East Bearskin Lake National Forest Service Campground

Camping at Bearskin

2021 Campground info:

Social-distancing protocols will be in place at the campground. Be respectful of other people’s space. They may not feel the same as you do about personal proximity at this point. Our staff is especially appreciative when you maintain 6 feet of distance.  

The Main Lodge building at Bearskin Lodge will be open from 7:30 AM – 6 PM for socially distanced service, with masks. Firewood, bait, boat rentals, ice cream sandwiches, and snacks will be available at the lodge.  A mask is required to be worn in order to obtain service at the lodge.  The campground and lodge are in separate locations, and payment for campsites is online or at a self-serve pay box. Campers who prefer not to wear masks will have no need to visit the lodge.

The public phone in the downstairs entry is now only available for 911 and emergency calls. There is no public internet for campers this year at Bearskin.

All visitors to Cook County should read the Cook County Visitors’ Pledge.  Our little county has minimal hospital and emergency services, so the whole county has gone the extra mile to be safer. We have the lowest Covid rate among residents in Minnesota and one of the lowest of any county in the US — we really tried hard up here. Businesses will expect you to wear masks in order to enter the building, and that will probably continue to be the case for most businesses in our area even after the governor lifts the mask mandate. Our small Cook County businesses are all just trying to keep their employees and family members healthy in spite of being in contact with hundreds of travelers from all over the country daily.  Be kind, be helpful, follow whatever requests they ask of you.

Camping on East Bearskin Lake

Bearskin Lodge operates the East Bearskin Lake Campground on behalf of the US Forest Service. Bearskin Lodge is responsible for all its operations from May 1st through November 1st. The Campground is located on the shores of East Bearskin Lake, with many camping sites right on the water. East Bearskin Lake offers excellent fishing, swimming, boating/canoeing, waterfalls, BWCAW entry points, and world class scenery.

East Bearskin Lake Campground has 32 camp sites offering privacy and comfort. Tent camping and RV camping are permitted.  All sites have picnic tables and fire rings. Like most Forest Service campgrounds, this is fairly rustic. There are no electrical hookups, nor is there an RV dump station at the campground or the resort. There are new vault toilet buildings and access to a solar-driven water pump. Showers are not available, although a refreshing swim in East Bearskin Lake will frequently do the trick.

Many people find this campground to be a good alternative to actual BWCAW camping, especially for people with younger kids or who need to have a vehicle nearby. The campground offers easy daily access to the Boundary Waters, without having to portage everything in.

The staff at nearby Bearskin Lodge will be happy to answer questions for you. Basic groceries, firewood, bait/tackle, ice, gifts, postcards, and boat/canoe rentals are available at Bearskin Lodge. However, the other amenities at Bearskin Lodge are for resort guests only and are not part of the National Forest Service campground facilities.

All campsites at the East Bearskin Lake Campground are $18.00 per night. One vehicle is included; an additional vehicle is $8.00. (Enforcement of extra vehicle charges will occur this year.)  There is a limit of 8 people and 2 vehicles per site. If you registered online, you have paid your fees; if you are a drive-in camper, register and pay immediately after arrival. Campers who have not paid within 1 hour of arrival, or by 1 PM each day, forfeit their campsites.

Pets are allowed in the campground and the camper cabins, as long as they are quiet, well-behaved, and do not run free. The few campground complaints we get each summer almost always involve dogs in the campground. Be a good neighbor if you camp with your pets.

How to reserve a site

Most sites in the East Bearskin Lake Campground have been added to the national forest service reservation website at www.recreation.gov  (Answer “East Bearskin Lake” when it asks where you want to go.) Some sites are still on a “first come, first served” basis, with no reservation needed. In recent years more sites were added to the reservation system, including several favorite sites that were on a “walk-on” basis in the past. Reservations can only be made 4 or more days ahead of the desired dates; if you don’t have a reservation, this campground almost always has nice, unreserved sites still available. The NFS does not permit us to take reservations for future camping at the lodge.

Cash or personal checks are accepted; there is a drop box located at the campground entrance, so you do not need to visit the Lodge. Checks should be made out to “Bearskin Lodge.”  Returned checks are subject to a $30 charge; because this is a federal campground, bounced checks and unpaid campsite bills can result in significant penalties and prosecution. A kiosk located near the campground entrance has self-registration instructions with payment envelopes.

Amenities

Even though you are “roughing it up North,” East Bearskin Lake Campground does offer a few basic comforts. A large deep water boat launch ramp, numerous complimentary garbage containers, solar powered drinking water, picnic tables and fire rings, new ADA approved toilets, and well maintained sites are all available for guests.

Running through the campground is Bearskin Lodge’s hiking trail system. This is an extensive network of well-marked trails that meander through the area and provide incredible viewing of wildlife and scenery. Stop by Bearskin Lodge for a map of the trails. Many other trails are maintained in the immediate area. Pick up a Gunflint Trail area hiking map, for more ideas. Hiking, biking, fishing, berry picking, birding, photography, and swimming are just a few of the things to do.

The following items are available at Bearskin Lodge:

Firewood: $6.50

Aluminum Canoe: $30.00/day

Kevlar Canoe: $45.00/day

Boat/motor: $80.00/day

Pontoon: $155/full day –  $90/4 hours

Kayak: $20.00 – $42.00

Ice: $2.75/bag

Bait: night crawlers and leeches

Bearskin’s famous ice cream sandwiches $4.95

Fresh baked pies, when available: $18.00 (pre-order if you know you’ll want one!)

We also have a few groceries, bug spray, sunscreen, and other necessities. Enjoy a refreshing cold beer or glass of wine in the lodge or out on our beautiful deck or screened porch.

 

Important Fishing License Info

Bearskin Lodge does not sell Minnesota fishing licenses anymore.  We encourage you to stop at one of the many Holiday Gas Stations on your way up north to purchase a license. It is also possible to buy your fishing license online from home.

The East Bearskin Lake Camper Cabins

The East Bearskin Lake Camper Cabins are an economical way to visit the edge of the Boundary Waters, without needing to stay in a tent.  East Bearskin Lake Campground now has four Camper Cabins, which rent for just $76/night.

Each cabin has bunk space for 5 people, an indoor table, and a porch.  Three of the Camp Cabins have a small loft, which can be an additional sleeping area for two smaller people or that can be used to store gear out of the way.  Access to drinking water and to the campground bathrooms is just a short walk away. Camper cabins are an ideal way to experience “edge of the wilderness” camping, but in a more sheltered indoor environment. Families love the camper cabins, and they also make a great bunkhouse for beginning a BWCAW trip at the East Bearskin Lake entry point, #64.

Camper cabins can be rented on a “walk-up, first come first serve” basis when available; more often they are reserved ahead of time through the forest service reservation site.  (When the website asks where you want to go, input East Bearskin Lake.) We are not able to make reservations for these ahead of time at the lodge, although if you see that a camper cabin is empty and available, you can visit the main lodge to rent it. On the Forest Service website, the camper cabins are located at the end of the campsite list, on page 2 of the campsites.  We’re  recommending that you make an online reservation for these, rather than plan on getting one as a “walk-up” reservation.  All four camper cabins were reserved for most dates last summer. Plan ahead.

Location

The East Bearskin Lake Campground is approximately 27 miles from the Lake Superior town of Grand Marais. From Grand Marais take the Gunflint Trail (Cty. Rd. 12) about 26 miles to the East Bearskin Lake Road. Turn right and continue about 1 mile until you come to the Campground.  You will pass another sign along the gravel road for Bearskin Lodge, but keep going.  The campground is at the next entrance to your right.  It is well-marked as a National Forest Service campground. Look for the sign shown in this picture.

 

Do campers have use of the Bearskin Lodge facilities?

This campground is a National Forest Service Campground located very near to Bearskin Lodge, but it is not part of Bearskin.  The internet hot-spot, hot tub house, sauna, showers, our own swimming beach, children’s area, and naturalist activities are amenities that go with renting a cabin at Bearskin Lodge and are not open to the public.  Dining, baked goods, equipment rentals, beer or wine to drink in the lodge, groceries, ice, bait, gifts, BWCAW permits, and good area advice are services that are available to everyone.

 

Does this campground have cell phone and internet service?

No. There are currently no public phones in this area of the Gunflint Trail. The entire Gunflint Trail after the Hedstrom sawmill does not have cell phone service.  Plan to make your calls before you get on the Gunflint Trail.

More questions?

Please call  (218) 388-2292  for additional info about the campground. Please remember, we cannot make reservations for campsites at Bearskin Lodge. This is a Superior National Forest campground and reservations must be made through www.recreation.gov  . We are happy to answer basic questions about the campground, but cannot always provide you with complete availability information. The lodge has a public phone available for campers, but there is no phone in the campground itself.