Best Free Camping in Minnesota

Free Camping in Minnesota

By Nathan Swartz

Minnesota goes by the name "Land of 10,000 Lakes," and rightfully so, the state actually holds over 11,000 bodies of water and the largest portion of Lake Superior as well. That all means plenty of waterfront camping, but the fun doesn't stop there. Thanks to state and national forests, free camping areas are never far away.

While you'll find the typical Walmart camping in the southern section of the state, free, primitive camping along the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway can be found about an hour and a half north of Minneapolis. Opportunities to find free RV camping increase as you venture further north, as does the natural beauty, thanks to Minnesota's extensive state forests.

See a map of all free camping in Minnesota.

Free Camping in Superior National Forest

3.9 million acres of forest coat the northeastern corner of Minnesota, and all of that woodlands make for plenty of areas to find the perfect camping destination. From canoe camping in the Boundary Waters to national forest dispersed camping with some sites suitable for any RV length, a variety of camping can be had sans the campsite fee. Many formal campgrounds, like Harriet Lake Rustic Campground, come with picnic tables, a fire ring, and access to a boat ramp. There are actually many free spots like this, from those in or very near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to others right up against the Canadian border.

As this is a pristine forest, please be sure to practice Leave no Trace principles, keeping your rig in previously established campsites and packing your trash out with you. These free campsites often come with a vault toilet, but rarely is trash service provided.

South of the national forest, both Silver Bay City Dump Station and the Lil' Dog Car & Pet Wash, in Two Harbors, MN, offer free access to water, dump station amenities, and a place to dispose of your trash.

Dispersed camping also exists in the Chippewa National Forest or at the established Six Mile Campground near Bena, MN.

More Free RV Camping on Minnesota Public Lands

Dispersed camping is permitted throughout Minnesota's state forests; however, it is rarely RV camping-friendly, as you must use existing sites, you can't camp in parking lots, and this type of camping typically comes in the form of hiking back into the woods a bit. It is perfect for tent camping.

One exception to this is Cedar Bay Campground in the Cloquet Valley State Forest, where several waterfront sites are provided by the State of Minnesota, free of charge. Toilets, a swimming beach, boat ramp, and great fishing can be had here, but you should bring everything else you need–including drinking water–and pack it all back out with you again when you leave.

Other free campgrounds come in the form of a county park by the name of Old Crossing Treaty Park, near Red Falls, MN. Between this and the Chippewa National Forest, several casinos offer parking lot camping as well. It's always a good idea to call ahead when planning on camping in casino lots, as various conditions may apply, and the rules can change at a moment's notice.

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Recent Minnesota Free Campsite Reviews

Oct 06, 2023

"Great Dispersed Camping"

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Only about 8 sites, vault toilet and a boat launch. Neighbors seemed nice. Couple miles off US 2 east of Bena, MN. Free.

9 reviews
Sep 30, 2023

"2021 Beautiful Lake!"

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Stayed during some wildfires and the smoke was hard to handle so i only stayed one night. The lake was beautiful to explore. The site was private and nice. I would love to go back again sometime.

1 review
Silver Bay, MN

Silver Bay RV Parking

Sep 15, 2023

"Free spot and quiet"

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A parking lot up a road overlooking the city of Silver Bay with, just down the hill, a free dump station and fresh water available (donations accepted). We were the only ones there and felt safe and secure. Walk up the road farther to see and learn about the taconite processing plant that fronts Lake Superior.

5 reviews
Sep 09, 2023

"Would Not Recommend. "

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Awful! Garbage Everywhere. Would Not Recommend. Old Couches, Furniture Bags Of Garbage! Gross.

4 reviews
Warren, MN

Centennial Park

Aug 28, 2023

"Beautiful city park"

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We honestly didn't stay here, but stopped (twice) for lunch and to charge our battery. The sites are not numbered, but there are about 8 of them, each with a well-maintained electrical post. One water spigot and a two portable restrooms (no shower). The park was very clean and you can't beat free. We would definately stay here if we were back...
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