Minnesotans, after a year cooped up inside, flock to state parks and campgrounds

Campsite occupancy rates and annual state park permit sales are up.
Publish date:

A year of cabin fever has people flocking to Minnesota State Parks and campsites.

Through the first six months of 2021, nearly one-third of all available nights at state campsites had been reserved for use, according to data provided by the Minnesota DNR. During that timeframe the agency recorded 142,095 reservations out of 431,725 available nights.

This occupancy rate of 32.91% marks a fairly large jump from 2019, when the occupancy rate from January through June was 24.49% (103,368 visits during 422,104 available nights). In May alone this year, more than half of all available campsite nights were taken up.

(Note: The DNR said it isn't using 2020 as a comparison, because campsites were shut down throughout the spring, with reservations limited throughout the year.)

Related: Mystery Cave is once again open for scenic tours

The data also shows an increase, though less dramatic, in the number of group camping reservations, which went from a 19.55% occupancy rate (1,775 out of 9,079)  through the first half of 2019, up to 23.54% (2,072 out of 8,801) in 2021. Lodging and cabin reservations are also up slightly.

The figures in Minnesota reflect a behavioral trend seen nationally: Americans, after a year cooped up indoors, desperate to get out into nature. National Parks have bore the brunt of this voracious appetite for the outdoors, with overcrowding leading to environmental concerns at popular sites.

Related: Minnesota's lone National Park is also one of the least popular in the country

In the state, sales of annual state park permits hit 125,281 through the first half of 2021, according to DNR data — up noticeably from 2020 (100,673 annual permit sales) and 2019 (78,246). 

While some state parks, particularly those in and around the Twin Cities metro, have been "very busy" this year, Visitor Services and Outreach Section Manager with the DNR's Parks and Trails Division Rachel Hopper told Bring Me The News, state parks haven't seen those troubling crowd levels noted nationally.

Hopper said that last year, metro-area state parks experienced "visitation pressures" related to parking, with lots at parks such as Afton filling up quickly. That has not been the case so far in 2021, she continued, possibly due to more overnight campers (as revealed by occupancy rates) or visits being more spread out.

"That being said they're still busy, especially on weekends," Hopper added.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-07-30 at 10.55.37 AM

Bespoke office space for changing times, courtesy of Redbrick Commercial Real Estate

Redbrick Commercial Real Estate specializes in innovative and sustainable office spaces.

coronavirus, covid-19, icu

MN up to 45 counties with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission

Delta is leading to more cases – and more severe cases – involving children in other states.

Screen Shot 2021-05-23 at 9.08.48 AM

University of St. Thomas latest to require vaccines for students, staff

The college had previously offered incentives to get vaccinated, but is now mandating them.

Pixabay - crowd park outdoors CROP

New forecast predicts more than 4 million Twin Cities residents by 2050

The Met Council believes job opportunities will also steadily grow.

Mike Zimmer

Zimmer on unvaccinated players: 'Some of the things they've read are just, woof, out there'

The coach says he's doesn't understand why some players won't get vaccinated.

Ramsey County - Karina Her booking photo crop 2

Charges: St. Paul woman killed ex-husband, buried him in her back yard

A woman is accused of fatally shooting her ex-husband and burying him in the yard.

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 8.02.46 AM

Riverview Cafe in south Minneapolis closes, plans to 'reassess' its future

The cafe and wine bar was open in the Longfellow neighborhood for 23 years.

Pixabay - camp food fire

Bear sightings prompt food storage mandate up north

Visitors to the forest and BWCAW will be required to 'properly' store their food.

covid, vaccine

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, August 2

The delta variant has been leading to higher case counts and hospitalizations in Minnesota.

Bloomington Walmart

Customers reportedly flee after scare inside Bloomington Walmart

People ran believing it was gunshots, but police say it was actually fireworks.

Racket website screengrab aug 2

New alt news site from former City Pages editors launches this month

Racket will be supported through a reader subscription model.


Flickr - state park sign - Tony Webster

State parks, DNR get their funding — with no impact on the 'Clean Cars' rule

The Senate GOP had threatened to withhold environmental funding unless the rule was scrapped.

Mystery Cave - Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Cave is once again open for scenic tours

Scenic tours began July 1, and will run into September.

A person sitting in bed in a cabin, reading a book.

Minnesota's rural Airbnb hosts have seen earnings double during pandemic

The online rental service said earnings in Greater MN have doubled

split rock lighthouse

Minnesota campground named among the Top 10 in the US

The spot on the North Shore came in at No. 5.

Flickr - boundary waters - Doug Wilkowske

Forest Service going back to in-person 'Leave No Trace' education for BWCAW

The agency had been requiring permit seekers to watch educational videos.


Campgrounds can reopen June 1. Here are the new guidelines

Campgrounds can open with proper social distancing and sanitization protocols.


DNR announces plans for phased reopening of MN campgrounds

Some will be open in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Flickr - black bear walking fence line - Dan Ox

DNR: Property owner complains about black bear, refuses to take down feeders

A lesson in what not to do if a black bear comes into your yard.