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If you like quiet/off the beaten path sites, this one is awesome. Walk in sites as well as drive in. Great (but small) swimming beach, large lake with great fishing available. No hook ups and no dump station. Sites are spaced far enough apart to give you some privacy.
This is a review for the walk-in, canoe-in campsite #C1. It is actually located in a secluded part of the park, more than a mile from the main campground. It is meant to be a campsite for park campers who want a more private location than the regular campground and dont mind backpacking or carting their gear in, or for paddlers from the Mississippi River who access it as a Water Trail stop by paddling to it up Pike Creek. The park itself is located near the town of Little Falls, MN and there is easy access from Hwy 10, or from the River. In all honesty, I have driven past Little Falls many times en route to Minneapolis or elsewhere but never stopped; I never realized what a small hidden jewel this park is, and within it what a terrific camping opportunity exists here for secluded walk-in or paddle-in campers.
The campsite itself is gorgeous, a beautiful setting on the sandy banks of Pike Creek. My friend and I packed in our gear on the short hiking trail to get here, but I do have a friend who paddled in here not long ago and recommended it highly. Pike Creek is a clear, beautiful stream that is peaceful to camp on, and there are several hikes you can make from the site. There is a heavy duty fire ring with sturdy grill, tenting spots for several tents, picnic table, steps down to the water, swimming access nearby, and rack to store your canoe or kayak if you have one. You do need to hike about 2/10 of a mile to get to bathrooms and water source; you have to hike about a mile to the main campground if you want showers. But if you don't mind the trek for any of those, this is one sweet campsite!
While we were here, we hiked the trail along Pike Creek which was scenic, including rapids; there are many wooded trails, and a longer trail to hike into the location where Charles Lindbergh landed the "Jenny" in 1927 on what was then an open field on the family homestead. We also hiked to the Missisippi River, which is a nice trail in and of itself, but also leads to two history museums and a Living History Site, one operated by the county historicall society (http://morrisoncountyhistory.org/) , the others by the Minnesota State Historical Society ( https://www.littlefallsmn.com/things-to-do/charles-lindbergh-house-and-museum ) . The land encompassed by the park is hisotric for 2 reasons: Zebulon Pike spent the winter here with a search party who were going up river to search for the source of the Mississippi River, and probably camped right at the very campsite here on the sores of Pike Creek; and a century later it was the homestead of the Lindbergh family and where aviator Charles grew up. So, camping here is a pleasure if you are interested in history as well as nature, off the beaten path.
In addition, you can bike a bike trail to Little Falls which then connects you to maze of local trails, https://www.littlefallsmn.com/things-to-do/bike-and-hike , or while at the park you can paddle the river (rent gear locally if you didnt bring your own: http://www.shirleymaesoutfitters.com/ )
You can also drive bout 5 miles to a terrific National Wildlife Refuge at Crane Meadows, we hiked there and really enjoyed bird watching and the rare oak savannah and tall grass prairie.
This campsite is really a hidden jewel. The only reason I didnt give it 5 stars was because there is a train line that runs along the Mississippi River a few miles from the campsite, and the sound of train whistles in the evening really carries. Otherwise it is very secluded and beautiful, and a great choice if wanting to explore the area. if you are a birder, the tremendous variety of birds (kingfishers, various woodpeckers, warblers, waterfowl, and more) is great, though be forewarned that a screech owl hangs out near this campsite, and it was a bit unnerving the first time we heard it!
Really friendly folks, nearby beach, close to lakes and clean, had a lovely time. Close access to state parks and boating.
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!
Spots were nice small. Dirt ground and tent pad. Each site had a fire ring and picnic table as well as a food box (we’re assuming) most sites fairly visible from the trail but not all. Bathrooms near by clusters of sites but did not appear to have toilet paper so you gotta bring your own.
I chose Lake Maria for a solo camping excursion because it was close to the Cities, but still offered the level of seclusion I wanted. I am not new to camping, but haven't been in a few years, and never solo.
I chose B6 because, on the MN DNR Reservation website, it said it was a .25 mile hike. Every other campsite was a mile+. Since I was getting back into the groove of camping, I made this choice so I'd have an easier time, especially because I'm no so active anymore working from home during a pandemic!
Well, let me tell you, it was definitely a mile or so hike from the parking lot to B6, despite what the website said. That's why I'm rating 4 stars instead of 5. I was ill-prepared, and I spent most of my time making trips back to the lot to get water and firewood from my car than exploring the park. Part of this is my fault for not having a big enough water jug and things like that, but I genuinely think the website was deceiving. Maybe there's another path or place to park that's quicker that I don't know about? Regardless, listen when people say all the sites are about a mile, because they're right!
Now, onto the positives:
- My site was secluded, but still fairly close to the road and group camp sites. I could hear people at the group camp because they were pretty loud, but if they weren't it would have been very quiet. I didn't run into too many people in general. Even though I could hear cars going down the road and it was a short jaunt to it through the woods, it was not distracting from the scenery.
- It wasn't excessively buggy like some say- I was fine in my short sleeves and leggings with some backwoods bug spray! (It did get worse the day after it rained, but that's to be expected.)
- Lots of mushrooms in the woods! I'm not great at identification, but I am fairly certain I saw some golden chanterelles and other treats. (Don't take my word for it, though!)
- B6 is on a pond, which was gorgeous. A bit steep getting to it, but nice to sit on the edge and look at the many frogs and turtles! (Blanding's turtles, which are endangered!)
- Lots of wildlife sounds you definitely don't get to hear in the city!
- Trails were well-marked and trodden, though not totally level.
- Firewood was available at the office (self-pay).
All in all, I will certainly come back here, but a bit more prepared for the hike to and from the sites. You can't beat the level of solitude you get here considering how close it is to the metro.
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.
This is a fantastic park. No views or anything, just miles of thick forest. A million and one birds. Backpack site 4 is 3/4 of a moderately hilly mile from the parking lot (there is more than one lot at the park). There's a long footpath (like a driveway) off the hiking trail, so it's an extremely private site. The trees form a canopy over the circular site. You can cut through a few feet of grass to the lake/marsh.
It is a low lying site in a park with a lot of water, so be prepared for more bugs than your average MN campsite in the summer (and that's really saying something!). No bugs for our trip this May, but we come here often.