Those who dread long drives would appreciate Sharon and David Robrahn’s recent vacation trek. It took about 15 minutes.
The Eagan residents drove their RV to Lebanon Hills Campground in Eagan.
“Away doesn’t have to be far away,” said Sharon Robrahn.
The Robrahns’ son and his family, also from Eagan, joined them, pitching a large tent close by.
Robrahn said she appreciated that Wi-Fi didn’t reach their site. Her husband added, grinning, that his phone barely worked.
There are perks to camping close by, Sharon said. For instance, that evening, they expected relatives from Burnsville to join them for a campfire dinner.
“They wouldn’t go to Mille Lacs,” she said.
For those thinking of a camping getaway that’s not far away, there are plenty of options in the metro area.
One warning: Many campsites book out for summer weekends far in advance.
“We encourage people to take a ‘mid-weekend,’ ” said Tom Knisely, media relations specialist for the Three Rivers Park District. “You get a better chance of getting a spot during the week.”
Here's a sampling of other places in the north, west and south metro areas:
Bunker Hills Campground, Coon Rapids
Bunker Hills has 72 campsites, some rustic and some with electricity and water for RVs, as well as two heated camper cabins. There is a playground area, and the site is near the Bunker Beach Water Park and the Bunker Park Stables.
Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Campground, Lino Lakes
Rice Creek Campground has 81 campsites and two camper cabins. People can bike, fish, boat, and swim. There are nature programs at the nearby Wargo Nature Center and golfing at Chomonix Golf Course.
Baker Park Campground, Maple Plain
The main campground at Baker Park Reserve, with more than 200 sites and five camper cabins, is close to Lake Independence Beach and a fishing pier. Visitors can use 19 miles of hiking and biking trails and see trumpeter swans at a refuge by Lake Katrina from spring through fall. Baker National Golf Course is also close by.
Lake Auburn Campground, Victoria
Lake Auburn Campground at Carver Park Reserve is a bit more rustic, with 57 tent camping sites — no showers or plumbing — and some group sites.
“The wildlife viewing is great,” said Three Rivers Parks’ Knisely, as osprey, deer, wild turkeys and other animals appear near the grounds. Also, Lowry Nature Center is nearby, and there are trails, volleyball courts, horseshoe courts, a swimming area and a fishing pier.
“The pan fishing is excellent,” said Knisely. “The crappies and sunnies are always biting.”
Cleary Lake Park Campground, Prior Lake
The 20 spacious hike-in sites at Cleary Lake Park Campground are tucked away in the woods. It’s tent-only camping, with pit latrines and water pumps but no showers or electricity. Campers can cool off at the swimming beach on nearby Cleary Lake and rent out kayaks, canoes and paddleboats.
Lebanon Hills Campground, Eagan
This campground is adjacent to Lebanon Hills Regional Park, with its 20 miles of hiking trails through woods and around lakes and ponds, as well as almost 12 miles of popular mountain biking trails. Tent and RV camping are available, with plenty of secluded sites for tent camping. There is a camp store, laundry facility and children’s playground.
Afton State Park, Hastings
Afton State Park has a hike-in campground with 28 rustic campground sites — some surrounded by woods, some in the open — and several camper cabins.
This year, the park introduced two yurts — circular insulated canvas tents with tables, beds and a wood stove. They have been “extremely popular,” said assistant park manager Nick Bartels. Though booked the rest of the summer, some availability opens up after Labor Day. The park provides wood for heating during cold months, and Bartels said even during subzero cold snaps, the yurts stay about 60 degrees inside.
A swimming beach and a fishing pier are nearby, and campers can access about 20 miles of hiking trails with views of the St. Croix River Valley, with steeper, challenging trails and a leisurely one that follows 3 miles of old railroad bed along the river.
Whitetail Woods, Farmington
Though booked for the summer and for weekends until next April, the three treehouse-like modern camper cabins at the new Whitetail Woods area are worth scheduling out a visit. They sit nestled in the pines, which can be viewed through the cabin’s huge windows. A restroom/shower facility is just up the hill.
Visitors can hike or visit a nature play area, and because they are open year-round, enjoy cross-country ski trails and a lit sledding hill.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.