5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Minnesota



Minnesota is a camper’s dream — lush forests, wide-open spaces outside the cities, and an abundance of crystal clear water for swimming and paddling. Minnesota’s nickname, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is no joke either. No matter where you go there, you’re never far from a beautiful lakeshore. As summer approaches, nearly every conversation between Minnesotans seems to turn toward “their cabin up north.” 

But what if you’re not from the Land of 10,000 Lakes or lack a quaint little cabin to enjoy on the weekends? Don’t despair. Minnesota has an abundance of great free campgrounds and forests open to boondockers. Head in just about any direction and you’re sure to find one of these magical places. So, what’s it take to go boondocking in Minnesota?

Can I Go Boondocking in Minnesota?

Absolutely! Almost a quarter of the state is public land, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an amazing boondocking site here. Minnesota has plenty of state and national forests where dispersed camping is free and only subject to a 14-day limit during the summer months. 

Some of the most well-known sites are up north, like Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, both of which are popular with anglers, paddlers, and anyone who loves getting out on the water. There are also dozens of spots for boondocking in Superior National Forest along Lake Superior. It’s also where you’ll find the 310-mile-long Superior Hiking Trail that follows much of the lake’s shoreline.

Even if you’re not heading out to the backcountry, though, Minnesota is a fairly lenient state when it comes to boondocking. Sleeping in your vehicle at rest stops is perfectly legal and isn't subject to the time limits that many other states impose. Dry camping in private parking lots is also permitted in most areas, with some exceptions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Boondocking is an excellent way to save money during your RV travels too. Often you just need a little guidance on where to find the best free campsites. Fortunately, we’ve compiled some of the very best Minnesota boondocking locations.

Top Locations for Boondocking in Minnesota

Minnesota is a big state with a wide variety of terrain — steep hills in the south, vast plains along its eastern border, and rocky cliffs near the shores of Lake Superior. Start your boondocking journey by deciding what kinds of activities you want to do in these diverse landscapes and we’ll tell you where to find the best campsites.

Superior National Forest

5-Boondocking-Locations-and-Free-Campsites-in-Minnesota-4.jpgAt 3.4 million acres, this national forest is truly massive. It dominates the northern third of the state and encompasses the famous Boundary Waters region and Voyageurs National Park. There are almost too many campgrounds to list, interspersed over hundreds of miles. Some campgrounds charge a fee, and a few of them have electrical hookups (Fall Lake, Whiteface Reservoir, and South Kawishiwi River). There are eighteen rustic campgrounds that charge no fee and are ideal for off-the-grid boondockers. Each has only one or two sites large enough for an RV. 

Amenities: With so many campgrounds in Superior National Forest, the amenities at each can vary widely. The free rustic campsites have fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. Don’t count on drinking water being available; you’ll definitely want a water filter here.

Capacity: 36 free sites suitable for RVs, nearly 600 fee sites

More information: Superior National Forest

Crane Lake

5-Boondocking-Locations-and-Free-Campsites-in-Minnesota-3.jpgIf you’re trying to disconnect for the weekend, Crane Lake is the campground to visit. It’s just shy of the Canadian border and acts as the western entry point to Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park. You’ll definitely want to either bring or rent a kayak or canoe to properly enjoy this campground.

Amenities: All of Crane Lake’s sites are backcountry sites; you can’t camp in your RV rental. They’re also quite primitive, with just a fire ring, tent pads, and a vault toilet — they are first-come, first-serve. If backcountry camping isn’t for you, there are several private RV parks close to the lake with full hookups.

Capacity: 3 backcountry sites

More information: Crane Lake 

Marcell Dispersed Camping

5-Boondocking-Locations-and-Free-Campsites-in-Minnesota-1.jpgThree and a half hours north of Minneapolis and two and a half from Duluth, the Marcell Dispersed Camping Area inside the Chippewa National Forest is the perfect place to get away from the bustle of city life and enjoy nature. The area doesn’t see too much traffic, but you should have a backup plan for your site as they’re all first-come, first-serve. Several hiking trails meander around the lakes in the area and between them, but most come here to paddle the crystal clear waters of Trout Lake and Spider Lake.

Amenities: Development is limited at this site, with only pit toilets and fire rings available at some. Most of the sites do not have toilets, except for the ones closest to Trout Lake. These also have metal grills on their firepits, while most of the others have simple rock rings. Trout Lake and Spider Lake are nearby, but the water needs purification to be drinkable. 

Capacity: 30 sites

More information: Marcell Dispersed Camping 

Old Crossing Treaty Park

5-Boondocking-Locations-and-Free-Campsites-in-Minnesota-2.jpgOne of the smaller spots for boondocking in Minnesota, Old Crossing Treaty Park lies in the northwest corner of the state, about half an hour from Grand Forks, North Dakota. The park consists of a grassy patch of land next to the Red River with a fair number of trees providing shade to boondockers. It’s a free campground, so it can get quite busy on the weekends, but sees little traffic during the week.

Amenities: For a free campground in a less-visited part of the state, the park has decent amenities, including picnic tables, primitive fire rings, a drinking water pump, and vault toilets. There’s a boat ramp for accessing the Red River, which usually has a slow enough current for novice paddlers to feel comfortable in.

Capacity: 5 sites

More information: Old Crossing Treaty Park 

Cloquet Valley State Forest

5-Boondocking-Locations-and-Free-Campsites-in-Minnesota-5.jpgOne of Minnesota’s most convenient campgrounds, Cloquet State Forest is only twenty miles from Duluth. While there are paddle-in campsites along the Cloquet River, RV camping is found at Indian Lake — a relatively shallow body of water brimming with Walleye, Bullhead, Pike, and Bass. Be sure to pick up a Minnesota fishing license before heading to the campground! 

Amenities: Sites at Indian Lake Campground are fairly primitive, with vault toilets, basic fire rings, and picnic tables being the only amenities. Drinking water is available or you can filter the water from Indian Lake. The primary attraction is fishing at the lake and paddling the Cloquet River Water Trail. There’s also a boat ramp and swimming area on the shore of Indian Lake. For a full hookup RV experience, check out nearby Norway Lodge’s RV park.

Capacity: 25 sites

More information: Cloquet Valley State Forest 

Experience the Great Outdoors in Minnesota with Cruise America

Few states can compete with Minnesota when it comes to camping; the sheer number of lakefront sites is enough to bring any watersports-loving camper to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Getting an RV rental is one of the best ways to enjoy all those lakefront campsites, with all the amenities of home just steps away. It’s also a great way to save money, forgoing expensive hotels and Airbnbs in favor of longer vacations in nature. Additionally, for pet lovers who hate leaving their pets at home while they’re out having fun, renting an RV from Cruise America is the perfect solution. Allow your furry friends to go wherever you go! 

Are you ready to start planning your trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Then grab your swimsuit, a big bottle of bug repellant, and contact Cruise America today to get your Minnesota RV rental set up!