Spring has finally settled in Southeast Minnesota, and with vaccination rates up and COVID-19 restrictions mostly in the rearview mirror, people are ready more than ever to get away from their homes and enjoy the outdoors. As we get closer to the summer, here the 10 best campgrounds in our region, according to Google reviews and ratings.

1. Whitewater State Park

Whitewater State Park Monday, June 22, 2020, near Elba. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Whitewater State Park Monday, June 22, 2020, near Elba. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)


Whitewater State Park is located at 19041 MN-74, Altura in Winona County. The park features 2,700 acres and is next to the Whitewater river surrounded by rocky bluffs. The park features several hikes on its bluff lands and trout fishing in the summer and winter to go along with its many camping grounds.

The park is seven miles north of St. Charles and has roughly 300,000 visitors annually. The park has a 4.8 rating out of 1,121 reviews.

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REVIEWS:

"One of our favorite state parks, with excellent hiking, terrific history and great campground and facilities. I highly recommend it even though it is a bit of a road trip from our home in Central MN."

"Beautiful park, very nice spots, quiet and peaceful. Great bathroom with showers. We will for sure be camping here a lot more. Cell reception is good, but that was also nice."

"Whitewater’s two main campgrounds have completely new restrooms and infrastructure. The park has made major investments expanding and improving camping amenities over the past several years. A good number of campsites are kept open year-round, though the winter site inventory lacks non-electric sites. Substantial hiking trail systems and swimmable water are each fairly hard to come by in southern Minnesota; Whitewater offers both in one place."

2. Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Zollman Zoo houses more than 30 wild animals native to Minnesota, including wolves. (Post Bulletin file photo)
Zollman Zoo houses more than 30 wild animals native to Minnesota, including wolves. (Post Bulletin file photo)

Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo are a campground and zoo located at 5731 County Road 105 Northwest in Byron. The Oxbow campgrounds have 30 units with 15 having electricity while also having a playscape playground next to them. The zoo, which has 30 different animal species, is a short walk from the campgrounds.

The park offers several different hiking and walking trails and has access to the Zumbro River. It has a 4.7 rating out of 1,289 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo is a fun place to let the kids run around, see animals, and get a lot of fresh air. The new kids nature park with a sandbox, bridges, slides, musical instruments, and other fun attractions was great! Great place to picnic (or camp) as well."

"Camped for the weekend. Nice clean campground with a lot of room between sites. No shade from trees on the inside part of the loop, but still a great place. The playscape and zoo were an added bonus and great for the kids."

"Amazing place! Grass is so green and lush😁 animals were all SO excited to see us and friendly. The park is very engaging for ALL ages! I would love to rent one of the tent plot campsites for a weekend by the park sometime!"

3. Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. (Emily Cutts / ecutts@postbulletin.com)
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. (Emily Cutts / ecutts@postbulletin.com)

This state park lives up to its name. Known for its actual "big woods" landscape, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park offers numerous different activities with individual and group campgrounds to go along with picnic areas, a playground and hiking trails including the popular Hidden Falls waterfall trail.

The park is located at 9700 170th Street East, Nerstrand in Rice County. It has a 4.7 rating out of 932 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"I enjoy camping here. Plenty of amenities and the sites are nice. I like exploring the trails, and of course, you can't miss the waterfall."

"Amazing trails, awesome play area for the kiddos, beautiful scenery. The park is maintained in top-notch condition. We will definitely be doing some camping here this summer. Just simply amazing."

"Beautiful and spacious park. We hiked over 9 miles and barely ran into anyone the entire time, except for at the waterfall for obvious reasons. It's nice and shady so it doesn't get too hot along the way. Would definitely recommend this for people of all ages! Mushroom hunting was my favorite!"

4. Beaver Creek Valley State Park

Let it fly Chuck Shepard, of Winona, tries fly fishing in a foggy Beaver Creek East around sunset Wednesday in Beaver Creek Valley State Park near Caledonia. Shepard said he caught two brown trout while there.
Let it fly Chuck Shepard, of Winona, tries fly fishing in a foggy Beaver Creek East around sunset Wednesday in Beaver Creek Valley State Park near Caledonia. Shepard said he caught two brown trout while there.


Located at 15954 County Road 1 in Caledonia, Beaver Creek Valley State Park features a narrow, steep valley by East Beaver Creek. The stream features both native Brook trout and Brown trout, which are fed into the stream during the spring.

The state park manages three different campgrounds along with a recreational area and the R.J.D. Memorial Hardwood State Forest located within it. Beaver Creek Vallery has a 4.7 rating out of 196 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"Really great out-of-the-way state park, just enough out of the reach of the cities to keep things quiet, even on warm weekends. Beautiful park with prominent bluffs surrounding you from both sides. Houston County is one of the most underrated destinations in MN and Beaver Creek Valley is such a gem within it."

"A hidden gem of a park. Great place to get away from the crowds in the more popular state parks. Excellent hiking and camping."

"BCV State Park is awesome. Lots of great trails (intermediate), very private campsites if you are bringing a tent and don't require electric, and there's minimal cellular service, which is exactly what I need when camping. We'll be back for sure."

5. Chester Woods Park

Munechika Masaki roasts some corn at his campsite at Chester Woods county park Wednesday.
Munechika Masaki roasts some corn at his campsite at Chester Woods county park Wednesday.


The Chester Woods Park and Campground offers nearly 50 different campsites at 8378 Highway 14 East in Eyota. The park has activities ranging from fishing, boating and swimming in the lake located next to it, to 16 miles of hiking trails scattered throughout the park.

Add all of this with the park being well maintained, and it makes sense why Chester Woods Park was given a 4.6 rating out of 469 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"I would give this park 500 stars if I could. There is fun for the whole family. I could be happy going to this park every weekend."

"Well maintained, wide hiking paths along the water and prairies. Nice views, well-maintained facilities. Great spot to check out the changing trees and leaves. People running, fishing, swimming, exploring, grilling, camping livin' the good life!"

"It had been a few years since I had taken the family there. Wonderful place for a picnic, some hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and swimming. I had forgotten what a gem this was. We will definitely be going back!"

6. Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Bill Meschke casts for trout along the Root River in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
Bill Meschke casts for trout along the Root River in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.

This state park offers a few unique traits to it compared to the others above it. The Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, in-between Spring Valley and Preston at 21071 County Road 118 in Preston, is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society as a historic site and contains the village of Forestville.

Along with the campgrounds, the park offers tours of Mystery Cave along with trout streams, hiking and horseback trails. It sports a 4.6 rating out of 451 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"One of the best state parks for picnics, camping and hiking. I love the historic Forestville and Mystery Cave. Horse trails and trout fishing too."

"I've camped here at least twice a year for more than twenty years. Always peaceful and quiet. Love the long hikes."

"The historical town and buildings are cool. The cave system tour is really excellent. We enjoyed the campground a lot including the nice private sites and paved roads throughout. There is also a dump station."

7. Great River Bluffs State park

Enjoy a hike through the woodlands of Great River Bluffs State Park. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources photo
Enjoy a hike through the woodlands of Great River Bluffs State Park. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources photo


The fourth state park to crack the list in the region, Great River Bluffs State Park, at 43605 Kipp Drive in Winona, offers a scenic blufftop view of the Mississippi River Valley along with plenty of hiking, picnicking and camping options.

The park has a 4.6 rating out of 440 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"Breathtaking views, and spacious wooded campsites. Friendly and knowledgeable rangers. Good value for the cost."

"Beautiful views. There was a nice picnic area, but in winter, we just took a short walk to a scenic overlook. We will come back in warmer weather. We have done much longer hikes before in the fall, and that's quite amazing!"

"Beautiful park with huge hills and awesome views. Many hiking trails and really great campground. Bathrooms were clean and park rangers were kind. Would definitely come back to this park again."

8. Eagle Cliff Campground

Eagle Cliff Campground, located at 35455 MN-16 in Lanesboro, offers a variety of different setups for your camping desires, whether it's riverfront tent sites, electric-only sites, full-hookup sites, etc, you pick what type of camping excursion you're trying to have.

Activities include tubing, canoeing, kayaking all on the river to go along with fishing at several different spots. Bike rentals are also available for the different trails located throughout the campground. Eagle Cliff was rated 4.5 out of 243 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"A wonderful, quiet place to camp, we were there on a Monday and Tuesday, so no telling about the weekend, lots of stuff to do, very helpful staff. Great bike trail to Lanesboro. Go and enjoy!"

"Always clean and well-maintained, lots of space, and prime real estate next to the beautiful South Fork Root River. It's a little pricey, but that's just because they know it's worth it for the location. Been coming here for 5 years now and I hope to never stop."

"This was our second time camping at Eagle Cliff. The scenery is beautiful, the campground is friendly, clean, and peaceful. Our children loved riding bike around the campground, playing at the park, and visiting the river. We will definitely be going again someday."

9. Sylvan Park & Riverview Campgrounds

There are back-to-back Lanesboro campgrounds here on the list with Sylvan Park and Riverview Campground setting up at 202 Parkway Avenue South in Lanesboro. Also along the Root River, this campground also offers many of the same amenities and locations its neighbor at Eagle Cliff does with riverfront tents, full hook-ups and several waterfront activities.

The campground also has 60 miles of paved bike trails. It has a 4.5 rating out of 225 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"The park and campground are very nice, well-maintained and super affordable. Has many sites for tent camping as well as hookups for campers. Having public restrooms with showers is certainly a bonus too. Excellent for rainbow trout fishing. We will absolutely camp here again!"

"This park is the heartbeat of Lanesboro, it boasts wonderful festivals, with arts and live music. It's a must for children since they have the absolute best Zipline and park structures. We love it here. Camping is close to the town and walking distance to bars and restaurants. Fishing ponds. Bring bread crumbs to feed the ducks. A great small town getaway!!"

"Nice campground, park and facilities. Great place to stay for the weekend to explore the town and area."

10. Bluff Valley Campgrounds

Rounding out the list is a new location at 61297 390th Avenue in Zumbro Falls. The Bluff Valley Campgrounds lay right next to the Zumbro River and offer 275 water and electric campsites.

It has plenty of recreational activities to offer between tubing, hiking, rock climbing and even a skatepark. Bluff Valley has plenty to offer for its campers and its rating reflects it with a 4.5 out of 219 reviews.

REVIEWS:

"We love this campground! We look forward to our trips here every year. Large sites, reasonable rates, close to town for forgotten things, lots of things for kids to do including a rock wall and skate park. Also an outdoor park. Weekends offer a fish fry on Friday night, breakfast on Saturday mornings. There is a tube shuttle if needed or you can walk down to get into the river."

"Great place to camp or take a day trip, tons of things to do. Tubing (with a shuttle), fishing, skatepark, pool, driving range, ceramics painting, board games, pool table, rock climbing, etc. Family-friendly. Amazing staff and nice accommodations. Everything was super clean as well. Would absolutely recommend to anybody!"

"Great family-friendly campground. The river runs through the campground and is a great tubing river for the whole family. We love it here!"

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