Birch Lakes State Forest
Guide

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Introduction

Located in central Minnesota, Birch Lakes State Forest is a secluded RV retreat perfect for adventurous campers. The forest is set on a transition area between woodlands and prairies, giving you a wide variety of terrain types to explore. There are seven miles of hiking trails that take you through the elm, maple, and birch trees. There are dozens of bird species in the forest, including red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, owls, and yellow warblers. Many of the trails are multi-use, allowing you to bike and snowmobile.

You’ll also find a wide range of activities out on the water. Big Birch Lake is one of the best walleye fishing locations in the region, with over 2,000 acres of water. You’ll also be able to fish for crappie, bluegill, smallmouth mass, and northern pike. There is a boat launch that makes it easy to get out onto the water, as well as a fishing pier and a swimming beach.

The RV campground in the forest has 24 sites to choose from for your campervan or trailer. You’ll be right on the water, making it easy to fish and boat. The campground is also pet-friendly, so feel free to bring dogs along on your trip.

RV Rentals in Birch Lakes State Forest

Transportation in Birch Lakes State Forest

Driving

Located in central Minnesota, Birch Lakes State Forest is just a quick drive from St. Cloud, and can also be reached from Minneapolis. The main campground is easy to get to, with few tight turns. However, the roads do freeze over during the winter, so drive with caution.

If you’re coming from St. Cloud, take I-94 west out of the city and you’ll get to the forest in around 45 minutes. Driving from Minneapolis, take I-94 from the city and you’ll arrive at the forest in around an hour and forty five minutes.

The forest is right off main roads, and you won’t have to drive far to get to the campground. However, you should take caution if visiting the park during the winter, as the roads do tend to get a lot of snow and ice. You should consider bringing snow chains along with your rig if visiting during a snowstorm.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Birch Lakes State Forest

Campsites in Birch Lakes State Forest

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Birch Lakes State Forest Campground

There are 24 sites in the campground, none of which have hookups of any kind. There are vault toilets, as well as drinking water access points. The sites have picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground is pet friendly, provided that all dogs are kept on a leash at all times.

There is a boat launch right outside of the campground, giving you easy access to the water, as well as a fishing pier. There is also a swim beach near the sites, and you’ll be able to access the main hiking, biking, and snowmobiling trails.

The campground is open May through September. All of the sites in the campground are first-come, first-served, so try to get there early if you want a spot. You can also call ahead to see about current availability, although they will not hold the spots until you arrive.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Birch Lakes State Forest

In-Season

Fishing

Anglers will find plenty of opportunities in Birch Lakes State Forest. Big Birch Lake is known for its walleye fishing, with over 2,000 acres of water. You’ll also find a variety of other fish species, including bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and northern pike. There is a boat launch near the main campground, as well as a fishing pier.

Fishing is excellent year round, although you’ll get the most bites starting in spring and running through late summer. There are no rentals, so bring all of the gear you need with your rig.

Biking

Many of the trails in the forest are also open to biking, giving you a variety of terrain to explore. The trails lead through the elm and maple forests and along the shore of Big Birch Lake. Some are perfect for relaxing afternoon strolls, and some are suited for more experienced riders, with tight turns and narrow passes.

The trails are open starting in the spring and running through the fall. The forest does not rent any biking equipment, so bring everything you need along with your rig.

Hiking

There are seven miles of hiking trails that take you through the forest’s aspen, oak, red maple, elm, and paper birch trees. You’ll be able to see a wide variety of wildlife in the forest, including dozens of species of birds. Common species include red foxes, white-tailed deer, beavers, coyotes, black bears, and timber wolves.

Hiking is great year round, although you’ll see the most color if you visit during the spring or fall. Come in April for a show of local wildflower, or in the fall to see the elm, oak, and maple trees begin to turn.

Off-Season

Snowmobiling

The forest is a popular destination in the winter for snowmobiling. There are over four miles of trails in the forest, with a variety of terrain that keeps rides interesting. You’ll also be able to connect to various other trails leading into the area around the forest, should you want to go on a day ride. There are no rentals from the park office, so bring any equipment you need along with your camper.

Birdwatching

There are dozens of bird species in the forest, making it a great destination for RV campers interested in birdwatching. Common species sighted in the forest include red shouldered hawk, killdeer, northern flicker, eastern kingbird, yellow headed blackbird, and yellow warbler. Species vary widely by season, with the greatest number in spring and fall, when many birds are on the move.

Check the websites of local audubon societies, many of which produce useful education materials such as field guides and checklists.

Hunting

Most of Birch Lakes State Forest is open to hunting. You’ll find a variety of game in the park, with white-tailed deer being the most popular. The varied terrain makes for challenging hunts, with plenty of cover for game and open prairies that give great sight lines.

It’s forbidden to carry loaded firearms within 100 yards of any of the hiking trails or the campground. There is also private property within the forest, so use caution while hunting to avoid trespassing.

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