By Amy Rea

This year’s unusually early spring is a boon for outdoor enthusiasts. Even though it’s still (barely) March, it’s definitely not too soon to make plans to visit one of Minnesota’s state parks this summer. Note: The DNR recently overhauled its online reservation system, and as of today you can book online through July 21. Full details about the new reservation system and scheduling rollout can be found here.

If you’re a camping enthusiast, you are probably already aware of the multitude of camping opportunities the parks offer, but did you know there are other types of lodging available as well?

At Upper Sioux Agency State Park outside of Granite Falls, you have the option of bypassing your tent for a tipi instead. There are two available for reservation in the Yellow Medicine River Campground, each with its own fire ring, picnic table, and parking spur. Note: neither fires nor pets are allowed inside the tipi.

If you’re looking for something more like a cabin, you have several options across the state. Over the last couple of years, the Minnesota DNR has been adding camper cabins that can accommodate up to six people (or five, in the handicapped-accessible cabins) in cozy log surroundings. The cabins have bunk beds (bring your own bedding). Many of the cabins have screen porches, indoor and outdoor picnic tables, and fire rings. The camper cabins are not equipped to cook inside, nor do they have running water or indoor bathrooms (but they’re located close to public facilities).

Some of the parks offering the camper cabins include:
Banning State Park outside of Sandstone
Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely
Big Bog State Park near Waskish
Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck
Jay Cooke State Park near Carlton
Lake Maria State Park near Monticello
Myre-Big Island State Park near Albert Lea
Wild River State Park near Center City
Sibley State Park near Willmar

If you’re looking for something more substantial, there are still more offerings. At Bear Head Lake State Park near Tower, you can reserve a guesthouse that holds 10 people, and has a two-car garage, deck, and canoe or boat rental included in the rates.

Itasca State Park near Park Rapids, home to the Mississippi Headwaters, offers several lodging opportunities, from overnight hostels to cabins to a lodge with suites to a 75-person group center.

St. Croix State Park near Hinckley has five two-person cabins and two guesthouses, one accommodating 12 and the other 15.

Tettegouche State Park near Silver Bay has four cabins, three of which sleep six and one that holds two, as well as a (very popular) six-person guesthouse overlooking Illgen Falls.

This isn’t all our state parks have to offer. Be sure to check out the Minnesota DNR website for full details.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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