Happy campers: Enjoying state parks with your pooch


A few weeks ago, we received an email from a dog dad named Rod, who wanted to know where he and his dog-lovin’ pals could take their pups camping. That got us thinking–just what IS the deal with dog-friendly campsites? So we emailed our friends at the MN Department of Natural Resources and got the scoop from Jacob Quarstad, a DNR guru who also happens to be a huge fan of camping with his 6-month-old Australian Shepherd, Sisu.

Left: Jacob’s dog Sisu enjoying a MN state park while his owner naps.

According to Jacob, pets are welcome in all Minnesota state parks as long as they’re kept on a leash of no more than six feet and are personally attended at all times. And unless your dog is a service animal, he can’t go in state park buildings, lodging, cabins, camper cabins, on tours, or in beach areas.

So in answer to your question, Rod, you and your canine campers can choose from any of Minnesota’s gorgeous state parks for your outdoor adventure! But which to choose, which to choose … Luckily, Jacob was ready with a list of parks that are especially fun for four-legged excursions. And since our new friend Jacob is a veritable font of dog-friendly information, he also included some handy-dandy tips for camping with your dog, as well as some reminders about common courtesy. Here are his picks and tips:

Right: Sisu at Blue Mounds State Park.

Top Dog-Friendly State Parks:

St. Croix State Park is great for dogs and pet owners, with lots of paved and turf trail options. The scale of the park makes it great for a full-day outing or a short hike to burn off some energy. Drinking water is abundant in this park, which helps on those hot summer days.

Wild River State Park provides many trail options and good vegetative screening in the campgrounds, which means less distractions and stress for your dog.

Fort Ridgely State Park offers interesting topography, great connections to Minnesota history and both prairie and forest diversity.

Bear Head Lake State Park is a remote northwoods getaway with vegetative screening in camping areas, scenic trails and several lakes.

Nerstrand -Big Woods State Park is a perfect dog-walking park. The park draws some of the most profound fall colors in the state, which also means lots of pet activity later in the year.

Blue Mounds State Park is yet another great park for dogs, as it has some more difficult and primitive trails, some tallgrass prairie hikes and some paved trails.

Tips for Camping with your Pooch:

  • Smaller parks often mean fewer dogs, which can make for a better experience for two- and four-legged campers.
  • Help your dog get used to the tent by popping it up in the yard, and consider trying a practice run in the backyard overnight. Your kids will love it too!
  • Check yourself and your dog for ticks and use a safe insect repellent. Ticks are harder to find on furry bodies, so vaccinate your dog for Lyme Disease (parks located in the south and southwestern part of the state tend to be outside of the deer tick hot zone).
  • Outfitting your dog with a personalized pack can be a fun way to simplify carrying pick-up bags, water and treats. Many pet-owners say that their dogs love having a job.

Keeping Everyone Happy:

  • Keep dogs leashed so that they don’t mingle with other critters.
  • Clean up after your dog and pack it out.
  • Don’t leave dogs unattended in vehicles or tied up at the campsite. This can be very disruptive, mostly because other campers become concerned about pets left alone.

For more info on Minnesota state parks, click here.