Finding family-friendly vacation spots that offer a touch of adventure isn’t always easy. That’s why we jumped at the chance to stay in one of the brand new cabins and explore the newly opened True North Basecamp. The camp opened just last December in Crosby, MN, about 20 minutes northeast of Brainerd. The camp offers 33 tent campsites and 6 cabins for visitors to chose from. The tent campsites range in price from $19-$29 a night while the cabins are pricier at $69-$125 per night (prices are higher on weekends).
The campground is comprised of three separate sections. The first offers several sites dispersed amongst some young trees overlooking a lake with two well-built tent pads per site, the second section is more of a field with grassy campsites, and the third section is atop a small hill with gorgeous views of the surrounding area.
Campsites in all sections have a picnic table and a fire ring. Each section has a pit toilet and a dumpster. A water spigot is only available in the middle section.
One downside to the location of the campsites is their distance from the shower house and the lakefront. There is no trail down to either, so, hopping in your car and driving to them is your best option. The good news is that the pit toilets are in pristine condition and the welcoming and charming cleaning crew keeps them in incredible shape!
The six cabins are closely nestled together overlooking a lake called, Armour Mine No. 2.
The whole area got it’s start through taconite mining and the towns of Crosby and Ironton wear their history proudly. The lake is manmade and was a mining pit until June 1, 1967 when the Armour No. 2 mine was officially closed. It was “the last underground mine to operate in the state” according to “Cuyuna Country: A Peoples History, Vol. III.” The crystal clear waters of the lakes in the area offer some unique snorkeling opportunities, getting a glimpse of an old forest, now frozen in time under water.
The rolling hills of the area are examples, not only of the Cuyuna Range, but also partially created by rock deposit stockpiles from the mining operations.
The cabins themselves are well-built, insulated, and sparse in their amenities. The air conditioning and heat are much appreciated in this land of extreme temperatures. Inside there are two sets of bunkbeds, one with a full bed on bottom and a twin up top, the other is a set of twin beds. There is a small dining table with 4 chairs, lots of hooks for hanging clothing and towels, two small shelves between the bunks, an enormous charging station, individual reading lights above each bed, a garbage can, and a broom.
The exterior of the cabins offers beautiful views of the lake, a concrete patio, a picnic table, and a fire pit. Each cabin has one designated parking spot, with extra spots available on the road running behind the cabins. The shower house and a water spigot are just steps from the cabins. All the cabins, shower house, and pit toilets on the property are keypad protected. You are emailed the codes in advance of your arrival.
The cabins were surprisingly, and gratefully, spacious. Having a 2 year old in a small confining space can be stressful when traveling, but, the openness of the cabins provided ample room for a space to play with toys, a pack and play set up, and several large bins of clothing and camping gear. Despite the amount of “stuff” that comes along with a family traveling with small children we never felt cramped or claustrophobic which was a definite advantage! These cabins are perfectly sized for a family of up to 5, I would say.
We were staying in cabin number three, being 27 weeks pregnant, made me immensely grateful for the air conditioning! However, there were two things that I really wished were in the cabins, a sink and a small fridge. We were, thankfully, able to borrow an electric cooler, but a small fridge would make life a lot easier, especially for keeping milk cold. A nearby sink is always convenient when changing diapers. However, there is a changing station available in the women’s restroom if you’d rather do it near a sink.
The cabins all face west so sunsets over the lake were wonderful to watch. However, when having a toddler along who goes to bed before the sun goes down in the summer time, it made bedtime a challenge. The front of the cabin, facing the west and the lake, is a veritable wall of windows with thin curtains over some while others didn’t even have that option. This meant that the cabin was particularly bright at sunset and our guy didn’t want to go down when it was clearly still daylight.
One of the perks of a cabin or a campsite at the camp is that there is no checkin or checkout process since everything is done online. When arriving late or trying to leave in a rush with a crabby toddler this is a definite advantage!
The area is well known for its mountain biking opportunities, coming with a 2 year old toddler in hand, we were anxious to see all the camp and surrounding areas would offer to young families. We weren’t disappointed and we found our days filled with fun and adventure! We have both agreed that we would love to return to this scenic spot in our state.
A short walk from the cabins down a steep trail leads to the lake front and a small, yet swift, creek. Jack thoroughly enjoyed splashing in the water and throwing rocks in it.
Though, the current was a little strong for him to feel completely comfortable and he wanted an adult close by or a hand to hold.
This area has seen an inordinate amount of rain this summer. In July they suffered through a horrific rainfall of over 9 inches in an all too short amount of time. The result is that this newly constructed campground has suffered a minor landslide and some serious erosion issues along the roads. They have worked hard all summer to keep up with all the challenges that mother nature is throwing at them.
While we were there we endured a severe thunderstorm in the little cabin in the wee hours of the night and saw just how sturdily built the cabins are, enduring wind gusts of up to 80 mph and we felt safe. Plus, the rains created a sweet mud puddle next to our cabin which provided hours of entertainment for Jack and his buddy Oliver the following day!
The camp is located within the town of Crosby, as evidenced by the water tower that you pass as you drive the winding road down to the cabins. The location is ideal for people traveling with young children. You are less then a mile from a grocery store and a couple of dining options (including a DQ!).
We also spent an afternoon exploring the amazing Crosby Memorial Park, located just .7 miles from True North. The park has an RV campground as well as several tent sites located on the shores of Serpent Lake. There is also a swimming beach and a ridiculously amazing playground. Getting Jack to leave took a lot of convincing!
We had some friends come and join us for a morning of playing in the sand, mud, and water while we were there. We also went out for a paddle on the lake in the canoe and did some snorkeling!
One downside of the area, in general, were the bugs! The mosquitos were vicious and I wouldn’t leave home without bug spray when coming here for a visit. Our little Jack swells up with mosquito bites and the Benadryl Afterbite we had brought along didn’t seem to be doing anything to relieve his itchiness. Thankfully, the nearby grocery store had some Hydrocortizone and that seemed to do the trick!
Finding hiking opportunities in the area proved to be trickier then we first thought. Trail maps aren’t readily available and many trails seemed to be marked specifically for mountain bike usage with no indication that hikers are either allowed or not, leaving users confused by the vagueness. The Cuyuna Lakes State Trail is open to hikers, though it is a paved trail, so not ideal for what many hikers are looking for. This trail is still under construction with plans of being 30 miles in length upon completion.
The nearby Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area has amazing recreational opportunities for all seasons. Including trout fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, snorkeling, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. There’s even a self-guided tour of the Croft Mine that is available on the weekends. Unfortunately we were there during the week, so we missed out on that. We did manage to find a way to get out hiking while there. There is generally a road that takes vehicles to the top of Miner’s Mountain Overlook, however, due to the influx of rain in the area the road was victim to a landslide and has been closed. We opted to walk the closed road and see the overlook with Jack along.
Bobby was also able to bike up to it after Jack had gone to bed one night.
This is a unique mountain because it was created by miners depositing the detritus of the mining operation and the lake it overlooks is 258 foot deep Huntington Mine Lake. The views of the area are absolutely beautiful and we wondered what it looked like just 60 years ago when mining operations covered the land.
Overall, we had a fun-filled three days at True North Basecamp and would eagerly return for visits in the future! We still feel that this part of our state has a lot more to explore and many more opportunities for adventure for young families, like ours, to enjoy. We drove through a couple of the other campgrounds in the area and we can say with confidence that True North Basecamp is a cut above the rest. The newer facilities, location, and the quality and privacy of the campground make the slightly higher cost well worth it.
Disclaimer: While True North Basecamp provided us with a free stay, all thoughts and opinions are our own. If we didn’t believe in their camp, we wouldn’t partner with them.