This is my favorite MN campground and I always hesitate to tell people about this hidden gem because it is non-reservable and you already have to get out there early enough to claim your spot!
One- the location can’t be beat, anywhere along the North Shore is guaranteed to be beautiful but this campsite is set right on the shore of a pristine lake surrounded by forest covered hills. Just out of Silver Bay, it’s easy to find the trailhead and it meets up with the Superior Hiking Trail.
Two- the hike in is just as beautiful as your destination, over the 3-4 miles you cover on the Twin Lakes trail to get to the campsite you gain some elevation and get some great views of Lake Superior first, and then as you head farther inland you come on stunning views of Bean and Bear lakes about 1000 feet below. This is one of my favorite spots to sit on the edge of the cliff and have a snack while we take it all in. The trail goes in and out of beautiful forest and the is fairly well maintained, just be sure to wear waders if you are going in the spring or if there has been a lot of rain as the trail can get really muddy.
As you continue your descent, you come down to the shore of bear lake where there are two first come- first serve sites that can accommodate a few tents and each has its own fire ring and benches. There is a pit toilet a little ways up the hill as well, just remember to bring your own toilet paper.
The lake is fantastic for swimming in the summer and clear enough to purify for drinking water or cooking. There are great places to hang a hammock as well.
When you hike back out, you can either complete the Twin Lakes loop and finish back where you started at the Penn Blvd parking lot, or you can go north another 8 miles or so to Tettegouche State Park on the SHT. This whole area is MN backpacking at its finest!
This is one of my favorite parks to spend a night in when I don’t have time for an extended trip farther from home, living in Maple Grove this is only a 40 minute drive but you feel like you have really gotten away! I’ve found it’s also easier to snag a campsite at the last minute unlike most of the other parks around this area of the state, and especially during the week when you will likely have the park to yourself.
The hikes to the campsites are easy, wide trails without much up and down and most are about a mile hike in. The spots that I have stayed at have good places to set up a hammock, and all sites have a fire ring, picnic table and food locker.
Walking in on the trails can be a little buggy in late summer but clears up around the campsite, just make sure to bring some bug spray. The variety of birds in the park are fun to observe, the owls were hooting loudly all through the evening and there were a few woodpeckers hanging around our site. These sites in specific also had an outhouse really close, just remember to bring your own toilet paper. Sites 1 and 3 are on a little lake, but the water is more swampy so don’t plan on swimming and it’s probably not ideal for cooking or being purified for drinking water. There is a water pump in the parking lot where you can restock. You also shouldn’t have any trouble finding downed wood for fire around either of these sites. It’s secluded and you don’t see any other campers here but easy enough to get to! The view of the water from site 1 is beautiful and the sunset over the lake in October with the fall colors is a must see.