Find alternative vacation plans with Minnesota shutdowns

Families love Clear Lake Campground at Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest in Wisconsin.

State park closed? Try national forests or county campgrounds

Photos & feature by Lisa Meyers McClintick
There are surely moans (or shrieks) of frustration today as weekend and summer plans are foiled by the Minnesota government shutdown. It has closed all Minnesota state parks, rest areas and travel information centers and even the ability to get a fishing license. The impact can be devastating on vacations, especially if you’re camping and on a budget.

Campsite at Nine-Mile Lake.

Don’t fret. Sometimes needing a Plan B can lead to great new discoveries. That happened to us last year when we got shut out of state park camping on the North Shore. Every single site was booked, much to our disbelief. So we went inland and found a beautiful site on the shore of Nine-Mile Lake. It was gorgeous.

1. Look for private or city campgrounds.
A few can be loud and crowded if you’re a tent camper (some cater to RV owners who stay for the summer), but others such as Lamb’s Resort in Shroeder on the North Shore have some of the best tent sites on Lake Superior. You’ll need to plan ahead. These do book early.

Get advice on private or municipal campgrounds from city or regional visitors bureaus. While Explore Minnesota is affected by the shutdown, smaller tourism offices such as Explore Brainerd Lakes or Visit Duluth are not. The Brainerd Lakes Welcome Center along Highway 10 also will remain open and has a wealth of brochures on area attractions.

Another campground possibility: Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds at Crosslake and Gull Lake Dam near Brainerd.

Another good search tool: Hospitality Minnesota.

2. Go a little rustic with national forests.

Near Stony Point Campground,  part of Chippewa National Forest.

A few facilities may be more rustic (pit toilets and no running water), but you can find dozens of beautiful campgrounds in the Chippewa and Superior National Forests. Try Stony Point Campground near Walker, Norway Lake near Cass Lake or Nine-Mile Lake near Tofte. Some do have showers and flush toilets if that’s a deal-breaker.

3. Check out county and city parks. 
Some of these rival state parks in size and natural features. Two that come to mind are Alexander Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls (which also has camping) and Quarry Park in St. Cloud (day use only). Quarry Park has cliff jumping, quarry swimming, scuba diving, trout fishing, hiking and technical mountain biking, making it a favorite with the 20-something adrenaline crowd.

3. Cross the border. 
Try a Wisconsin, Iowa or Dakota State Park. One of our favorites is the stunning Devil’s Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells. Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest and Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest also are good outdoorsy destinations. For the latter, Clear Lake or Trout Lake campgrounds are both great choices and near the resort hub of Minocqua with plenty of family attractions. Read more about the area.

Need more Wisconsin advice? Check out Mary Bergin’s Roads Traveled.