Joanna B.


Bloomington, MN

Joined November 2019

My happy place is outside! ☀️🌋🛶🔥. Camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, my hammock.

Private oasis


I found this private campsite on Hipcamp and it had great reviews, so we thought we would give it a try.

It exceeded our expectations

What a gorgeous and secluded weekend getaway. Eric sent very detailed instructions and was very helpful in his communication to make our stay and time at Bluff Hollow fabulius!

There were 2 options for camping - the upper site and lower near the river. We opted to camp and hang out down by the river. The bluff views from camp were beautiful and we spent most of our time kayaking and playing in the water. The lower space was wooded, shady and spacious enough for multiple tents and our 4 hammocks. It also had a nice fire pit. The upper site had a picnic table, fire pit and one of the cleanest outhouses I have seen.

The property was gorgeous and well kept. There were many trails you could take to do some exploring. The wildflowers were beautiful and we saw a deer. I highly recommend this campsite if you are looking for privacy, beauty and a river-side experience. Thank you, Eric!

My favorite state park

July 2020. Cart ins

We actually camped here twice in July and this is our third camping trip to Tettegouche this year. I can’t say enough about this state park, I think it’s the best in the state. It is centrally located to the 9 state parks on the popular north shore, and has it all!! Lake Superior, overlooks, waterfalls, challenging hikes, swimming and the campgrounds are spacious and wooded. Aside from the popular hikes to Shovel Point, High Falls or Bean and Bear Lake - there are miles and miles of other beautiful hiking trails in this state park!

We stayed in cart-in sites each time. One was on the lake and the other in the main campground. Both of these sites are very popular and usually booked the first day they’re available, I was lucky enough to get them last summer. The cart ins on the water E-J have lake views and several have trails (sometimes tricky) that lead down to the water and you essentially have you own private beach. This cart in campground is about a mile hike in from the parking and they have carts to haul your gear. Any of these sites have something to offer and are VERY private. Our site had many hammock spots and gorgeous lake views. There are several vault toilets located in this campground and each site has a bear locker, picnic table and a fire ring with grate. You can walk to the bridge at the mouth of the Babtism River, which takes you to the trail system along the lake. We enjoyed swimming here and taking in more lake views.

The main campground is off the lake and up a winding road. There is also a trailhead near this campground and you can only access this portion with a MN state park pass. The shower house and bathrooms are located here. There are electric, tent and 6 more cart in sites. This campground is located close to the a trail system that takes you to two popular waterfalls, High Falls and Two Step Falls. The sites are nicely spaced and wooded. You do need to be very guarded with your food however. Use the bear lockers (provided in the cart ins) or keep your food in your car. Bears have been very active in this campground this summer, though we never saw one. Love this state park.

Beautiful but not the most private

7/3/20-7/5/20. Site 29

Epitome of northern MN

6/25-6/27/20. BP5

Bear Head Lake has it all. Camping, fishing, boating, swimming and hiking. The lake itself is fully private and the only access is through the state park. There was very little boat traffic during our stay and we were able to paddle most of the lake. We really enjoyed some of the calmer bays. The temps were close to 90 during our stay and the beach was busy. There is a nice sandy area and the water shallow and warm. There are several small docks along the campground for people to tie up motorboats, it was a fun little section to walk. Sites 51-58 are closest to the lake (but they don’t have actual lake views) and have the nearest access to these docks, though anyone can use them. There is also a fishing pier and another dock by the beach.

Not only is the lake a huge draw, but so is the hiking. Norberg Lake was absolutely gorgeous and the trail that passed through. There is also a little sandy spot and people (and dogs) were swimming here. We also enjoyed the Blueberry Lake trail (around the backpack sites) and the Becky Lake trail.

The sites in the campground seems very close together and small. Even the sites near the water. We prefer more remote sites and were able to book BP5. This site was on Bear Head lake itself so we were able to paddle across the water from the beach area. Our site had its own dock and I think it was the best in the park. The site itself was very spacious, with a bear locker, fire pit, picnic table, hammock spot and sunset views. We were able to go into two other backpack sites because they were vacant and they were also very spacious and private We loved our time at Bear Head and will be returning next summer.

Lots of RVs, great cell seevice

6/25-6/26/20. Site 409

This was our first trip to Lake Vermillion-Soudan and we spent one night here. You can get wood as you enter, it’s in a little shed to pick your own and $6 a bundle. Our site was spacious and grassy, though we could see our neighbors, so it wasn’t the most private. We drove around all campground loops and decided we liked our section best. It had a lot of trees (and hammock spots), but also a lot of RVs. Some of the other loops were more open and had less trees. The campground was very quiet and the cell service was top rate. If you are looking for a state park campground to work remotely, this would be a great choice.

The mine was closed when we visited but it was still fun to explore from the outside. We hiked the hiking club trail loop - which was actually confusing to follow - but it was fun to see some remnants of the old mines and the trail was wooded and pretty. There was also still snow in one of the deep pits. The picnic area was gorgeous with a lot of trees and there was a large fishing dock. There is also a nice boat launch to a quiet bay that brings you right into Lake Vermillion. It was windy so we did not kayak. The state park is kept up and maintained very nicely. We enjoyed our visit.

First to Review
Dispersed camping at its finest

Popular backcountry sites in the Marcell area of the Chippewa National Forest include Spider Lake, the birch forest of the Suomi Hills and Trout Lake.

Both my boyfriend and myself grew up visiting the Grand Rapids area so it’s an old favorite. We’ve dispersed camp in a few different spots in the Marcell area and particularity like the Suomi Hills campsites. Some are only a short walk from the (usually small) parking area, some are a mile or two backpack-in and others are only accessed by canoe or kayak. They vary in degree of how “primitive” they are - some have only a rock fire pit while others have a metal fire pit, picnic table and pit toilet. I think some are quite luxurious for being a FREE dispersed campsite. Not only that but they are well traveled and taken care of. It’s nice to see people adhering to LNT principles.

These campsites can be popular so you may need a backup plan or two to keep moving on until you find a vacant spot. Many are located on a lake and you have that entire lake to yourself. There are also hiking trails so you will find plenty to do to keep busy.

If you are looking for complete privacy, great fishing and some amenities, the Marcell area of the Chippewa National Forest is your destination.

Boater’s paradise

6/12/20-6/14/20 cart in 3

Lake Shetek State Park is located in the SW corner is Minnesota and on Lake Shetek. They have 4 campgrounds. We always up for the more private sites and stayed in the cart-in campground. There are carts available to haul your gear if you choose. The cart in sits sit up on a ridge and had some views of Lake Shetek. Our campsite (3) was spacious with a tent pad large enough to hold 2 tents and had a spot for a hammock. It had a fire ring and picnic table. The vault toilet was right across from our campsite, so we had a lot of foot traffic. It was not the most private site of the bunch, we liked 5 and 7 better.

Lake Shetek allows motor boats and there was a lot of boat traffic. There are other resorts on this lake so it’s very active. We brought our kayaks and enjoyed kayaking the lake, though there was always a pretty big wake and we stayed near the shoreline. We kayaked (a short Portage) to 2 smaller lakes that had no one on them. We were able to tie our boats to a tree below our campsite and scaled up the embankment, there was a path already there. There are a few hiking trails in the state park (roughly 4 miles of hiking tidal) but I wouldn’t say it’s known for its hiking. We enjoyed the causeway that led to the 1-mile Loon Island Trail. We saw turtles, deer, waterfowl and eagles during our stay. There is a “beach” locates near the Oak Wood campground however it was underwater, people still enjoyed swimming as it was shallow and warm in June. We did find another beach within the state park that was a longer walk to reach, but MANY boats were docked and “partying” here. There is a nice fishing pier and a dock within the park.

Due to all the boat traffic, I would say this is a much less private and serene state park.

Best state park for backpacking

6/5/20-6/7/20. BP 6

We originally had another campground reservation this weekend but due to Covid it was canceled. One site was available at Crosby-Manitou so we decided to head there, our first visit to this state park. Crosby-Manitou is located along the very popular north shore but the parking lot and entrance are located about 20 minutes off the main road Hwy 61, so it gets less traffic. Admittedly, I have been to this area MANY times and never made the side trip here. This state park did not disappoint and I’m sad I waited so long to visit.

There is no ranger station and this is a minimal maintenance state park. They are 22 sites and they are all hike-in, backpack campsites. Many are situated along the Manitou River and others along Benson Lake. The trails are very rocky and narrow in spots with many elevations changes, it’s a true backpacking experience. We were in site 6 which is on an overlook and our upward hike was 1.75 miles. The site itself was wooded, spacious and gorgeous. At the overlook, steps away, we had sunrise and views of Lake Superior, the perfect morning coffee spot. There was a fire pit but no picnic table or bear locker, we hung our food. We also had a pit toilet that was very clean. We did carry in our own firewood, though there was some dead wood nearby and there was no nearby water source, so we had to carry in water as well. Many other sites have water access however. There is plenty of hiking throughout this state park and several waterfalls, the cascades waterfall is a big draw for day hikers. When we visited the park was very busy and the parking lot was completely full.

All in all we really enjoyed this state park and recommend to people looking to backpack in.

Dispersed camping


We went camping on a whim and headed to the state forest since dispersed camping is open. We backpacked to the quarry and found a large open area, perfect for multiple tents. The sandstone bluffs were in the background. There are multiple handmade rock fire pits, some rock chairs, tables and lots of space.

There are many hiking trails, including a trail that goes on top of the bluff with views of the forest and of Wisconsin and the Mississippi River. There is also hiking within this unit and a horse campground. The bugs weren’t too bad, no ticks, no critters and no road noise. It was very quiet and peaceful. I’d highly recommend this section of RJD forest.

Small and quaint


This campground is only a year old and offers 31 RV sites with full hookups 30- or 50-Amp Service (greywater dump at each site) and 19 wooded (some semi-private) tent sites. They have a beautiful bath and shower house (the shower takes quarters $1.25 for 10 minutes) and sell wood on site for $5 a bundle. It is just over the MN border and about a mile from the St Croix River. ATV trails are accessible from the campground.

Pardun’s also offers canoe and tube rentals in town and also at St. Croix State Park - which sounds wonderful on hot summer days. It’s not far from town which includes a grocery store and St Croix Casino. St Croix State Park is also about 20 minutes away in MN and a great place to explore with miles of hiking. I found the pricing very reasonable at $30 a night for RVs and $17 for tent sites. $1200 for seasonal. The owner came over to meet us and was very friendly.

We chose site tent site 17. Each site has a large fire ring and picnic table. This site had a few trees and was fairly open but it didn’t matter because there was only 1 other group camping in the tent area. It was very quiet and peaceful, very easy to social distance during the pandemic. If you are looking for a relaxing getaway to enjoy a fire and night under the stars, this is perfect little campground.

A backpacker’s paradise

3/6/20-3/8/20. Cart-in 4

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is situated on Lake Superior in Two Harbors. It’s a backpacker’s paradise! They are open year-round and have 20 secluded Cart-In campsites within 2000 feet of the parking lot. They have wheeled carts available to move your camping gear to your campsite - or in the winter you could sled-in like we did. Each site has a fire ring, picnic bench and a bear locker for your food or gear. They also have 4 backpack sites with their own vault toilets and are 1/2 mile to 2 mile hike from the parking lot.. The sites are all nicely spaced with some close to the water with gorgeous views of Lake Superior, some of the lighthouse and others wooded. We got to scope out almost every one of them, as only one other person was camping here this weekend. You really can’t go wrong with any site at Split Rock as they were all beautiful and have their own little something to offer. Their showers are not open in the winter but they do have vault toilets throughout

They have 12 miles of hiking trails that run along Lake Superior and double back on the Gitchi-Gami trail. The Gitchi-Gami trail is a paved trail in summer which boasts biking or hiking and unplowed hiking in the winter. In the winter the park has hiking, snowshoeing and xcountry ski trails. .

The big draw is their historic lighthouse in which they charge a separate fee to enter. For all the times I have visited Split Rock, I have honestly never been to the light house. There is also river/stream fishing and access to several rock beaches. We hiked ALL the trails during our stay. They are diverse and beautiful! We particularly enjoyed the Day Hill trail which leads up to an overlook and gives you panoramic views of Lake Superior, the lighthouse and Split Rock Point.

This state park fills up very fast and is reservable, so we opted to visit in the winter. We chose site 4 which is close to the parking lot, next to Lake Superior and has views of the lighthouse. Our site was beautiful nestled among birch and pine (which most are), with waves crashing in the background. There is a short path that leads to a private bench that provides stunning views of the lighthouse and cliff views of the lake. We had clear skies and very little wind in our campsite. Highs in the 40s - low of 15 Friday, 28 Saturday. It was perfect winter camping weather!

I highly recommend a visit to this state park!

Beautiful camper cabin

Leap Day 2/29/20-3/1/20 Frog Pond

We headed to Lake Carlos for their candlelight ski, this was our first visit to this state park. Tent camping wasn’t available and we were able to reserve a camper cabin - Frog Pond. It was a nice change and a warmer option, the cabin is gorgeous! Frog Pond sleeps 6 with heat and electricity. There are 4 cabins that share 2 vault toilets.

It was a beautiful 38 degree Leap Day and we took advantage of it. They offer a large number of ski trails so we xcountry skied before dark. The trails were icy, but still enjoyable. At dark we headed to the candlelight event. It was very busy and a huge turnout. We hiked 1.2 miles and then snowshoed 2.4 miles. There are ponds and bogs that they create snowshoe trails on, so there are even more trails to explore in the winter. It was a beautiful night and we enjoyed the wooded trails and starry skies. We had a fire and enjoyed a normal outdoor cookout before bed.

We did more skiing on Sunday and checked out the 2 campgrounds as they were on the ski route. One campground is on Lake Carlos and very open. Sites have beautiful lake views. You can apparently drive your boat right into a sandy shore and dock it. They also have a swimming beach. The other campground is a bit more wooded and more suited for tents. This campground is near the camper cabins. The trails are very wooded and pretty. We enjoyed skiing the hiking club trail and ended up hitting almost every trail in our stay. I assume this park would be equally beautiful in the summer. What a beautiful state park!

Perfect backpacking campground

2/22/20-2/23/20. BP11

Less than an hour from the cities, this is a perfect little camping getaway. If you are looking for a nice backpacking experience, Afton has this and more. We pulled a sled and hiked 1.4 miles to our campsite. The hike was very challenging and uphill. The campsites are nicely spaced and diverse. Some are more wooded and others in the open prairie. We selected campsite 11 as it had some nice trees and was down a ridge, very private. There is a vault toilet, solar well water (year-round) and a wood pile available right at the campground (pay later) - these amenities were closest to campsite 10 and 11.

The state park is gorgeous. There are rolling hills throughout and some of the hikes can be deemed as “difficult”. We opted to get off the beaten trail and snowshoed in the woods, following deer tracks. This is one nice thing about winter hikes as you are allowed to leave the trail. We went up and down ravines and got in a beautiful hike and workout. They offer xcountry skiing, snowshoeing and hiking in the winter. We hiked 19 miles in 2 days.

We camped here 2 years ago in the spring and really enjoyed campsite 1 and 2. They are wooded and private. Campsite 2 has a few great hammock spots. We snowshoed around and really enjoyed campsite 18 as well, as it overlooks the river. They also have a beach and swimming in the summer on the St Croix. Afton really has it all. I HIGHLY recommend this state park.

Huge park, so much to see

2/8/20-2/9/20. #91

First time to this park. It’s a nice distance from the cities, not too far. We planned on attending their candlelight ski and decided to camp. The campground was fully reserved but was empty, the low was 10 so people must have bowed out. The campsite was plowed out and had a nice spot for the tent. The sites were far enough apart and it looked like it would be more private when the leaves come in.

The park is huge and beautiful. We snowshoed and skied. I really enjoyed the snowshoe hike along the St Croix River and watched the full moon rise. The ski trails were groomed and there were miles of trails. The candlelight ski was great and the routes were marked with different colored luminaries - for hiking and skiing. We really enjoyed that. Would like to return to explore more of the park.

Too notch, year round

1/24/20-1/26/20. #17

Second time camping here in the winter. Snow was falling when we arrived but the road and open site driveways were plowed out. We had to stomp out a path, spot for a tent pad and the campfire area - but we didn’t mind. The site was very private and has a lot of pines. It was beautiful. The bathroom and shower house was even open. 7 people were staying here this weekend.

We had a wonderful time. If you are looking for a camping site, I highly recommend this one.

Winter camping, very private site!

1/4/20-1/5/20. BP6

First camping trip of 2020. You can reserve campsites with the online reservation system this year, which was great. This site was a 1/4 hike (we snowshoed) from the parking area. It was down a hill and set on the cliff of a pond. There were not any other sites nearby, it was very private and had its own portable toilet.. I think it would be equally beautiful in the summer. They had hiking, xcountry skiing and snowshoeing. We went snowshoeing around midnight under a full moon and had the place to ourselves.

There are nice hiking trails right out of the campsite and we went exploring. We liked BP1, 2 and 3. Each were set on a lake and BP1 had a mostly unobstructed view of the lake. The only drawback was that BP1 does not have its own toilet and you have to walk a ways, back over to BP2.

We drove to the other parking area to do some more hiking and exploring. The hiking club trail is on this loop. We didn’t like the campsites on the west end as much (BP9-BP12) as they were all too close together and open. The campsites on lakes looked fabulous - BP8, BP14 and I assume BP5 is nice, but a big hike. The camper cabins looked wonderful as well.

I loved all the trails and hiking opportunities. We will definitely visit again.

Beautiful in the fall!

10/11/19-10/13/19. #9

We booked a site in advance and hoped to catch the fall colors. It was our first time camping at Banning. Fall came early in MN and it was just past peak. Most of the leaves were yellow (or on the ground), but it was still pretty. As we were setting up our camp, it began to snow. We selected 9 as it was on the end of the loop and somewhat private. The campsites were fairly well spaced, wooded and offered some privacy. There were multiple vault toilets in the campsite loops.

There are several hiking trails with different points of interest. One leads to Wolf Creek Falls and is challenging and beautiful. Another goes along the Kettle River with beautiful views. You can also explore the sandstone quarry and do a self-guided tour to learn history of the ruins from the mining years. We really enjoyed our stay.

The whole Overlook Mountain experience! 5+ stars

9/27/19-9/29/19. BP 5

If you love to backpack and hike in, this is a site for you! It is a 1 1/2 mile hike on the SHT to the top of Lookout Mountain. 3 miles round-trip so pack your gear wisely. Many people hike to this overlook and may not realize there is a reservable campsite tucked behind. The overlook is not far away and accessible any time you want to go take a peek. We to ourselves in the early morning so I put up a hammock to watch the sunrise and have my coffee. The overlook gets very busy during the day so we would leave and do our own adventuring. The hike itself iI would deem “difficult” as it is all uphill, but so worth the payoff.

We went during peak falls colors and this site was a huge treat. We had fall colors, sunrise views, Eagles and northern lights. The northern lights were a bit dimmed however, from light pollution in Grand Marais. Still fun to see, nonetheless. The site itself was spacious and had a storm shelter. This is where we kept most of our gear and spent our time hanging out at night. There are some pines on site that were perfect for a hammock. You were also able to gather wood on top of the mountain and someone had left some behind. Even though it’s right off the SHT it was still pretty private and a gorgeous site. I highly recommend this for backpackers!

Beautiful campground right next to trails to waterfalls

9/21/19-9/22/19. #6E

I booked this site the day before (I assume it was a cancelation) as I wanted to catch the fall colors.

A favorite state park campground

9/20/19-9/21/19. #14

Temperance is definitely at the top of my list for camping along the north shore. The Temperance River separates the upper and lower campground. Both campgrounds are similar with the upper offering electric sites and each have 3-cart in sites. Several sites are next to Lake Suoerior, with full lake views in the lower campground. There are showers in the upper campground and vault toilets throughout.

Site 14 was in the upper campground, near the lake and there was a trail that took you right to the rocks overlooking Lake Superior. I enjoyed the privacy and the sounds of crashing waves. I booked this site the day before (I assume it was a cancelation) as I wanted to catch the fall colors.

Temperance river has miles of trails and waterfalls to explore on the Temperance River. You can take trails on both sides of the river and can access these trails right from the campground. The trail also takes you all the way to Carlton Peak. It’s a gorgeous campground and state park. This campground is very popular and books up fast.