Two people sit around a campfire in the Boundary Waters as the northern lights glimmer in the distance
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5 of 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

5 of 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 is one of America's most pristine and private adventures. Spanning 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, the Boundary Waters' vast wilderness is home to over 1,100 lakes, 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and 2,000 designated campsites. Due to its varying degrees of difficulty and spotty cell phone reception, first-timers are highly encouraged to consult beginner-friendly itineraries and visit local trip outfitters for supplies, route advice and campsite tips.

  2. 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, 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.

  3. 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 more than 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.

  4. Myre-Big Island State Park
    Walkers at Myer Big Island State Park

    Soak up the natural landscape at Myre Big Island State Park in southern Minnesota / Jessica Brouillette

    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.

  1. 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 over at the DNR.

     

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 Minneapolis-based writer. You can reliably find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore or biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails.