Just outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota, Turtle River State Park is a well-loved spot for year-round recreation and summertime camping adventure for hikers, fishermen, mountain bikers, families, and RVers.
There aren't a lot of trees in North Dakota, so the 784 acres of the wooded valley along the Turtle River is something of an oasis. Interesting stone bridges and log buildings around the park were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). A large shady campground welcomes RVs and trailers with powered campsites. There are also several huge day-use areas and buildings which can be reserved for large parties and weddings.
Hiking trails explore the park with over ten miles of walking paths, and in the winter these become well-groomed cross-country ski trails in the snow. In the winter, there is a warming hut open every day next to the popular sledding hill. Mountain bikers will find miles of single-track trails winding through the dense forest. Fishermen have well-maintained access to the Turtle River, which is actively stocked with brown and rainbow trout. The Visitor Center puts on events all year round, from a fishing derby and bike races to winter survival classes and raptor demonstrations.
Because of the large pull-through campsites, and the proximity to Grand Forks, this park is the go-to for large groups, family reunions, and simple camping with friends.
Located off US Highway 2, Turtle River State Park is just 22 miles away from Grand Forks. This part of the country is popular with fifth wheels and big RVs for good reason: big roads, big parking lots, and many camping parks with pull-through access. The campground is designed for trailers and towing vehicles, so no worries, even if you're new at driving something large.
Turtle River State Park feels remote, but Grand Forks is closeby for supplies and entertainment. Larimore is even closer. This little city, just 10 miles to the west of the park, is a perfect stop for take-out, groceries, and gas.
Parking is provided throughout the park, particularly at the various trailheads and picnic shelters. There is also extra parking available in the campgrounds. The park is small enough to set up at your campsite and walk wherever you'd like to be in the park.
The campground is at the north of the park, away from all the hustle and bustle. There are 70 campsites with water and 50-amp electric hookups. Almost all the sites are pull-through and enjoy shade offered by the huge trees. A central dump station is conveniently located close to the campground entrance.
The campground is divided into two sections, the North and South Campgrounds, each with 35 campsites for RVs and tent campers. You'll find the comfort station and a separate vault toilet between the two campgrounds.
The North Campground can accommodate RVs up to 75 feet in length. If you are traveling with friends, it is good to know that campsites 40, 55, and 67 are double sites. They can accommodate more than one RV and up to 12 people. You'll want to book in the South Campground if you need extra space. Sites 23 and 33 both have lengths of over 100 feet.
The campground is surprisingly spacious with room for the large RVs to park and get around. Reservations must be made in advance, either by calling the call park or making a booking online.
On the south side of the park, there are 12 duplex cabins. Ten of these rustic cabins accommodate six people on bunk beds. The other two cabins, Elm A and B, are ADA-accessible and can accommodate up to three people. All cabins have electricity and an indoor bathroom with a toilet and shower. Cooking must be done outside of the cabin, so make sure to bring all you need to do that comfortably. You will also need to bring all your bedding, towels, cutlery and crockery.
The park has three areas set aside for primitive camping. There are 26 sites altogether, each accommodating up to six people. Nicely tucked away under the trees, they are a short walk from the road that meanders to the campground. Riverside, Cottonwood Crest, and Trapper's Rest Tent Campgrounds are all secluded enough to enjoy a quiet night in your tent or tipi after a day of hiking.
Winter hits hard in North Dakota, but that doesn't mean you'll be stuck inside. Turtle River State Park maintains seven miles of cross-country ski trails for RV visitors in the winter. There is also a sledding hill and designated dog walking and winter hiking areas. The warming chalet is open every day in the winter and is a great place to warm up between activities. Several events are held to introduce kids to skiing and snowshoeing throughout the winter.
Meeting rooms, picnic shelters, and a full-blown lodge are all available to rent out for large groups, parties, and weddings. The Woodland Lodge has become one of the most popular wedding spots in the area because of the great accommodations and scenic photo backdrops. This is an excellent place to plan a party, reunions, and company events.
The day-use areas are clean, inviting, and surrounded by grassy areas. The Agassiz shelter near the South Campground can accommodate 40-50 people, while the CCC Memorial Shelter can host up to 300 people. Both shelters offer picturesque views and a relaxing environment for group picnics.
The Turtle River is stocked with trout, and the park offers many great places for fly fishing from the shore. Many visitors report catching their daily limit in less than an hour when the fish are really biting. Easy access to the river and areas where vegetation has been cleared, make this a great family fishing spot. If the young ones would like to try to catch their own fish, they can borrow some fishing equipment from the park office.
The Turtle River State Park Visitor Center hosts events and educational talks on a wide variety of topics from fish and turtles to raptors and the forest ecosystem. Themes are geared toward getting kids excited about nature, like winter survival and shelter-building, and fishing classes with live demonstrations. A high-quality education in an incredibly fun setting; your family will love it. The meeting room at the Visitor Center can also be booked for private events. It can seat up to 50 people and offers the audio and visual equipment needed to host an event.
From densely wooded areas to open grassy meadows, Turtle River State Park is covered in hiking trails ranging in length from less than a mile to 2.5 miles Birds, deer, and yes, turtles, can be seen near the river and in the woods. A loop of the whole park is seven miles long, but there are many cut-offs, so you can explore in different directions or head back to camp a little sooner. The mountain bikers stay in their own area, so you won't have to worry about sharing the trail.
With ten different single-track rides ranging from easy to intermediate, Turtle River State Park is a real playground for mountain bikers. Smooth and swooping trails run through the deciduous forest with several bridges crossing the creek. There is not much elevation to slow you down or burn up your legs, making this easy, all-day fun in a really beautiful place. The trails are so good that they have been featured in a few mountain bike magazines.