Set near the meeting point of the Mississippi and Pine Rivers, Crow Wing State Forest is an aquatic retreat that is ideal for RV camping. There are miles of trails that will take you through the areas' hardwood and pine forests and across the prairies. You can relax on the beach or enjoy an idyllic picnic along the shore of Pelican Lake. The woods are packed with wildlife, including white-tailed deer, beaver, and muskrat, as well as dozens of species of waterfowl. RV campers also often see foxes and coyotes in the forest.
The forest is set near a calm section of the Mississippi River, making it perfect for long canoe and kayak trips. You can take Pine River to connect to the Mississippi, giving you dozens of miles of river to explore. You’ll also find plenty of angling opportunities along both rivers, as well as at Bass and Greer Lakes, which are located near the main RV campground.
The RV campground in the forest is open May through November, with over 30 sites to choose from for your rig. Sitting directly on Greer Lake, you’ll have quick access to boating, fishing, and hiking. It’s also pet-friendly, so you can bring your dog along for your trip.
Located in central Minnesota, Crow Wing State Forest is just a quick drive from St. Cloud, and can also be reached from Minneapolis. The forest’s campground is off MN-6, making it easy to access by RV.
If you are driving from St. Cloud, take US-10 west out of the city to MN-371, and you’ll get to the forest in around two hours. From Minneapolis, take I-94 west to I-10, and you’ll reach the forest in just over two hours.
There are no narrow roads or tight turns, so large rigs should have few issues getting to their site. The roads do get quite icy during the winter, and there may also be snow. Consider bringing snow chains if you are visiting during the winter.
There are 31 RV sites in the forest’s main campground, none of which have hookups of any kind. All of the sites come with a picnic table and a fire pit, and the campground is pet-friendly. There are vault toilets within the campground, as well as a number of drinking water access points. You’ll also find a dump station on the edge of the campground.
The campground is located right on the shore of Greer Lake, giving you quick access to boating and fishing. There is a trail that connects to the Bass Lake Nature Trail, which has a number of highlighted natural sites along a 1.75-mile loop.
There are usually sites available, although the campground does get a bit crowded during the summer. The campground is first-come, first-served, so make sure to get there early if you are visiting during peak season.
There is a wide variety of terrain types in the forest, making for excellent hiking no matter the season. The trails take you along the many rivers and lakes in the forest, and you can also find trails that lead along the Mississippi. You can also take Bass Nature Trail, a two-mile long loop leading out of Greer Lake Campground. It passes through an old Norway pine plantation that dates to the beginning of the 20th century.
If you want to enjoy biking while staying at the forest, you’ll find dozens of miles of trails leading along the rivers and lakes in the area. You can connect to trails leading out of Greer Lake Campground, as well as ride your bike along the main paved roads that cut through the forest. The Great River Road, a scenic waterside route, passes just south of the campground. The forest does not rent biking gear, so make sure you bring everything you need along with your camper or trailer.
Set near dozens of lakes and rivers, there are a number of boating opportunities awaiting RV campers at Crow Wing River State Forest. You’ll have plenty of shade as you kayak or canoe. Many rivers are fairly calm near the campground, so you won’t have to worry about fast currents. You can also connect to the Mississippi River, giving you access to dozens of miles of kayaking routes.
Pelican Lake is an excellent destination for scenic boating on over 8,000 acres of water. There is also a boat launch located just north of the main RV campground by Greer Lake, allowing you to get larger vessels onto the water. You can also walk in canoes or kayaks at multiple points along both rivers. The forest rents canoes and kayaks, as well as other boating equipment.
There are a number of angling opportunities within the forest. The Mississippi River has a number of sections with great fishing, with plenty of cover along the shore. You’ll be able to catch small and largemouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish. You can also fish from Greer and Bass Lakes, which are located just outside the main RV campground in the forest. Pelican Lake is another great spot for fishing for perch, bluegill, and crappie. There is a boat launch located just north of the main campground, and you can also put a boat in the water at multiple points along the rivers that cut through the forest.
RV campers will find a range of bird species along the shores of the Mississippi and near the dozens of lakes in the forest. You’ll be able to spot northern harrier, clay colored sparrow, sandhill crane, red shouldered hawk, and bald eagles, which are often seen nesting near the forest. Minnesota has many excellent audubon societies that produce helpful field guides and bird checklists. You can also head to the forest office to get more information on the birds in the area.
If you visit the forest during the winter, you can still use many of the hiking trails for snowshoeing. The white and red pine forests make for scenic hikes when covered in snow, and you’ll find a wide range of animals in the area, including dozens of bird species. In total, there are 18 miles of trails for you to explore, most of which stay open throughout the winter. The forest office rents snowshoes, although hours may vary during the winter.