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.

portable computer displaying map of camping locations
mobile device showing map of camping locations


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Recent Minnesota Free Campsite Reviews

Red Lake Falls, MN

Old Crossing Treaty Park

Oct 23, 2021

"Primitive campground off the beaten path"

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Quiet campground in late October. Many fire pits and sites to choose from. Pit toilets were clean and stocked. One trash barrel for our needs. A bright yard-type light on one end of the campground. We parked on the other side and had a lovely and peaceful night. Very minimal road noise from roads. Only half a mile on well maintained gravel road...
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Laughing Jane
6 reviews
Fergus Falls, MN


Sep 20, 2021

"Great last minute stop over"

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Needed a place to stop overnight and this Walmart was excellent. Store staff were great and accommodating. There were 4 RV/trailers and about 15 trucks when we got there. A few trucks came and went but in general didn’t find it exceptionally noisy.

2 reviews

"Lovely spot on Silver Island Lake with access to a dock "

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Had seen some good reviews of this USFS Rustic campground so headed up for a short two day, one night trip. There was only one other occupied campsite when I arrived on a Tuesday. Vault toilets were clean and well-stocked. Looks like USFS Staff stop out at least weekly to clean them. Sadly, there were minnows dumped at the back of one...
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1 review
Sep 16, 2021

"Beautiful and BIG RIG FRIENDLY. "

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This is a great spot that we will come back to. We were in spot 4 which gave you a great view of the lake. There are 3 spots that would work for groups of campers. You do have to drive for about 14 miles down a dirt road to get to this camp ground. It was never crowded. But we were never totally alone, however the spots are spread so far apart...
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Wanderin' David
10 reviews
Fergus Falls, MN


Sep 03, 2021

"Pretty good just bring ear plugs"

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Our hometown Walmart..Yes we lived in Fergus falls for over 25 years before we sold our house in town and are fulltime rving..So now that we are on the road we have stayed here along with the trucks..It can get full but if you stay on the west side towards the strip mall you should do fine.. The trucks usually take the east end. Great staff at...
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1 review