Sand Dunes State Forest
Guide

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Introduction

Indulge your adventurous side and c’ mon out in your RV to camp at Sand Dunes State Forest - a gem of a state park in Minnesota. Formed due to the 1930’s Dust Bowl, the nearby town petitioned the government to plan more hardwood and conifer trees, creating the now Sand Dunes State Forest. This 225-acre area is nestled in central Sherburne County among the oak savanna forest and the prairie. Camp among the 2,7000 acres of pine plantation at the Ann Lake Campground, a 15-unit RV camping spot. A horse lover? Travel the 29 miles of horse riding trails along with visiting the famous Sand Dunes Horse Camp. This state park is a great place to visit during all four seasons from exploring the trails, swimming, and panfish fishing on Ann Lake during the warmer months to snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the winter. There is an activity for everyone at this majestic state park as you make new friends and have a great camping experience. Whether it is your first or your hundredth camping adventure, you’ll find peace along this secluded state park and a chance to get away from the business of life. An excellent last-minute solution for a weekend getaway - what else could you ask for?

RV Rentals in Sand Dunes State Forest

Transportation in Sand Dunes State Forest

Driving

You deserve a break so pack your motorhome and head to your next getaway at Sand Dunes State Forest near Big Lake, Minnesota. Open to the public and located in the center of Sherburne County. Close to nearby cities, this area is excellent for exploring. With only a short drive on U.S. 10 or U.S. 169, the state park is west from Zimmerman, north of Big Lake, and less than an hour from the Twin Cities. This is a state forest that is worth checking out.

Parking

When you arrive at Sand Dunes State Forest, check in with the visitors center to pick up a campground map as there is very little signage for the park. When traveling the entrance road to Sand Dunes State Forest, you may find it rough and challenging to navigate so prepare to take drive slowly on all roads at this state park. To access the Uncase Dunes North Unity, you can drive towards the Ann Lake Campground and then park in the lot next to campsite 28. From there, it is only a short hike to the area. Due to the state forest’s popularity, the campground is first-come, first served - so you should arrive early.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Sand Dunes State Forest

Campsites in Sand Dunes State Forest

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Ann Lake Campground

This campground is a place for campers of all sizes - including horses. A perfect getaway to peaceful nature of Minnesota, the Ann Lake campground is nestled along the banks of Ann Lake. Open year-round, camping spots are evenly spaced providing privacy from the other campers. A primitive campsite, you will find a cleared area, a picnic table, grill, trash cans, lantern holders, and fire pit - perfect for making a cozy campfire with s’ mores. Also at the Ann Lake Campground, the park provides vault toilets and water spigots throughout for campers to use. Plan on bringing your ice and firewood in advance as none are available for purchase at the state park. You can bring Fido along on your camping adventure as long as they stay on a leash. Many trees around the campsite are perfect for a hammock. Part of a state forest, prepare for bugs and sun so make sure to pack your sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat. From camping in the winter and riding the trails with your snowmobile to camping in the summer with your horse, this area is a hidden gem. This area offers 15 RV camping spots that are available only first-come, first served, so get there early!

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Sand Dunes State Forest

In-Season

Fishing at Ann Lake

Cast your line and cares away as you fish for panfish, sunfish, or trout fish at Ann Lake. With a fishing pier or from your boat, bring your sage angling skills as you catch your next dinner. Forgot your equipment at home? No worries as Minnesota state parks offer a loaner fishing kit including a rod, reel, and storage tackle box. Before you cast your line, make sure that you have a valid Minnesota fishing license. Now get out there and catch the next big one!

Hunting

If you are an avid hunter, then Sand Dunes State Forest is the place for you. Come in your camping trailer and experience the sport of hunting in the scenic public hunting area. A favorite place to bow hunt, campers will find a variety of animals including deer, turkeys, and squirrels. Do not plan on target shooting within this state park as it is not allowed on site. Get ready to find your next meal and enjoy it over the fire at your RV camping site!

Getting out on Ann Lake

Spend time outside away from your RV and head out to the sun and fun on Ann Lake! This small, clean, clear lake is excellent for swimming and has a sandy bottom that draws visitors of all ages to Sand Dunes State Forest. Enjoy stretching out on your beach towel at the lake’s sandy beach in the sun or read a book as you relax in the shade. Either way, you’ll want to get there early to claim your spot.

Off-Season

Uncas Dunes Scientific and Natural Area

Unique to the Sand Dunes State Forest, this area located within the state forest is named for the Uncas skipper, an endangered butterfly. It is also home to the vegetated dunes that you can explore during your RV camping trip. Grab your camera as this place is great for snapping a photo or bird and wildlife watching. Accessible by hiking the trails, come and see some unique species to this Minnesota state park!

Exploring the Trials

If ripping the trails is your expertise, then you'll love the options at Sand Dunes State Forest. This state park offers over 30 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and skiing. Due to the terrain of some of the trails, you may find them very sandy, like walking on the beach, making it challenging for some hikers. Make sure to stop by the state park office to grab your trail map!

Geocaching

Take a break from your RV camping site with this unique and fun treasure hunt while staying at Sand Dunes State Forest. Permitted in all Minnesota state parks, have a little adventure while getting some exercise as you capture several of the geocaches sites. Enjoy the thrill of victory as you follow the coordinates to find the hidden locations out in the forest. New to the hobby? The state park offers a geocaching loaner pack that you can borrow from the park office. Pack your GPS and a camera in your camper to bring along for your adventure - we can’t wait to see what you find!

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