Washington County has the distinction of offering the most camping opportunities in the Twin Cities metro area: two state campgrounds and two regional park campgrounds.
(The long-time private campground in the county, St. Paul East RV Park, has been sold to a senior housing developer.)
Afton State Park Campground (Hastings)
Afton State Park has 28 backpacker sites—meaning rustic campsites you get to by hiking in with your stuff. In this case about a mile from the parking lot. It’s the only one like it in the metro area.
The Park also has two group camping sites, one canoe-in site (you supply the canoe or kayak), two yurts and four camper cabins. Sounds like adventure is calling, eh?!
This is a great way to introduce your kids (or anyone else—including you) to backpacking or canoe camping. The campsites have direct access to the many miles of hiking trails in the park. There are no bike trails in the park, FYI.
The yurts and camping cabins are available all year long, as are the backpacker sites. Winter camping at its best.
You’ll need a daily or annual state park vehicle permit.
Lake Elmo Park Reserve (Lake Elmo)
Lake Elmo Park Reserve offers camping for everyone: hike-in, primitive, modern and groups—105 sites total. Horses are welcome at the primitive sites, too. There are showers on-site.
The hike-in sites here are much less ambitious than at Afton, just 100-300 yards away from your car.
While you’re there, take advantage of the park’s swimming beach, miles of hiking and biking trails, and paddling on Lake Elmo or Eagle Point Lake. There’s plenty to do.
St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park (Hastings)
St. Croix Bluffs has 62 campsites with partial hookups and 11 primitive sites. A group site is also available. Enjoy exploring the St. Croix River while you’re here, both along the shoreline and by canoe or kayak (bring your own). Showers are available.
The campground gives you direct access to the several miles of hiking trails. There’s about a mile of paved trail for biking, as well, which is especially nice for families with young children.
William O’Brien State Park (Marine on St. Croix)
Another of Washington County’s State Parks, William O’Brien has great camping, too. 124 total campsites in its two campgrounds (many with electric), including four camping cabins (three available year-round). And showers—yay!
The Riverway Campground offers many campsites with great views of the St. Croix River, as well as access to the river for canoes, kayaks and paddle boards.
Both campgrounds give you direct access to the several miles of hiking trails in the park. There are no trails for biking.
If you want to try winter camping, you have a few options at O’Brien, both cabins and a few of the tent campsites.