With a little planning, you might get that campsite at Gooseberry Falls State Park on a peak weekend after all.

Until now, campers could lock up sites and cabins a year in advance across the state’s vast system of 76 parks and recreation areas. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that it is shortening the window of opportunity to four months. The change takes effect July 1.

The agency said in a news release that it made the change because of customer feedback, data analysis and “a desire to improve fairness and equity in the reservation process.”

The DNR said it had planned to alter the system in the fall, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic merited quicker action. The pandemic forced the DNR to cancel more than 25,000 reservations because of closed campgrounds in April and May.

The state’s parks and recreation areas registered 1,150,171 overnight visitors in 2019.

The DNR used to hold back about one-third of its sites to accommodate “walk-ups,” but it made all of its thousands of campsites reservable online in 2016, and saw an immediate increase in reservations.

State campgrounds will honor all reservations made before the change takes hold in July, even those beyond the four-month window, the DNR added.

Staff report