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Minnesota’s most popular state parks for camping

ST. PAUL -- It may be winter but it is never too early to start planning for summer, so if you’re into camping, these were some of the state parks Minnesota campers flocked to the most during the summer of 2018.

Itasca State Park, Park Rapids

Accounting for about 9 percent of the total nights reserved by campers during the summer of 2018, Itasca was easily Minnesota’s most camped state park. With more than 200 campsites, it recorded just over 22,600 reservations between the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Campers can choose from traditional campsites to log cabins to a 10-room log building. The park also features the historic Douglas Lodge, which features an office, guest rooms and meetings rooms on the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Lake Carlos State Park, Carlos

With just under 10,000 reservations this past summer, Lake Carlos was a popular spot for Minnesotans. The park has one campground along the lake and another that is more wooded and secluded. Together they have more than 120 sites, 81 of which have electricity. The 1,231 acres of the park are home to prairies and coniferous forest.

St. Croix State Park, Hinckley

Minnesota’s largest state park at 34,000 acres is within walking distance of the St. Croix River and has more than 200 campsites. The park saw 9,000 reservations last summer. The park features multiple options for camping including traditional campsites, three family campsites, sites accessible only by boat, two that require a five-mile hike to reach and one horse camp.

Whitewater State Park, Altura

This state park is a good option if you’re trying to avoid mosquitoes or want to do some trout fishing. The park’s 2,700 acres along the Whitewater River in southeastern Minnesota feature 104 drive-in sites, six walk-in sites, three primitive group camping sites and two sites that are wheelchair-accessible. There’s electricity at 47 of the sites. The park recorded roughly 8,000 reservations last summer, a 20 percent increase from the year before.

Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely

In the northwoods of Ely, this state park has 73 drive-in campsites, one group campsite, five backpacking sites — four of which are located on smaller lakes — and another site accessible only by canoe. The park saw just under 8,000 reservations in summer 2018.

William O’brien State Park, Marine On St. Croix

Within an hour from the Twin Cities metro, this park had nearly 7,500 reservations during the summer of 2018. It has 114 drive-in sites, three wheelchair-accessible sites and four group campsites. Electricity is available at 71 of the sites.

Sibley State Park, New London

The park is named for Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota’s first governor, and has two campgrounds — one on the shore of Lake Andrew. The campgrounds include 132 drive-in sites, two wheelchair-accessible sites, nine horse-camp sites and three group campsites. From Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2018 the park recorded just under 8,000 reservations.

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Two Harbors

The waterfalls from the Gooseberry River are a big part of why this park saw nearly 7,000 camping reservations last summer. It features about 20 miles of hiking trails that wind through aspen, cedar, spruce and pine forests as well as 12 miles of cross-country skiing trails and two snowmobile trails. It has about 70 campsites.