Happy Campers: Enjoying Dog-Friendly Minnesota State Parks

Editor’s Note: H*ckin’ COVID has given us a new normal. Give your campground a call to confirm their most pup-to-date details and dog-friendly guidelines!

A few weeks ago, we received an email from a dog dad named Rod, who wanted to know all about how and where to go camping with your dog in Minnesota. That got us thinking just what IS the deal with dog-friendly Minnesota State Parks? So we emailed our friends at the MN Department of Natural Resources and got the scoop from Jacob Quarstad, a DNR guru who also happens to be a huge fan of camping with his Australian Shepherd, Sisu.

According to Jacob, pets are welcome in all Minnesota State Parks as long as they’re kept on a leash of no more than six feet and are personally attended at all times. And unless your dog is a service animal, he can’t go in state park buildings, lodging, cabins, camper cabins, on tours, or in beach areas.

So in answer to your question, Rod, you and your canine campers can choose from any dog-friendly Minnesota Stat Parks for your outdoor adventure! But which to choose, which to choose… Luckily, Jacob was ready with a list of parks that are especially fun for four-legged excursions. And since our new friend Jacob is a veritable font of dog-friendly information, he also included some handy-dandy tips for camping with your dog, as well as some reminders about common courtesy. Here are his picks and tips:

Top Dog-Friendly Minnesota State Parks

St. Croix State Park is great for dogs and pet owners, with lots of paved and turf trail options. The scale of the park makes it great for a full-day outing or a short hike to burn off some energy. Drinking water is abundant in this park, which helps on those hot summer days.

dog on stairs at Wild River State Park
@nicholewyandt and her Pomeranian enjoying a hike at Wild River State Park

Wild River State Park provides many trail options and good vegetative screening in the campgrounds, which means less distractions and stress for your dog.

Fort Ridgely State Park offers interesting topography, great connections to Minnesota history and both prairie and forest diversity.

Bear Head Lake State Park is a remote northwoods getaway with vegetative screening in camping areas, scenic trails, and several lakes.

Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park is a perfect dog-walking park. The park draws some of the most profound fall colors in the state, which also means lots of pet activity later in the year. Plus, there’s a “hidden” waterfall nestled in the forest. Pup yeah!

Blue Mounds State Park is yet another great park for dogs, as it has some more difficult and primitive trails, some tallgrass prairie hikes, and some paved trails. Visitors also love observing the beautiful bison herd.

Tips for Camping with your Pooch

  • Smaller parks often mean fewer dogs, which can make for a better experience for two- and four-legged campers.
  • Help your dog get used to the tent by popping it up in the yard, and consider trying a practice run in the backyard overnight. Your kids will love it, too!
  • Check yourself and your dog for ticks and use a safe insect repellent. Ticks are harder to find on furry bodies, so vaccinate your dog for Lyme Disease (parks located in the south and southwestern part of the state tend to be outside of the deer tick hot zone).
  • Outfitting your dog with a personalized pack can be a fun way to simplify carrying pick-up bags, water, and treats. Many pet-owners say that their dogs love having a job.

Keeping Everyone Happy:

  • Keep dogs leashed so that they don’t mingle with other critters.
  • Clean up after your dog and pack it out.
  • Don’t leave dogs unattended in vehicles or tied up at the campsite. This can be very disruptive, mostly because other campers become concerned about pets left alone.

Where’s your pal’s fave place to get away from it all? Woof at us in the comments and be sure to tag #SidewalkDog in all your adventures! And be sure to enter to win a $1,200 Dog-Friendly RV Vacation!

(Photo: @aulka’s pup Jax believes the camping life is just pawfect, especially at St. Croix State Park)

1 thought on “Happy Campers: Enjoying Dog-Friendly Minnesota State Parks

  1. Mikiko Foley

    Thank you so much for the wonderful info. It helps me a lot to find some new activities to do with my family (including our dog). Breathing the fresh air walking outside in the nature (with my dog) is always regenerating and refreshing. And of course it’s good for my mental physical health, too ! I hope many people are reading this helpful article.


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