The Most Remote Backpacking Campsites in Minnesota

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An evening campfire in the Boundary Waters as the northern lights glimmer above / Gary Hamer

The Most Remote Backpacking Campsites in Minnesota

By Brian Fanelli

Packing up your backpack with the essentials, venturing into the great outdoors, and spending a few nights tent camping in the wilderness is a cherished summer tradition for many Minnesotans.

From the Boundary Waters to the Headwaters, here are five of the most secluded backpacking spots in Minnesota.

  1. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
    Boundary waters camp kitchen over a fire pit

    Campsites in the Boundary Waters include a fire pit grill for all your camp kitchen dreams / Gary Hamer

    Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

    Accessible primarily by canoe, the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota is one of America's most beautiful and remote adventures. Spanning 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, the Boundary Waters is home to over 1,100 lakes, 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 2,000 designated campsites within its vast wilderness. Although other campers are few and far between throughout the Boundary Waters, for maximum social distancing, pitch your tent at a site off the main canoe routes. As one of the most remote areas in Minnesota, first-timers are highly encouraged to consult beginner-friendly write-ups and visit local trip outfitters for supplies, route advice and campsite tips.

  2. Wild River State Park
    Wild River State Park

    Located along 18 miles of the beautiful St. Croix River, Wild River State Park offers a genuine wilderness camping experience that’s less than an hour’s drive north of St. Paul. Set on the officially designated “wild and scenic” portion of the river, the remote campsites at Wild River are breathtakingly lush and completely isolated from the outside world. Choose from seven hike-in sites or four canoe-in sites.

  3. Itasca State Park
    Incredible hardwood forests in Itasca State Park

    Magical forests and incredible hiking trails await just off the beaten path at Itasca State Park

    Itasca State Park

    As one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks and birthplace of the Mississippi River, Itasca may not immediately spring to your mind for a remote camping experience. But with more than 32,000 acres of land, over 100 lakes and 49 miles of hiking trails, there are plenty of places to escape the crowds in Minnesota’s oldest state park—including 11 rustic hike-in sites located between 1 and 5 miles from the trailhead. Many of the backpacking sites are clustered together, so for anyone seeking true isolation, follow the rolling Deer Park Trail through the park's dense hardwood forest to camp under the stars at the solo site on McKay Lake.

  4. Myre-Big Island State Park
    Myre-Big Island State Park

    Down by Albert Lea near the state’s southern border, Myre-Big Island State Park is a unique little park at the intersection of Minnesota’s native tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and wetlands. Named for the 116-acre Big Island on Albert Lea Lake, the park is considered one of the better birding spots in southern Minnesota. Choose from four secluded hike-in campsites on the western shore of Albert Lea Lake, or give up a little privacy to camp on the Big Island itself.

  5. Maplewood State Park
    Woman hiking at Maplewood State Park

    The scenic hiking trails at Maplewood State Park offer incredible hilltop views / Micah Kvidt

    Maplewood State Park

    As one of the prettiest places to go hiking in Minnesota, it’s no surprise Maplewood State Park is also an ideal spot for a hike-in camping trip. This hilly central Minnesota park is home to over 25 miles of magnificent hiking trails, many of which offer incredible hilltop views of the region’s forest-meets-prairie landscape. All three of the park’s hike-in campgrounds can provide truly secluded sleeping arrangements, but for maximum solitude, reserve the site on Beers Lake, accessible via a scenic 2.5-mile hike on the North Country Trail or half-mile paddle.

Man and dog at Superior Hiking Trail overlook

Sunset on the Superior Hiking Trail / Alyssa Hei

Know Before You Go

  • A vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks and many regional parks. Save time by ordering one online before you arrive at the park.
  • For comfort and safety on the trail, be sure everyone has appropriate footwear (tennis shoes, not flip-flops).
  • Bring a water bottle for each hiker as well as plenty of sunscreen, bug spray and snacks.
  • Pick up a paper map at the park office or load a GeoPDF map before you leave (don’t rely on your phone to navigate because cell and Internet service may not be available in the woods).
  • The accessible trails at Minnesota state parks are stroller friendly as well as wheelchair friendly.
  • Some Minnesota state parks have all-terrain electric wheelchairs for use on unpaved trails.
  • If your dog will be hiking with you, keep it on a leash and clean up after it.
  • Don't pick wildflowers or otherwise disturb the landscape. "Take only photos, leave only footprints."
Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli is a writer and editor for Explore Minnesota. When he isn't writing about life in The North, you'll find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore, biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails or walking his Chihuahua around Minneapolis.