Camping in Afton State Park

Hastings, Washington County • Daily or annual park fee required

campsite afton state park
One of the walk-in tent sites

Afton State Park is unique with its camping in that they’re pack-in and walk-in campsites here—not car camping or RV sites. For the uninitiated, that means you’ll park your car in the lot, then pack your gear up to a mile to your site!

It’s also the most rustic campground in the 7-county metro area. No flushies except in the Visitor’s Center (which isn’t close to any of the camping), no showers, no electricity. There are water spigots throughout the area with drinkable water, though.

Afton’s summer map gives you a good overview of the area and where the various camping sites are located.

A Great Place to Try Backpacking

This would be a great place for an introduction to backpacking—whether it’s yourself, your kids or new campers.

It doesn’t feel exactly like wilderness, since it’s only 40 minutes from downtown St. Paul and there are plenty of visitors. But if you choose the walk-in tent sites, you’ll definitely get the feel for what it’s like to carry all your gear on your back for a fair bit, including up some pretty steep terrain.

If you’re thinking of a backpacking trip with your family somewhere, this would be a nice way to get a feel for it.

trail afton state park
This beautiful trail is steeper than it looks! It leads to the hike-in campsites.

Canoe Campsites

Are you a paddler? Afton has three canoe campsites. Two of them are right along the shore, and the third is up a steep hill off the river.

(I’m not sure why that one is a canoe site, except maybe popularity demanded a third site and there wasn’t another spot left on the river. It’s quite a climb, especially if you were to try taking your canoe or kayak up there!)

NOTE: The DNR website says Afton only has one canoe camping site, but the map shows three. So…maybe it deserves a paddle over to find out for ourselves!

canoe campsite sign
It’s nice the campsites—including this canoe site—are reservable so you’re guaranteed your spot!

Yurts and Cabins

If tents aren’t your thing, Afton has two yurts and four cabins for rent, too. These are set up for year-round use with heat. The yurts don’t have electricity, but the cabins do (more info on them here).

I can already imagine renting one of these for a couple days when we have plenty of snow for some quiet camping with snowshoeing or cross country skiing.

yurt afton state park
One of the yurts—available for rental all year-round

Group Camping

There are a couple group campsites for tents, and one that accommodates small trailers. Very rustic with no showers, electricity or flushies.

What Else is There to Do Here?

Your best bets for activities while you’re camping here are hiking and swimming, unless you launch a canoe or kayak from another location and paddle over to a canoe site. There isn’t a good place to launch within the park itself that we could see.

There are no playgrounds, stores or other fancy city stuff like some of the regional parks and private campgrounds have. But there’s a small educational nature display in the Visitor Center. And a couple of the trails allow biking along with hiking so that’s another option.

If you’re a birder or love wildflowers, you’ll find plenty of that here.

The first thing Renee said when we walked down to the beach: “What a great place for a hammock!” There are several mature trees right on the waters edge at perfect hammock-stringing distance from each other. So bring a book and your hammock and relax for awhile!

swimming beach st croix afton state park
This gorgeous shady area is the swimming beach—the St. Croix River with Wisconsin on the far shore.

Reservations and Fees

Like all our state parks, the camping fees are cheap. Tent sites are just $15-23 (2018 prices) with yurts and cabins going for $50/55 weekdays and $65 on the weekends. Definitely call ahead to make reservations for the yurts and cabins as weekends are likely to be busy year-round.

Click here for more price and reservations info.

How to Get There

Afton State Park is in southeast Washington County right on the St. Croix, about halfway between Interstate 94 to the north and Hastings to the south. The main entrance is off 70th Street and St. Croix Trail South.

Click here for more camping options in Washington County

Sharon Brodin
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