I have to be honest. I've lived here my entire life and I never knew what a national treasure we have in Minnesota. Also, I learned last weekend that it can be a pretty cheap option for a weekend adventure, as you can camp for free at a nice site.
A group of us went on a motorcycle camping weekend with our adventure bikes. We weren't sure where we were going to end up, but we did know we would be passing by the Superior National Forest.
I've driven through the Superior National Forest on Minnesota Highway 1 before, but I never actually ventured into the wilderness. This time we did.
Our dual sport bikes handled the gravel well and we drove about 40 miles into the vast wilderness of the Superior National Forest.
The Largest National Forest East Of The Mississippi River
Did you know that the Superior National Forest is the largest National Forest east of the Mississippi River? It was established in 1909 and consists of 3 million acres of forest. It also is home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageur's National Park.
Anyway, we were looking for a campsite along the backroads. The first few campsites we pulled into were occupied. These were the ones closer to the main highway, not as far in. I was surprised by how many people were utilizing them, but it was a Saturday night on a beautiful summer weekend, so lots of people were out.
We kept riding and found another site by a lake about another 8 or 10 miles down the road. We pulled in and saw that it was a "rustic site" with no fee required. But, it really wasn't that rustic at all in my opinion.
Rustic Camping Isn't All That Rustic
This site was at Fourmile Lake. There were three tent sites and a vault toilet. A boat ramp was also there for lake access. The vault toilet was recently cleaned, the sites were big enough for a couple of tents on each, and they even came with a fire ring, grill top, and picnic table.
What the site didn't offer was any trash cans (think of the bears), and no running water. So you had to pack in your water and pack out whatever trash you had.
You can stay at one of these sites two for up to 14 days, as long as you don't leave for more than 24 hours. You really could just hop around living rent-free from rustic site to rustic site as long as you wanted as long as you follow the guidelines. You also can "disperse" camp without a permit or fees.
These campsites are first come, first served.
Some of the sites were big enough for a travel trailer or an RV, but that is taking a bit of a risk. All of the sites will at least accommodate a tent, but it's all first-come, first-served. No reservations are taken for these rustic sites.
What Sites Aren't Free?
If you go to an actual campground in the Superior National Forest, like Pfeiffer Lake or Whiteface Reservoir, you'll need to pay a fee. It's not very much, but it is not free.
Also, if you are camping in the BWCA, you'll need to purchase a permit as well. The canoe area has different rules that you need to be aware of.
Other helpful tips:
- Bring plenty of water or filtration or purification tablets. You are going to be a long way away from any drinking water.
- Get a paper map. You can't count on having cell service out in the National Forest as it is remote.
- Safely store your food away from bears. They suggest you hang your food in a tree or bring a food storage locker.
The Brightest Stars You'll Ever See
We got lucky as we had the clouds clear up just around dusk and we were able to see some amazing stars. The Perseid Meteor shower was near its peak and we saw incredible shooting stars.