Snuggled between rolling glacial hills and placid lakes in west-central Minnesota, Maplewood State Park offers an array of activities for any RVer who revels in natural beauty. Situated in the Leaf Mountains of Otter Tail County, the park sprawls over 9,250 acres, featuring eight major lakes and many small ponds, along with open prairie lands intersecting dense sprawls of hardwood forests. The possibilities for recreation are as varied as the geography and include hiking, fishing, boating, birding, and even a large sandy beach for those who simply want to slow down and soak up the views.
The park’s namesake trees are truly majestic, offering bountiful shade in the summertime and in autumn they burst into a brilliant display of oranges, reds, and yellows, sure to capture the imagination of any photographer and nature lover. A five-mile scenic road takes you through some of Maplewood’s prime areas, from sunlight-speckled hollows to wooded ridges, allowing you to spot up to 50 mammal species, as well as around 150 types of birds.
Once you’re ready to leave the camper behind, you’ll find a 20-mile trail system suited to hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobile adventures, and horseback riding. Take to the lakes in your boat or rent a canoe right on site. History lovers can spark their imaginations knowing that Maplewood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has witnessed numerous archaeological excavations exploring some of the oldest Native American settlements in the entire country.
The Leaf Mountains found throughout the park are mountains only in name, with elevations varying from 100 to 1,600 feet, but their rolling character allows for plenty of variety in the landscape. At sunrise and sunset, the Haloway’s Hill Trail offers nice views of a picnic ground and its gorgeous hardwood forests, which consist primarily of basswood, American elm, oak, and of course, sugar maples. After you settle into one of the 71 picturesque campsites, you can immediately stretch your legs on the campground loops or stroll through the beach at Lida Lake. The park is open year-round, but as this is Minnesota, you can expect frigid winter temperatures, a reason the park sees most of its visitors between April and October.
RV Rentals in Maplewood State Park
Transportation in Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park is a seven-mile drive from U.S. Route 59. You can pick up supplies in Pelican Rapids and then leave town east on Minnesota HWY 108. Alternately, if you’re approaching from the south you can turn east from Route 59 onto County Highway 3 to dodge the stoplights of Pelican Rapids. Don’t be deceived by satellite views of the park – there is no southern entrance accessible to RVs.
Accessibility in some areas of the park depends on what time of year you are visiting. In the summer you and pretty much welcome to wander anywhere within the park by car, on foot, or on horseback. However, in the winter a number of trails and facilities are closed. You’ll want to consult with the park’s winter map if you are heading to Maplewood State Park in the cooler months. The fun thing about visiting the park in the winter is that trails open up to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
You’ll find plentiful parking throughout the park, from the visitor’s center to the various trailhead parking lots. The loop-based campgrounds are easy to navigate with RVs up to 50 feet long. If you’re towing a smaller vehicle, you’ll have no problem accessing all of the park’s highlighted features.
Campgrounds and parking in Maplewood State Park
Campsites in Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park is a very equestrian-friendly location, with two dozen camping sites featuring picnic tables and fire rings. Open from May to November, most sites allow a maximum of two vehicles with some sites that allow up to three campers. Restrooms and water are centrally located. Be advised that you must have a horse in order to camp in the equestrian campground. However, there is a day rider parking lot in the campground as well. As with the other developed campgrounds in the park, these sites are reservable online.
Camping at Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park has 71 total pet-friendly campsites available for tents and RVs. Of the 71 campsites, 32 are equipped with 50-amp electricity outlets. The campgrounds are open year-round, although several facilities are closed during the winter. For example, showers and water are only available from May to October. RVs and trailers up to 50 feet long can be accomodated.
The 71 campsites are divided between several loops: the Main Loop, Hollow Loop, and Knoll Loop, and the Loop at the Lake Lida Campground. Each of the camping areas has toilet access, but only the more developed sites feature shower, water, and dump facilities. Each campsite features a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill so you can enjoy some delicious meals during your stay. Some campsites offer lakefront views, while others are tucked in among the shade of majestic trees.
Located alongside Grass Lake, the Main Loop is primary area for RV campers, as all of these sites feature electrical hookups. Most RV spots are of the back-in variety and although the main road through the park is paved, the campsite pads are gravel or grass. This camping area also features centrally located showers, restrooms, dumpster, and fish cleaning shelter.
If you’re looking for a more primitive camping experience there are also three backcountry campsites available for use. For those desiring more comfort, several camper cabins are available for rent throughout the year.
There are no first-come, first-served campgrounds at Maplewood State Park.
Seasonal activities in Maplewood State Park
Boating and Swimming
If your itching to park the RV and get out on the water Maplewood State Park is the place for you. There are over a dozen small and large lakes scattered around the park’s landscape. You can launch your boat on any of the bodies of water that provide ramp access including the popular Lida Lake, Beers Lake, and Fladmark Lake. If you didn’t lug any watercraft in your rig you can always rent canoes and kayaks right within the park. If you want to take a dip in these cool waters head on over to the swimming beach at Lake Lida.
Maplewood State Park is a major destination for the equestrian-minded, and horseback riding is allowed on approximately 20 miles of trails, which are groomed and maintained for smooth riding. If your house is tagging along in the trailer you should consider staying at the horse campground, which is conveniently located in the north central part of the park. You’ll find 24 sites specifically for horse lovers, located near corrals, water, and hitching posts for your trusty steed. You’ll also have access to picket lines and manure bins, but keep in mind that there are no electrical hookups in this camp, nor are there shower facilities.
There are around 20 miles of trails winding through Maplewood State Park. The best overlook hike is Haloway’s Hill, a one-mile, round-trip jaunt that rises over some of the tall trees, giving you an eyeful of the horizon on the lakes and ponds below. The Grass Lake and Bass Lake Loop is a six-mile adventure that’s easy for all skills levels. Feel free to take your dogs out as part of the fun but remember that leashes are required throughout the park.
Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Snowmobiling
Once there’s freshly fallen snow across the grassy knolls and the lake waters freeze, Maplewood State Park turns into a winter wonderland. You can experience the magic of this enchanting setting as long as you pack the right equipment in your rig. If you brought cross-country skis you are in luck since there are a number of trails that are groomed just for this purpose. Snowshoeing is also popular since you can even rent snowshoes right in the park. If you want to cruise around the park in style, there are also snowmobiling trails ready for you. There are many ways to soak up the majestic serenity of Minnesota’s natural beauty in the winter.
Thanks to its eight major lakes and numerous smaller ponds, fishing is a major draw at Maplewood State Park, and there’s plenty of diversity depending on the kinds of species you prefer. You’ll find one designated lake brimming with rainbow trout, and all the lakes have bountiful sunfish and crappie populations. On the western side of the park there’s a lake where walleye fishing is popular, and if you have the trophy fish mentality, another lake is home to muskies.
Maplewood State Park features a collision of ecosystems including rolling prairie and dark forests. You won’t want to leave those binoculars in your camper since around 150 different bird species flock to this area. A short drive or hike makes for easy access to these varied habitats, giving you the ability to quickly spot animals that call these biomes home. At the larger lakes, you’ll see loons, swans, gulls, terns, and an array of migratory waterfowl. Stroll into open lands and you’ll spot red-shouldered hawks. The denser woods are home to vireos, thrushes, woodpeckers and more than two dozen warbler species. In the grasslands and marshes, you may stumble upon grasshopper, clay-colored or vesper sparrows, as well as bobolinks and blackbirds.