5 easy hacks to get outdoors this summer

DNR’s state parks and trails director shares tips to get Minnesotans outside

The Department of Natural Resources offers a number of tips for busy Minnesotans to reduce the burden of planning an outdoor adventure.  

“Minnesotans love the outdoors – we know this,” said Erika Rivers, state parks and trails director. “But we also know that the biggest barriers for families to get outdoors and enjoy nature are time, cost, and information. We’re working to alleviate this for people by creating new online trip-planning tools, providing no-cost or low-cost activities, and making information easier to find online.”

Whether people are looking for some laid-back time outdoors or a little adventure, state parks and trails are likely to have just the place and activity for everyone.

Want to go on a bike adventure?
Minnesota has one of the most extensive state trail systems in the country, with 25 state trails reaching more than 1,300 miles. “Depending on what type of adventure you’re looking for, we have the trail for you,” Rivers said. “Our start-up guide helps you determine which trails best meet your needs – whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly ride or a more rugged, backcountry adventure.”

Go to mndnr.gov/state_trails for more information.

Camping with kids?
With 75 state parks and recreation areas, there are almost 5,000 campsites across Minnesota offering every type of adventure for families.

There are a number of resources on the DNR website to make it easier for everyone to get out and camp. “You’ll find a helpful parenting guide for how to camp with kids, a camping checklist, and an events calendar that highlights all the free, fun naturalist programs that are happening all summer long,” Rivers said.

Go to mndnr.gov/state_parks/stay_overnight for more information.

Want to get out on the water to escape the heat?
Minnesota has 35 state water trails that offer great paddling adventures – from easy day trips to overnight canoe-camping trips to challenging whitewater trips.

“When the heat turns up, you’ll want to get out on the water,” Rivers said. “If you don’t own paddling equipment, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.”

Rental equipment is available at many state parks and recreation areas across the state. The DNR’s website also provides a list of outfitters by state water trail that can help people plan and equip for the perfect paddle trip on any of the state water trails. Visitor safety is the DNR’s highest priority, so people should make sure to always wear a life jacket and check river levels before hitting the water. Go to mndnr.gov/watertrails for more information.

Best swimming holes in state parks?
There are more than half a dozen state park swimming beaches within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities, and hundreds more across the whole state.

“Hitting the beach is one of the best ways to cool down in the summer,” Rivers said. “And Minnesota state parks boast some of the best swimming beaches in the state.”

Many parks also have picnic areas so people can pack a lunch and make a day of it.

Go to mndnr.gov/parkfinder to find a new swimming hole.

A lot of terrain, just a little time?
There are hundreds of miles of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail miles to enjoy in Minnesota’s state forests, and thousands of miles of volunteer-maintained trails throughout the state.

“If you’re looking to cover a lot of ground deep in Minnesota forestlands, exploring by OHV is a great way to go,” Rivers said. “We’re in the process of updating all our state forest maps, so you can even download a map to your mobile device and track your trip as you go.

“Minnesota state parks and trails are for everyone to enjoy,” said Rivers. “So get outdoors today and enjoy some quality time with family and friends this summer!”

Registration and more information
People can book a campsite and plan an outdoor adventure with the many resources available online. For more information, visit mndnr.gov/stateparks or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).