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

Saint Charles, MN

Love's RV & Truck Parking Lot

Oct 25, 2022

"Stayed Here 10/25/2022."

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I arrived here late afternoon, compendium coordinates were right on, very nice truck stop, lots of parking, I had no problem parking my truck camper in the car parking area.

1 review
Sep 06, 2022

"Excellent "

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Even though the sign said we could only stay 4 hours, we stayed all night with no issues.

Mel W
1 review
Aug 21, 2022

"Stayed here one night."

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I arrived around 11 PM and was worried about arriving late but it was fine. I had called ahead to make sure that they wouldn't have a problem with me car camping and they were friendly on the phone and asked that I check in with security when I got there. I asked them on the phone if I should have a backup plan in case they wouldn't allow me to...
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1 review
Aug 02, 2022

"Trains all night long"

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It would be a decent little campsite for small rigs and tent campers, but the train tracks across the highway were busy ALL NIGHT LONG, and they love to blast their horns. Bring earplugs and you might be okay. No trash service, but there is a hand-pump for water at one of the sites near the back. Do not bring your big rig (30ft+) in here. ...
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Aaron Segura
1 review
Fergus Falls, MN


Jul 04, 2022

"Worked for a quick nights sleep. "

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Just hit 10:00pm and Sun had gone down. Pulled I to the parking lot and slept in the camper. We felt safe and out of the way of large trucks. If you are a light sleeper earplugs might be needed because trucks pull in during the night for rest.

Nielsen clan
2 reviews