By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than ever, people have looked for ways to get out of their homes and find a place to escape. Rentals at state and county parks are in high demand.

From camper cabins to yurts, WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle went in search of the hot rentals close to the Twin Cities, and she found out when they’ll be available for you. She discovered the allure of adventuring close to home.

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Dakota County introduced two sleek camper cabins at Whitetail Woods Regional Park nearing the end of 2020.

“It feels like you’re far away, but you’re not,” Anne Shadrick said.

Shaddrick was one of the first to rent after its debut, a mere seven miles from her home.

“The fact that the hiking and skiing is right from your backyard. And it’s beautiful compared to all the other camper cabins, it’s a few steps up,” Shaddrick said.

Joel Thingvall and his wife visited in early December.

“We came out just for some peace and quiet, and she wanted to sketch. She’s an artist and was doing watercolors,” Thingvall said.

They snagged a highly sought after reservation. They’re regulars at park systems.

“We like to go out and just stay in cabins, especially now when we have grandboys who are 5 and 7,” Thingvall said.

This time the boys joined just for the day, possible because the destination is close to home.

The master plan for the 6-year-old Whitetail Park started with three original tree houses. And they’ve maintained their popularity.

One of the cool features of the pine forest cabin is when you step outside, you’re nestled among the trees.

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Park Operations Supervisor Katie Pata says the close proximity to the Twin Cities is a draw, along with how cushy the cabins are.

“There’s WiFi, there’s heat, there’s a nearby bathhouse with hot water so you can take hot shower in the morning,” Pata said.

And she points out they’re architecturally and situationally unique.

“That was important that these be destination type amenities that would just be a few steps above what you might expect,” Pata said.

If you’re looking for something a little more rustic, look no further than Afton State Park. The park has two yurts to rent.

“It’s a little bit of a fun adventure. It definitely gets you off the grid, it’s rustic, so there’s no electricity running here, you’re going to heat yourself with the wood,” Assistant Park Manager Ali Croft said.

With three sets of bunkbeds, the yurt sleeps seven. Croft says they also have four camper cabins, with electricity, but people are especially drawn to the unique experience the circular tent offers.

“They definitely have gained popularity, and it’s maintained throughout the pandemic, giving users, and maybe people from the metro area and beyond, a nice excuse to connect, unplug and get out to a state park with family or friends,” Croft said.

Yurts rentals are available at Afton, Cuyuna County State Recreation Area, and Glendalough State Park.

Patience, and planning, is key when booking a close to the cities getaway, especially this year. The camper cabins and yurts book four months out, so the next available slot comes just before summer, in early June.

“Yeah, they are very popular. It’s quite difficult to book a night which is a good problem to have,” Shaddick said.

Pricing per night is under $100. Whitetail Woods camper cabins are $90 per night. The yurts go for $70 per night, and Afton’s camper cabin’s are $75 a night.

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Click here to learn more about Whitetail Park, or here to book a yurt.

Jennifer Mayerle