Paddle-in campsites offer a not-too-remote backwoods experience

People who like tent camping and canoeing – but aren’t ready to explore the million-acre wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – can enjoy paddle-in campsites at six state parks in northeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Paddle-in campsites are mostly reachable with a short paddle of less than 2 miles. Some of the sites are also navigable by land as backpack sites. None have vehicle access.

“For those who are new to this style of camping, it can be a primer for a wilderness experience, and it can help campers decide if they want to graduate to the next level,” said Scenic State Park Manager Steve Railson. “The sites are more isolated than what you’d find at a regular campground, but they’re not too remote for a novice.”

Twenty-two of these campsites are scattered throughout the region at six state parks:

• Scenic State Park (near Bigfork): five paddle-in campsites.

• Bear Head Lake State Park (near Ely): two paddle-in campsites.

• Lake Vermilion State Park (near Soudan): three temporary paddle-in campsites.

• Savanna Portage State Park (near McGregor): one paddle-in campsite.

• Schoolcraft State Park (near Deer River): one paddle-in campsite.

• St. Croix State Park (near Hinckley): 10 paddle-in campsites.

Amenities at each location vary; most campsites have a tent pad, fire ring and primitive toilet. Campers should be prepared to pack in all of the drinking water and supplies they need for their stay and to pack out all trash.

Paddle-in campsites range from $12 to $24 per night, with the exception of the Lake Vermilion State Park, which has three temporary paddle-in campsites that are free while the park is under development. A Minnesota state parks vehicle pass ($5/one-day or $25/year-round) is required for park entry.

Some of the paddle-in campsites can be reserved in advance, but most are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional information about these and other camping spots in state parks can be found on the DNR website at or by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. To make reservations, visit or call toll-free 866-857-2757 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.