Tips for being outside Memorial Day weekend — even if you don’t have a campsite

The weather appears to be pleasant in the state for much of Memorial Day weekend as we welcome the unofficial start of summer in Minnesota.

Minnesota State Parks make lots available 120 days in advance — which means most popular lots are booked. But that’s no reason to stop daydreaming about customs, stargazing, and unwinding.

Here are some ideas for enjoying state parks, hiking trails, and forests.

At this point, it is best for campers to look at the condition Forest Campgrounds to secure a tent site, said Sara Berhow of the Parks and Trails Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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Of Minnesota’s 143 campgrounds, nearly a third are located in state forests and do not accept reservations.

Forest campsites do not have modern facilities such as flush toilets or showers. They have designated campgrounds with fire pits and dumpsters, but dispersed camping outside of these areas is also permitted at forest campgrounds.

“If people want to explore the state forests, they can learn more about these 48 campgrounds on the DNR website. And maybe visit a place they’ve never camped before,” Berhow said.

Drive-in campgrounds in the state forests are $17 a night; Group campsites are $50.

There are also several campgrounds in the Chippewa and Superior National Forests with a mix of reserved and first-come, first-served sites. Rates range from $0 for backcountry camping to $26 per night for reserved and unreserved developed campgrounds.

Like over 95 percent of other state campgrounds, getting a spot at the Willow River Campgrounds in the General Andrews State Forest in Willow River, Minnesota can be difficult. But camping opportunities don’t end with state parks.

Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News 2016

Camping not your thing (or instant coffee)?

“Go for a day, an afternoon, or even an hour,” Berhow said, noting that many areas have gear rentals.

In certain state parks you can hike, bike, skate or paddle. Adrenaline seekers can go mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting or scuba diving. Have a picnic in a shelter, bird watch or fish, or try your hand at nature photography.

Many state parks also offer free rentals of GPS, bird watching, and fishing equipment, and six parks have free all-terrain electric chair rentals.

Entry into state parks requires a paid permit for most people. Libraries across the state are offering free seven-day state parking passes.

Swimming on beaches at lakes or rivers could also be popular this weekend. But Berhow’s last suggestion?

“Pack a hammock and take a nap outside.”

Check out the MN DNR Summer Starter Kit for more ideas.

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