For a wonderful back-to-nature experience, the two campgrounds within Paul Bunyan State Forest in Minnesota offer rustic camping for you and your RV amid quiet forests and plentiful lakes. Open year-round, these two quaint campgrounds provide a refreshing change from crowded camping spots that have you talking about nature without actually seeing it. Featuring spacious sites amid tall pines, and within easy distance to several lakes, you’ll be focused on making memories with your family and friends, while keeping an eye out for the plentiful wildlife.
Spend the evenings by the campfire as owls call from the canopy. During the day, unwind and enjoy miles of hiking trails along rolling hills through the pine forest, observe birds in the numerous small ponds and bogs, or fish in the larger lakes. Mantrap Lake Campground contains a public boat landing for easy water access while Gulch Lake Campground is non-motorized and perfect for those seeking a quiet paddle.
Easily reachable despite their wilderness setting, both campgrounds also feature a water spigot for clean drinking water, trash cans, and latrine style toilets. They are also first-come, first-served without reservations, so head out early to find the best spot for your rig.
The main roads of Paul Bunyan State Forest are well-maintained gravel and traverse the 105,113-acre forest across rolling hills and along numerous small ponds. Though accessible no matter what you drive from an RV to campervan, take the roads slow to save your tires and for the best chance of viewing the local wildlife.
Gulch Lake Campground is located deep in the forest, but only an easy 12-miles from the pavement of Route 64. If visiting in the winter months to enjoy the miles of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, be sure to have adequate snow tread on your rig’s tires and chains to keep out of trouble. A parking area is available just outside of the campground at Gulch Lakes Trailhead, and the campsites are spacious enough to fit your camper and trailer.
Located in a small pocket of the State Forest, Mantrap Lake Campground is less than two miles from paved Route 24. Though the campsites are spacious, there is plenty of extra parking to stash your boat trailer at the public boat landing, which is located less than a mile from the campground. A hiking trail is accessible from the campground but the best beach for swimming is located near the public landing and might be best to access on bicycle or a short drive.
Nestled between three lakes and amid the pine forest of Paul Bunyan State Forest, Gulch Lake Campground is a small facility with only nine campsites and one group campsite, so if you are interested in staking a claim to one of these spacious and naturally surfaced spots you should come early as there are no reservations. Instead, the campground is first-come, first-served for claiming your spot for your campervan.
All campsites have a table and fire ring, and a gravel road leads to the edge of two lakes for ease of dropping your boat in the water. There isn’t a boat launch or dock though, so keep your water equipment to something easy to carry and deploy.
The campground itself is an easy loop road just off the well-maintained gravel Gulch Lakes Road. A water spigot provides clean drinking water, and two latrine style toilets, without showers, are available. However, there is no dump stations in the campground or State Forest. So arriving with empty holding tanks is recommended, since you might just fall in love with this idyllic little campground and stay for the 14-day summer limit or 21-day September to May limit.
Located just west of the main section of the State Forest, Mantrap Lake Campground is in a small pocket of the forest which contains three lakes and hosts the largest of the two campgrounds within Paul Bunyan State Forest. Easily accessed from paved Route 24, the campground is located on a well-maintained gravel road. Within the campground, the road is a gentle, large loop with two bisecting roads, offering additional internal sites.
Despite being a small subsection of the forest, Mantrap Lake Campground is the larger of the two campgrounds located within the forest boundary, containing 36 drive-in and spacious sites all boasting a natural surface. All are first-come, first-served so come early for the prime sites in this beautiful setting of pines amid secluded lakes.
With no dump facilities within the campground, be sure to arrive with your RV holding tanks empty if you are planning on staying for the 14-day summer limit or 21-day September to May limit. Trash cans and latrine style bathrooms without showers are provided as well.
Mantrap Lake is a designated muskie lake and provides not only wonderful fishing opportunities but fantastic duck hunting as well. Kiosks provide information on natural highlights and common species and a short trail will allow you to stretch your legs while keeping an eye out for wildlife.
Both campgrounds in Paul Bunyan State Forest offer water access, however only Mantrap Lake Campground has a public boat landing. So if you are hoping to put a motorized boat in the water, head to this scenic and larger campground. From Gulch Lake Campground, the road in and two additional spur roads allow you to drive to the edge of three lakes, providing a short haul to launch kayaks, canoes, or your paddle board.
Gulch Lake Campground is designated non-motorized, so skip this one if you want to head off to the miles of ATV and Off-Road Motorcycling trails that thread along the hills and ponds of Paul Bunyan State Forest. With 37-miles of class 1 and 2 ATV trails and 87 of off-highway motorcycle routes within the forest, you can enjoy a variety of terrain and riding. Check trail maps online for routes and best access spots.
Mantrap Lake Campground offers an easy one-mile loop complete with information kiosks on the area and wildlife. You can access the North Country National Scenic Trail directly from Gulch Lake Campground. Other trails weave through this beautiful State Forest as well. Check online trail maps for parking and route information before heading out.
With campgrounds open all year, hunters can get a jump on their quarry by staying in either Gulch Lake or Mantrap Lake Campgrounds. For duck hunters, the public boat landing at Mantrap Lake is the best option unless you prefer the serenity of the carry-in and non-motorized setting of Gulch Lake. Check with local rangers for any seasonal restrictions and follow posted signs before heading out.
There is still a lot to do in Paul Bunyan State Forest even when the snow flies. With over 60-miles of groomed snowmobiling trails, you can tour the hills and frozen lakes of the pine forest for some winter fun before heading back to your cozy RV to warm up. Check online for trails and conditions as well as any news about campground access.
If you prefer the quiet of snowy woods, Paul Bunyan State Forest will welcome you with its cross-country ski trails. Leave from the campground or drive to trail heads to enjoy the sight of pine trees laden with snow and to spot some winter wildlife while getting in your exercise.