Kabetogama State Forest is a lush wonderland of fun located in the Minnesota counties of Saint Louis and Koochiching. With over 621,000 acres of land and water to explore, you will have no problem finding the perfect spot for your next adventure. Over 250,000 people come to Kabetogama State Forest every year to enjoy both tent and RV camping as well as water sports, hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Some of the most popular campgrounds in the forest include Ash River, Hinsdale Island, Wakemup Bay, and Woodenfrog. Both Ash River and Woodenfrog give you access to Namakan and Kabetogama Lakes. Hinsdale Island and Wakemup Bay provide the only boat-in campgrounds on Lake Vermilion. These campgrounds all have a plethora of great activities and amenities, but they are mostly primitive campgrounds because after all, this is the forest. They do provide toilets, water, and fire pits, as well as a few picnic tables and enough room to park anything up to 50 feet long.
During the summer, make sure you bring your boat, kayak, or canoe because there are acres and acres of water access. And don’t forget your bathing suit and suntan lotion because you will be able to cool off in the water as well. Of course, you should also take along your fishing gear in your rig since there are some hungry water critters just waiting to be fed. Winter can be fun too because you can enjoy some skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as well.
Kabetogama State Forest is the northeastern section of Minnesota, about two hours north of Duluth, and 96 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. The Forest is bordered by Voyageurs National Park to the north, Nett Lake Indian Reservation to the west, Sturgeon River State Forest to the south, and the Superior National Forest to the east. The roads heading into the park can be treacherous, especially if you are driving a big RV or are pulling a trailer. If you are headed into the woods during the winter or early spring, check road conditions with the Minnesota State Highway Patrol because these back roads do not typically get plowed after snowfalls.
No matter which part of the forest you are headed into, you will need to drive slowly and carefully because there are a large variety of different critters running around, and they can sometimes cross the road at inopportune moments without warning. In the campground, it is best to just park the RV at your campsite and walk, bike, or ride to wherever you are headed.
Woodenfrog Campground is the largest and most popular campground in the Kabetogama State Forest with 59 campsites that fit up to a 50-foot RV or trailer. This lovely campground is located within the Kabetogama Lake shorelines and was named after a Chippewa Indian chief named Chief Woodenfrog. Considered primitive, the campground has seven vault toilets, two water wells, a drinking water pump, and trash cans around the area.
Each campsite has a nicely cleared out space, a picnic table, and a fire pit with a grill to cook on. The sites are spacious and shaded and there is plenty of privacy between sites. Two of the campsites are ADA-accessible, and there is a large swimming beach with a boat ramp and a changing room. These campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis so you have to come early to get a good spot. You can also find some great trails and a picnic shelter where you can get together with a large group for dinner or a picnic. Dogs and cats are allowed but must be on a leash during your stay.
The Ash River Campground is a small and primitive space that furnishes the basics for campers. There are only eight campsites and they are available on a first-come, first-served basis so you will need to get here early if you want a space. One of the campsites is ADA accessible-and there are two picnic tables, several vault toilets, and river access.
Each campsite has its own fire ring with grill, picnic table, and a spacious clearing where you can park your camper or trailer. You can find a water pump for drinking water, and there are trash receptacles placed all over the campground for your convenience. It is located on the Ash River Public Landing where there is a boat ramp, beach, hiking, and whitewater rafting. You also have access to the Voyageurs National Park. Pets are welcome as long as they’re kept leashed or otherwise restrained while you are here.
Another primitive campground in the Kabetogama State Forest, the Wakemup Bay Campground provides several drive-in campsites with room for your RV or trailer, as well as some boat-in campsites on Lake Vermilion. There are 22 campsites with one being ADA-accessible. Each campsite has a cleared space, picnic table, and a fire pit with a grill. There are some vault toilets and drinking water access, as well as trash cans placed around the park.
You can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing at the lake where there is also a picnic area for anyone to use. In the winter there are skiing and snowmobiling trails. Hiking and biking trails are popular during the spring and summer. The campsites are first-come, first-served so be sure to get your spot early, especially on holidays and weekends. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as you keep them on a leash or restrained during your visit.
The Kabetogama State Forest boasts over 100,000 acres of water including the 24,033-acre Namakan Lake, 39,271-acre Lake Vermilion, and the 25,000-acre Kabetogama Lake. With all that water, how can you not enjoy a nice cool dip during the hot summer days? If you do not want to go to any of the beaches, try one of the many creeks and ponds around the forest where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the woods. So, don’t forget to pack your bathing suit and bring the floaties in the RV.
Make sure you attach your boat trailer before heading to the Kabetogama State Forest so you can hit the lakes or the rivers. It does not matter whether you have a huge houseboat or a little canoe, there are plenty of choices to pick from. Lake Vermilion is the largest lake and can accommodate any type of boat you want to put in there. If you would rather try a smaller venue, check out Black Duck Lake, Elephant Lake, or Myrtle Lake, which are all off of the Arrowhead State Trail.
If you are more of a thrill seeker, pack the raft or inner tubes in the camper and head to one of the awesome rivers in the Kabetogama State Forest. Vermilion River flows from Crane Lake on Route 24 to Vermilion Dam on Route 667. Pelican River is a fairly large river in most places and runs from the Vermilion River to Pelican Lake, so you can actually continue your float trip from Crane Lake to Pelican Lake to make it a real long ride. Make sure you bring life jackets as they are mandatory.
Minnesota winters can be a blast in the Kabetogama State Forest, especially if you bring your snowmobiles. There are a whole group of snowmobile trails that begin around Kabetogama Lake and Highway 53 including the Voyageur Trail, which is one of the most popular and travels throughout the forest and into the Voyageur National Park. The Arrowhead Trail stretches 75 miles from International Falls to Cook and has some awesome rolling and winding hills. The trail that goes around the Crane, Sand Point, Namakan, and Kabetogama Lakes is actually 110 miles of lake top riding and is very popular. Be safe and wear the proper gear including a helmet.
Don’t just sit in the RV the whole time you are in the forest. There are over 100 miles of trails to explore. The Arrowhead State Hiking Trail starts at the trailhead off Gamma Road (CR-122) just north of Highway 53 and heads east for a 1.5-mile round trip. The Ash River Falls Trail starts on CR-129 just east of Highway 53 and is a two-mile loop trail. The Pelican Lake Trail meanders along Pelican Lake and the creek for 2.5 miles round trip.
Kabetogama State Forest is noted for its excellent fishing spots with literally hundreds of lakes, creeks, rivers, and ponds. One of the largest is Kabetogama Lake, which boasts a plethora of trophy bass, perch, and crappie as well as walleye and northern pike. Fishing shallow with a jig and a minnow will get some awesome hits and using a slip bobber is especially helpful. If you are looking to catch the bottom feeders like catfish, try some live bait with a heavy river weight. Try any of the lakes or ponds and you can find just about any kind of aquatic critters you can think of.