Skip to main content

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

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

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

St. Louis County

St. Louis County set to declare state of emergency ahead of peak flood levels

Volunteers are urgently needed for sandbagging efforts in a small community near Voyageurs National Park.

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 5.03.30 PM

Brothers Bar & Grill closes in downtown Minneapolis

The Midwest chain closed its St. Cloud location in 2018.

Ken Jeong

Licensed physician Ken Jeong to do standup in MN this September

The licensed physician will take the stage at Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Sept. 30.

Osseo Police Department

Osseo PD says officer did not pursue suspect who caused fatal crash

The crash happened in Brooklyn Park early Sunday morning.

221 Main Street. E. Albert Lea

Suspect arrested after 3 family members stabbed in Albert Lea

The three victims are related, according to police.

wastewater

Evidence that omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 are in Minnesota

The European CDC has warned of a possible significant summer surge fueled by the omicron subvariants.

driving unsplash - crop

Hastings man charged for driving drunk with 2-year-old in vehicle

Matthew Quade's BAC was almost five times over the legal limit when police pulled him over last week.

police lights

Arrest made after person shot at Hopkins apartment building

Police say this was an isolated incident and that the victim and suspect knew each other.

covid

BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariant quickly becoming dominant in MN

Experts say the subvariant is more transmissible but there is not evidence to suggest it causes more severe disease.

Related

kilen woods state park - flickr - tony webster

Take a hike! Free admission to MN State Parks on Black Friday

The annual promotion returns for the seventh year in a row.

Mystery Cave - Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Cave is once again open for scenic tours

But it isn't a full return to normal quite yet.

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.

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

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.

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 - 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.