don't say "campground" on the sign, there are a few tent sites available. It's about a 3/4 mile drive off the main road, but signage is apparent the entire way, and it's super easy to find once you get there. There is an office for check in, cabins to rent and lots of RV sites available too. Even though RV's seem to dominate here, the roadway through the woods and past them is peaceful and serene. Pine needles cover the ground and create a softness to the scenery. The posts that mark each site are wooden, tall, and are clearly numbered. Close to the entrance is a "tent parking" area, a cart for hauling your things, and 2 tent pads, just across the drive and down a little path about 20 yards. Perfect!

The tent sites are far enough apart to be "separate", but close enough that if you had family or friends, they are close by. Garbage cans are at the split in the path between #1 and #2 and each site has a fire ring, picnic table, gorgeous, flat tent pad and a view of the lake. And again, if you needed something from the car, it's a 50 yard walk. Not a 3 mile trudge through the woods.

Camping in tents May 18 - Oct 1

Camping rates were a bit steep for my liking, but I like primitive sites in the woods. So if you were a family trying to introduce wee ones to camping, it would still be worth it. $28 for a site as of 2018. Or a weekly rate of $170. Showers and laundry available, as well as free coffee in the morning. They also have a beach, nature trail, small store and other amenities.

NOTE: Pets are not allowed at this resort

Nice RV camp, but doesn't appear to be for tent camping

It's a little deceptive, because this is called a "campground", but upon closer inspection, it appears to only be fore RV's and campers (as in trailers). I suppose you could drop a tent if you wanted to, but you'd be amongst lots of RV's. I can't find anything online about cost. They don't seem to have a website.

It's on a lake, there was a bathroom (although I didn't go inside) and the did have water and there were electrical hookups. They also had a dump station.

This is an RV park

This is a lovely little RV park, but all the sites are close together and it doesn't appear that it's for tent campers at all. It looks like you can rent RV spaces for the season or by the night ($40/night). But they are only open May 1 to the end of September.

If you are an RV camper, they do have sewage hook up (not sure about a dump station), water and electric hookups. It's very close to town where you can get anything you need. There are gas stations, little town shopping, Walmart, etc. Just off of Highway 34, it is very easy to find.

Does not exist

There is a resort here, but no campground.

Resort is called Northern Starr

Great for biking

Bear Paw is one of two main campgrounds and the one closest to Lake Itasca. Sites are spaced a good distance apart but most are back to back so limited privacy. Bathrooms were very clean but no hooks. Wide paved (some boardwalk) bike paths but not as good for hiking. Unpaved trails are not accessible from the campground on foot. Driving along Wilderness Drive (or biking it) is beautiful, especially in the fall. A visit to the Headwaters is also a must (we walked on the paved bike path to get there; it is closer to Pine Ridge campground). There is a gift shop and small cafe there (food is expensive and mediocre). Large park and very beautiful and well maintained roads and bike path. Very limited cell service (Verizon).

Large park with lots to do for families

Campground is not private. Shower houses close by. We had raccoon visitors both nights. Took advantage of the bike trail as a means of travel. Lots of opportunity for foraging.

Wild and scenic river camping

This is one if my favorite campsites along the Mississippi River Headwaters. It is a special place, and a well kept secret…as a primitive river recreation managed by the local county, it doesnt appear on the Mississippi River headwaters Water Trail map as that map only include campsites designated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Although it is indeed a primitive site—not even a pit toilet, and no pitable water—there is a gorgeous high bluff with plenty of room under tall pines for a whole scout troop or family group to set up a number of tents. There is a good fire grill, county-supplied wood at the site, access and a landing from the river (located in between Fox Trap landing and Pine Pount landing in the water trail), but you can also hike in, or drive through a locked gate on a county road near Bear Den landing. You dont pay to camp here, but you Must get a county permit first, from the county parks department, and then they will give you the instructions for location, plus access through the gate. The site is impeccably maintained and has a breathtaking view of a wild and scenic part of the river, and the gated entrance and ling drive ir hike in from there ensures your privacy at the site. Also, if you happen to be paddling the Headwaters water trail, this is the campsite i would recommend rather than the DNR site just downstream at Pine Point, as that one is in awful condition!

Pine Point is in sorry shape

This is a designated canoe campground on the Mississippi River Headwaters water trail. It used to be one of my favorite campsites on the water trail, and was known for its big beautiful pines and for being a well maintained campsite on the water trail. A big windstorm came through in 2012 and knocked down most of the beautiful pines and ravaged the campsites. There had been several nice Adirondack lean-tos, nice fire grates, picnic tables, plenty of tent sites, decent outhouses, a water pump, and a nice landing for canoe access and swimming. The storm caused trees to fall all over the campground, causing a lot of damage. Rather than restoring the facilities that were damaged, most were just removed and havent been replaced, hence only one shelter remains and it it in rough shape; and the other campsites have been taken out altogether leaving just a big open grassy area. The water pump has been taken out, and the remaining outhouse is in bad condition. The heavy rains and floods at that time and since have also caused the main channel of the river to move further out in the reed bed, so the landing basically accesses a pretty shallow slough that you will have to slog through in order to get in from and out on the river. It is really sad to see it in this condition, and it is a barely tolerable spot to stop if you are through-paddling, but it is the last stop before the day-paddle it may take you to get through the giant rice beds downstream en route to Iron Bridge. The only positive is that the DNR did replant a lot of pine seedlings around the campground to replace the trees that were lost, and they seem to have had a good growth spurt the past couple years, so this spot is on its way for the vegetation to be renewed at least. I would advise not staying here though, unless improvements are made. If possible, try to camp upstream at Fox Trap or High Banks rather than this campsite.

Quiet camping at Webster Lake

This is a small rustic campground on Webster Lake. I arrived here on a Friday afternoon end of July, which should have been peak camping season, and the campground was half empty. Its a bit off the beaten path, the lake is not huge, and the campsites are simple so maybe the campground is not on many peoples radar. However, the lake is pretty and the fishing isnt bad, the lakeside campsites are fairly nice, and there are some interesting trails into the bogs around the lake. Supposedly it is most busy during fall hunting season, so for a quiet camping experience and wildlife wAtching it is probably best to come in mid to late summer. Early summer is also probably not the best time as the surrounding bogs are probably great mosquito breeding grounds!

Small and quaint, but does the job - on the NCT in MN

Super easy to find, right off the North Country Trail!

This is a long campsite. I mean, it's off the trail and kind of long and skinny from the trail down to the water. Water seems to be fairly easy access off the site itself. There is a log bench situated right next to the fire ring. Most sites in this area seem to be set up that way. The view was great…how pretty to wake up to the lake! The tent pad seemed fairly level too.

Didn't appear to be a whole lot of room for extra tents, meaning, I don't think this would be a great spot for more than a few campers that were staying in the same tent (or didn't mind getting creative with tent set up), and I don't think the tent pad would accommodate a large tent (read: larger family), but it would be perfect for a solo hiker or a couple. A few trees, but nothing that seemed terribly easy for hammock camping.

Canoe Trek to Fox Trap

This is both a campsite review and a Dyrt Ranger product review.

Campsite Review: The is a canoe-in campsite on the Mississippi River Headwaters Water Trail. It is located 31 miles from Itasca State Park which is the source if the mighty Mississippi. You can access this campsite only by paddling, either 15 miles from the campsite at Coffee Pot Landing, or after driving into Bear Den Landing which is a mile away, then paddling a mile downstream from there. you could in theory hike in as well, but this would involve traversing unmarked life going trails and then bushwhacking a bit! could be done, but more fun to paddle in. This campsite has a three sided log Adirondack shelter you can yse, along with a steel fir grill and a picnic table. The canoe landing access is easy to use, and then you will need to portage your gear up a small bluff. There is no potable water here, so bring your own or a filter. There is no privy either, so prepare to rough it. The view is great as you are up high in a bluff, and on a point, and the marshy waterway below has a lot of bird and wildlife action as this is part of the wild and scenic section of the river. Great for a quick weekend getaway, or as a stopover when through-paddling the water trail!

Product Review:

As a Dyrt Ranger, I sometimes test and review new camping products for The Dyrt. This review is for the Rom Outdoors camouflaged convertible backpack, that serves as a sturdy waterproof tarp, a warm fleece lined poncho, and also folds up neatly to become a large and roomy portage pack. See video below to see how I used it, and what I liked about it. In sum,

Pros:

1) The pack is made from really sturdy waterproof canvas. It will last a long time and take a lot of abuse. My dog tested it trying to get into her dog food packed inside, and there is no way--too tough for claws!

2) It is a convertible pack, which can be uses as a portage pack for gear, or as a poncho, or as a warm sturdy camping tarp. All the parts used for altering the use, such as velcro, zippers, straps and buckles, are all top quality and heavy duty

3) I don't know how waterproof it is as it didnt rain while I tested it, but I used the poncho form as a camouflaged birdblind for birdwatching and photography. It is awesome for that! Very roomy, very warm, you could easily use it in 4 seasons.

4) It unfolds to a standard size tarp, you could use it under a tent to keep it dry, or inside a tent or Adirondack shelter to provide an insulating layer between you and the ground

5) As a portage pack, it straps into your canoe realy well, and while portaging it is easy to carry, as a 5'5" tall woman I found the straps to adjust perfectly at shoulders, chest and waist. The three sets of straps distribute the weight well. I portaged with gear and my 12 pound dog and it was comfortable! I know it wasnt meant to carry a dog, but it worked for a small one like ours, she fit right in. When fold up s a pack, it has two deep pockets in the main body of the bag, plus additional large pounches on the outside.

6)The pack comes with a full size removable pack liner that is also a lightweight back pack on its own, and there are two large external gear pouches that go on and off with buckles and heavy velcro.

Cons:

1) The shoulder straps and buckles are a tad bulkly if you unfold the pack to use as a tarp. You wont notice if you use a sleeping bag pad on top, but you might feel it a bit without a pad.

2) The poncho feature would be particularly good in cool to cold weather, maybe in warmish weather too, but not in real warm or hot weather because the canvas itself is so thick, plus there is a layer of insulating polarfleece. I cant imagine wearing it as a poncho for very long on hot days.

long lake

It's a pretty place to stay at for the clear lake is beautiful when the sun hits it and the wildlife is everywhere

First to Review
Wanaki campground in the Chippewa National Forest

This is one of several distinct campgrounds located within the Chippewa National Forest, and is located on the east side of Cass Lake. Entrance is through the main entrance at the Norway Beach Forest Service Recreation Area access. This campground is geared towards tent campers and is in a more secluded part if the Recreation area. Many of the sites are right on the water, which means you can put in a boat at the main boat landing and then travel by water to your campsite. The water sites also have nice sandy beaches…however, zebra mussels have been recently found in Cass Lake, and I did indeed find a few on the beach here, which is disappointing. This campground is the farthest from the main visitor center, picnic grounds, boat landing and official beach, which could be either a plus or a minus for you, depending on how secluded and off the beaten path you would like to be. These camp amenities arent too far to drive or even bike, though. Potable water is available here, but you are a good 15 minute drive to town for groceries and supplies, and there is no campground store on site, so be prepared. This campground will be if interest to folks who want to fish on Cass Lake or just relax along shore under the big pines, but if I had a choice I would prefer the Forest Service campground at Pike Bay on the south side if Cass Lake, as that campground is smaller and quieter and has bigger campsites