Category: Camping

Review: Camping Maplewood State Park

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I made reservations for our four night camping trip, October 8th-11th 2015, back in February 2015. I had no specific park in mind, but I wanted to stick to parks in the deciduous forests in the state and hopefully time our weekend with some great fall color. With our kids out of school on Friday, this was a great weekend for us to travel to a park that was three or more hours from our home in the Twin Cities Metro area. I wanted to go to a park new to us, with camping cabin accommodations for six. Reviewing maps and availability, Maplewood State Park was the winner. The Baker cabin cost $60.00 Thursday night, and $75.00 for Friday and Saturday night. There was also an $8.50 reservation fee. We have an annual Minnesota state park vehicle pass, which is $25.00 and grants access to all of Minnesota’s seventy-five parks.

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Things we liked about the campsite:

  • Well maintained campfire ring
  • Picnic table
  • Cabin fitted with electricity and a heater.
  • Next door to a bathroom and very close to the shower facility.

Things we liked about the park:

  • The park is very picturesque. It was especially beautiful to see in peak fall color. However the rolling hills, kettle lakes, and mix of trees and native prairie plants make for lovely views anytime of year.
  • The hiking trails are well maintained, and there is a scenic driving tour as well.
  • All campsites in the park can be reserved except for the six horseback campground sites.
  • It is near the city of Pelican Rapids, which hosts a very large annual Oktoberfest every year. Pelican Rapids had several gift shops, local restaurants, and a nice park with a playground overlooking a dam that houses the largest pelican statue in the world.

Wildlife observed: Native and migrating birds including loon, woodpecker, chickadee’s, and hawks. We saw fish, Monarch butterfly, caterpillars, and ladybugs. We also found evidence of beaver building lodges near some of the small kettle lakes.

Activities we participated in: Hiking, and the prairie scenic drive.

Campsites we observed and would recommend include 48, 50, 52, and the camping cabin next to grass lake.

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Maplewood State Park, 39721 Park Entrance Road, Pelican Rapids, MN 56572, tel: 218-863-8383

I made reservations for our four night camping trip, August 16th-20th 2015, back in February 2015. At the time I had no specific park in mind. I decided this trip was a good opportunity to pick a campground that was three or more hours from our home in the Twin Cities Metro area. I wanted to go to a park new to us, with a swim beach, and in an area we would not be traveling to any other time this year. Reviewing maps and availability, Bear Head Lake State Park was the winner. As I shared our summer plans with family and friends I heard great things about the park, and I also learned it was named America’s Favorite Park in 2010. We paid $23.00 a night for drive in site 67, and there was an $8.50 reservation fee. We have an annual Minnesota state park vehicle pass, which is $25.00 and grants you access to all of Minnesota’s seventy-five parks.

Things we liked about the campsite:

  • Well maintained campfire ring
  • Picnic table
  • Wooded and with large mature trees and the sites arrayed to make them secluded from neighboring sites

Drawbacks to the campground:

  • The campgrounds were tighter than we expected. We use one family tent with a seventeen-foot span and it was a squeeze. We did not put up our dining tent because of lack of space. Looking around at other sites they are all designed on a similar footprint with exceptions being those made for larger RV’s.

Things we liked about the park:

  • They had planned staff lead activities during the weekdays and not just the weekend.
  • The park is very picturesque. It’s not your average park in Minnesota.
  • The hiking trails are well maintained.
  • The swim beach has several shaded picnic tables and shares access with a fishing dock.
  • It is near Downtown Ely, which has interesting places for both children and adults to visit. Including: The International Wolf Center, The Superior National Forest headquarters, and the North American Bear Center.
  • There is a fairly new trail center, and it is beautiful. I found it scenic enough to be a popular rental for hosting small weddings.

Wildlife observed: Native and migrating birds including loon, woodpecker, an entire family of blue jays, ravens, bald eagles, and barred owl, and hawks. We saw frogs, a giant snapping turtle, several species of butterfly and moths. We found evidence of black bear, and beaver. The most unique wildlife experience was to hear wolves howling at night.

Activities: Hiking, swim beach, fishing dock, and boat rentals for canoes/kayaks/and paddleboards.

Bear Head Lake State Park, 9301 Bear Head State Park Road, Ely, MN 55731, 218-365-7229

 

Family Camping at Mirror Lake State Park, July 2015

I just returned from a four-day weekend trip to Wisconsin Dells (Thursday to Sunday) with my family and another family of friends. We tent camped at Mirror Lake State Park, which is less than two miles from the downtown Wisconsin Dells area. We had group campsite 302, which I reserved online in February 2015. The cost of the campsite for four days was $120.00 plus an additional vehicle fee charge of $30-$35 per vehicle.

Things we liked about the group campsite:

  • Large campfire ring
  • Fixed lantern pole
  • Four large picnic tables
  • Lots of space for tents, and the website says most group sites can accommodate up to 70 campers.
  • Friendly and outgoing campground hosts.
  • Fixed benches surrounding the campfire area.
  • Wooded with large mature trees that provided ample shade, while being open to breeze since the area is not entirely boxed in by vegetation.

The few group campground drawbacks:

  • All group sites are cart in, with vehicles restricted to the parking lot.
  • There was not always enough parking.
  • The campsites are sandy.
  • The bathroom facilities were nice, but not well ventilated. There were individual shower stalls, but the water temperature was not adjustable and came out hot to where you need to be careful bathing small children.

Things we liked about the park:

  • The bundles of purchased wood were substantial and worth the price.
  • We assisted a family who were locked of their car and the local campground hosts and Ranger staff was quick to respond.
  • It was located close to the Downtown Wisconsin Dells area.
  • Several nice picnic areas, and adequate shade.
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a nice “Wisconsin Explorer” program for kids. There are free books available at the park office with three different books, each designed with age appropriate activities. When children complete all the activities in the book they earn a patch.
  • There is a large number of individual campsites, and another campground with electric sites.

Wildlife observed: Native and migrating birds including geese, bald eagles, and hawks. We saw plenty of toads, a raccoon, and a mole was burrowing around our campsite. Several species of butterfly and moths passed through, and there were lots of various insects.

Activities: Hiking, swim beach, fishing dock and rentals for canoe/kayak/and pontoon boats.

We drove around to scope out some of the other campsites. The campground cabin amazed me. While it doesn’t fit the needs of my family, I wanted to mention it because of its special design. The cabin is equipped for the disabled, and it’s more than just a cabin fitted with a wheelchair ramp. The cabin was designed by a committee of people with disabilities, and features a small kitchen with accessible countertops, a two-burner stove, microwave, and refrigerator. There is one bedroom with two hospital beds, a futon, with cots also available, allowing the cabin to accommodate eight. The bathroom has a wheel-in shower, a fold down bench and shower-commode chair. There is a Hoyer lift installed for use throughout the cabin. Reservations for the cabin are made through special reservation starting each year on January 10th. The cabin is open from May 10th through October 10th. I think this camper cabin is a terrific lodging option for families with a disabled family member planning a trip to the Dells.

With our group of ten, we did not need all the space we had. I think we might consider reserving two of the side-by-side electric sites next year (specifically 135 and 136). While we really liked the benches at the group site, it would be nice to have electric, a dedicated parking space, and no need to haul gear to and from the campsite by cart.

Mirror Lake State Park, E10320 Fern Dell Rd.,Baraboo WI, 53913, 608-254-2333