Advice on how to find dispersed camping in MN

tfischer

A bad day camping beats a good day at the office
So yesterday our governor declared that restaurants, bars, and stores can start reopening, outdoor sports leagues can start up... but somehow campgrounds are still way too dangerous.

Evidently dispersed camping is ok though. Problem is I have no idea how to start looking for sites. It looks like you pack up, head out, and just try to find a site... for free. That's cool and all, but I don't want to drive 4 hours north and then turn around and head back home because I don't know what I'm doing.

Things i'm ok with:
* Dry camping. We do it all the time. Even have a solar setup now.
* Self-contained camping. We usually "poo" in the facilities, but I have my own toilet.
* Camping without people around. Totally coo..

Things I have no idea about:
* How do I find suitable land to camp on?
* The state "dispersed camping" guidelines contain many contradictions. For example, they say "to protect the forest, only drive on designated roads". Then they tell you to camp at least 150' off the road. I have to get my pup there somehow...
* I tow with a minivan, so I don't have a ton of ground clearance. I don't want to get stuck in the woods.
* Anything else I should know?

Thanks much.
 

Toedtoes

Super Active Member
May 28, 2018
2,840
California
You can check freecampsites.com. They sometimes show dispersed camping spots.

The best is to talk to rangers and other campers. They can tell you what's good and what's not.

As for the "designated roads", it just means that you need to stay on the roads and not go off road. Drive the fire roads, etc., and look for a spot just off the road that is less than 150' off the road. It's 150' or less, not 150' or more.

It is worth it to get some potential spots identified via rangers, etc., then take a day trip to check them out. What one person thinks is a great spot you may think is horrid.
 

Overland

Active Member
May 1, 2013
507
Bristol, Pa
^^ Yep, talk to a Ranger. Tell him what your driving and he will hopefully guide you to a nice dispersed site traveling a nice graded road.

Take a look at your NFS website, grab a state gazateer and look to id routes. Search dispersed camping in Minnesota on /Goofle/youtoob, you'd be surprised how much content is there.

If you come upon a firering your generally good to go, what they dont want is people camping on pulloff's right along side the road.

Is the Van AWD?
 

bearman512

Super Active Member
Apr 17, 2010
1,229
Albuquerque NM
Things I have no idea about:
* How do I find suitable land to camp on?
* The state "dispersed camping" guidelines contain many contradictions. For example, they say "to protect the forest, only drive on designated roads". Then they tell you to camp at least 150' off the road. I have to get my pup there somehow...
* I tow with a minivan, so I don't have a ton of ground clearance. I don't want to get stuck in the woods.
* Anything else I should know?

Thanks much.
* How do I find suitable land to camp on?
We have been doing the dispersed camping thing lately due to the silliness going on. I have been using Outly and Google Maps lately, just make sure you download the satellite view map. Outly https://outsideanalytics.com/outly/about-us
will show you all the known areas and campgrounds "Dispersed Camping sites"
Outly also tells you what type of roads IE 2wd, 4wd, Jeep trails, etc....

* The state "dispersed camping" guidelines contain many contradictions. For example, they say "to protect the forest, only drive on designated roads". Then they tell you to camp at least 150' off the road. I have to get my pup there somehow...
National and state are pretty much the same if there is a dispersed area there will be evidence of others have camped there IE fire ring.
Outly is a free app.
 

MNTCamper

Super Active Member
Jun 14, 2014
1,332
MN
I'm up here in northern MN right now and there are folks out camping at some of the state forest campgrounds up here, I'm not, at our hunting shack. Location is near the intersection of highways 1and 65, so pretty much the middle of nowhere.
 

slowcarfast

Member
Nov 5, 2019
83
Sunshine State
You can check freecampsites.com. They sometimes show dispersed camping spots.

I like freecampsites.com as a starting place. It's nice that they sometimes have pictures and often include some description of access, or how rough the road is to get to a spot. That said, I know of some good spots that are not on there. I've also asked in some of the regional forums on a place like expeditionportal.com. The site is geared toward a bit more extreme level of offroad travel, but many of the recommendations are just down a forest service road somewhere and accessible by most vehicles or trailers.
 

Haybale

I'd rather be camping!!
Aug 22, 2013
2,561
San Diego via MN
Only use www.freecampsites.net as a reference, treat it like wiki.

I have only had about 50% success with that site. Many places were posted with signs of no camping and such. Some did not even exist, even when there were links to a city website.

So use that site to find names of areas, then search those names on their own.

This isn't just for MN, I have camped in 9 states.
 

Toedtoes

Super Active Member
May 28, 2018
2,840
California
Dispersed camping is generally considered tent camping. But, unless it specifically states no vehicles, then you should be OK.

There are some areas closed to vehicles but have backpackers - those will be identified as no vehicle access.

But if the site is right off an open road, then it should be OK for trailers, etc.

A lot is common sense - if you have to tear up the terrain to get your camper there, then you can't camp there. If there is no road to get you there, then you can't drive a camper to it.
 

WVhillbilly

Super Active Member
Jun 6, 2018
841
WV
One of the big no-nos about dispersed camping here is.
No fire on the ground. Period. No fire ring, no burnt spot on the ground.
Get one of those folding steel fire pits and don't build your fire on the ground.
 




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