Lebanon Hills Campground

Discussion in 'Minnesota' started by tfischer, Jul 13, 2014.

  1. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Just wanted to do a brief mini-review on this campground, as we just got back a couple hours ago from a weekend there (our first time).

    There are three loops in this campground:

    The South loop is what I would call the 'main' loop. This is essentially an RV park, where huge RVs were crammed in nearly as close as a Wal-Mart parking lot. There didn't appear to be much tree cover here at all, it seemed very oopen. This was the only loop in the park that had full hookups, so if you demand that, that's where you'll be. The campground office and 'store' are here. This loop also supposedly offered Wi-Fi.

    The 'North' loop is the 'primitive' loop with no hookups, and is just off the main loop. This is basically set up for tent camping, with long, narrow sites carved into a heavily wooded area. Depending on your site, you might have a moderately long hike to the bathrooms, and some of them were just porta-johns. The sites did have a very primitive, woodsy feel which we liked. You might possibly be able to pick up Wi-Fi from the South loop here but I didn't test that.

    The 'East' loop is a completely separate loop not quite a quarter mile east of the other two loops, up a somewhat steep hill. I don't know the history of this campground but I would not be surprised if this loop was added at some later point in the park's history. This loop has a ring of sites around a central bath house and playground area. It offers 30A electrical service at every site, but no other hookups or Wi-fi.

    Ordinarily I would choose to save the few bucks a night and go completely off the grid, but looking at the satellite pics of the sites, it just seemed that the East loop was much better laid out, so we chose a site there. This was a very good decision, and I would HIGHLY recommend people choose this loop if possible... it's basically designed for popups, HTTs, and other small travel trailers, although we saw quite a few tents there too. Although there wasn't water hook-ups, there were numerous water fill points around the loop. One was right across from our site, so we simply pulled up,l filled the tank, and backed in upon arrival. Although virtually every site around us was filled, these sites were highly private... We really could only see one other trailer or tent from our site, due to trees, brush, and site design. Basically the whole loop had a "I'm up in the north woods camping" feel to it, even though it's smack in the middle of a bustling suburb minutes from the Mall of America.

    As noted, the bath house building was in the middle of the loop, and numerous wooded paths made it a convenient short walk from any site. Due to the wooded nature, you couldn't see this building from any site, again lending to the feeling of boondocking. There was also a decent sized playground right next to the bath house building and was popular with kids including ours. Depending on your site, you were either quite wooded, or quite open (and surrounded by brush... ours had raspberry bushes among other things, complete with ripe berries). Some sites backed into an open area near the playground where you could have set up lawn games, etc. Ours did not, and was too small for some yard games, although we did squeeze in an area to alternately play cornhole and ladder golf, and went to the bath house area to play bocce.

    One of this park's strengths is also a weakness... it's huge, supposedly 2000 acres. This means you're not going to just walk to the different sections of the park. At various places it offers mountain biking trails, swimming beaches, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and much, much more, but a lot of that is a several-mile drive away. There are plenty of hiking paths, but other than the mountain biking area (which was closed due to the unusually wet summer we're having) this park is not set up for biking at all. We tried a few hiking trails but they were kind of miserable with the mud and mosquitoes... not the park's fault, blame the weather. It would be nice if they would add some paved (or at least limestone) bike trails, but I read that this was in the master plan and the local population strongly opposed it.

    Today my plan was to pack up and get out (a fiasco happened, see my last post), and drive to a couple other areas in the park to do some stuff. First we went to an area that supposedly had a nice large playground and picnic pavilion. We got there, and it was jam-packed due to a private party. We found an out-of-the-way table to picnic at across the street from the main area, then let the kids play on the playground for awhile... we almost had to pry them away. Then we headed a few miles east toward the main visitors center... and it was pandemonium. Parking lots jam packed, and from what we could tell, ZERO parking for vehicles with trailers. I pulled in one lot that did have a handful of doubled center spaces, but no 'pairs' that I could pull through were free, and then I found out the whole thing just dead-ended. Uhm, so here I was about 50 yards down a parking aisle, with the pup, and cars behind me, and not enough room to turn around. So my wife got out, had to explain to about 4-5 cars that we had to back out, and thus they had to clear the way. Embarassing, and terrible parking lot design. And I'm still new at pup-ing so backing for 50 yards in front of lots of people wasn't too fun lol.

    But all in all we loved the experience. We'll definitely be back, it's just a short drive from home. The east loop is a real gem of a place.
     
  2. nimrod65

    nimrod65 Member

    546
    1
    Jan 31, 2011
    We stayed at Lebanon Hills in 1998, and it was nothing like you described. Then it was mostly RV parking. It had six tent sites up a hill. We had to carry our stuff up the hill. It had two bath houses, one by the office. That's where we stayed at midnight when a tornado was in the area. They were going to expand the tent sites. But we haven't been back since. It sounds like it has been greatly expanded
     
  3. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    That supports my theory that the "East loop" was added, and perhaps the "north loop" was added on too. The south loop had the two bath houses that you describe, and they were also used for the tent sites on the north loop.
     
  4. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Member

    475
    22
    Jun 14, 2014
    The east loop is the place to be. Thsi park can get very busy during the summer. It is a wonderful place to camp after labor day. Great fall colors and nice peaceful hiking.
     
  5. TDS-MN

    TDS-MN Member

    390
    7
    Sep 29, 2013
    Minneapolis, MN
    We just stayed there for a Friday night/Saturday night camping trip. Was a nice experience.

    Circumstances had us arriving much later than originally planned, so we got to the campground shortly before closing time. Staff we met was very pleasant, and took the time to talk us through the adjacent park's amenities, as we had never been to this campground before.

    I had done some online recon, so I had an idea what to expect. We stayed in the East loop based on what I read, here and elsewhere. Nice individual sites, most were fairly secluded from neighboring sites. The parking pads were not especially large, and even the cleared area for the site was a little on the small side, but not to the point that it felt cramped or anything. Nice table and fire pit with cooking grate.

    The bath house and shower building was very nice and clean. The central location was appreciated. We stayed in the inner loop, making for a short walk when needed.

    We set up in the dark upon arrival Friday evening. Got to explore the campground on Saturday morning. AS stated, the lower part of the campground is set up with full hook-ups and larger parking areas, but lacks the individual site feel that you get in the east and north loops.

    Location is in the suburbs, so there was traffic noise most of the time if you listened for it. Not a secluded get-away, but that was not what we were looking for this trip anyway, we just wanted something closer to home, that we could get to without a long drive. Would definitely go back again some day, and probably spend more time hiking the park and exploring the lakes.
     
  6. jackfrost

    jackfrost Member

    31
    1
    Mar 6, 2013
    We stopped here in June 2015 on our way to Northern Min. The east loop appeared to empty but on our way out saw 10 other units camping there. Never knew their was anyone else around. The showers and restroom was one of the cleanest we have seen. The playground was being rebuilt and will great when finished. The people was very friendly, helpful, and very nice. We will stay their on our trip. One of the best we have seen.
     
  7. TDS-MN

    TDS-MN Member

    390
    7
    Sep 29, 2013
    Minneapolis, MN
    We were just back there a couple weekends ago, and brought along some friends that had never been to the park before. They raved about how much they liked the sites, pretty much throughout the entire stay. We spent one evening at their campfire ring, and the other at ours. New playground was completed, and their boys spent a lot of time on the equipment. Our stay was just as pleasant as last time, no surprises or disappointments. Will continue to go back, I'm sure!
     
  8. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Good to hear the playground is done, they were hard at work on it when we were there in July and it was getting close. The one it replaced was getting pretty scary lol.
     
  9. bsandey

    bsandey Active Member

    185
    65
    Jun 9, 2005
    Red Wing, MN
    [​IMG]

    We went camping there this last weekend for a couple nights (Friday evening to Sunday morning). I had never been there, even though I grew up in that area. It wasn't really anything back then, so we never really thought of visiting the park. But I have been hearing good things about it lately, so thought I would check it out.

    As you can see on the map, the main loop ("West Loop") is all tightly packed. This is mostly larger trailers, 5th wheels, and motor-homes. It had full hookups, and nicely taken care of sites. But they are crammed in, and you are very close to your neighbor, with nothing really between you and them other than a strip of grass. The North Loop is more spread out, and looks to be for tents only. There wasn't much of an area to park a small trailer in, even one as small as mine wouldn't fit in most sites. But they are nice, secluded sites.

    [​IMG]

    We stayed in the East Loop. Like the North Loop, the sites are spread out more, and fairly secluded. We had site 80, which is right next to a path to the restroom/showers. As you can see in my picture above, it has a large gravel pad to park the trailer and car in (they emphasized no parking on the grass at all, not even your bumper hanging over it). Had no problems following that rule. The pad was level (side to side), so no leveling blocks were needed. And, as with all other sites in this loop, it's electric only. The restroom/showers were very clean, and even with it being busy, remained so the entire weekend. There is no wifi available (I did read somewhere there is wifi in the West Loop, but I didn't check or confirm that), but I had a good cell phone signal that I could use my phone as a mobile hot spot, and watch Netflix and Amazon Prime on my Fire TV Stick. And I didn't get to check out any of the trails - My parents still live in the area, and I have a daughter that moved up there, so I invited them all over to the campsite for the day.

    There are only two negative comments I have to say about this campground, and both are pretty minor. First, the bathrooms are small. The Men's room had no urinals, and only two toilet stalls (I didn't, and couldn't, check out the Women's restroom, so I can't comment on that). There were times that we had to wait for a little bit. But like I said, it's minor. Never had to wait for too long. And the second negative part of it is that it is close enough to the airport (MSP International Airport) that you did get planes flying overhead that were on the louder side. But only a small few were so loud that it interrupted normal conversation.

    I would recommend this to anyone that is visiting the Twin Cities area, and looking for a place to camp. It's in the metro area (Apple Valley/Eagan, where the park is located, is a southern suburb of the Twin Cities), so you have easy access to Mall of America, Valleyfair (a local amusement park), and downtown Minneapolis, just to name a few amenities. Or if you live in the Twin Cities, and want to just "get away" without actually getting away, it's a good place to go. And best of all, it's a very reasonable price! For the electric only site, it cost $25 a night (plus tax and an $8 reservation fee).
     
  10. Colorado #5

    Colorado #5 New Member

    11
    0
    May 20, 2017
    I'm literally 10 minutes from Lebanon Hills... I was there years ago and if memory serves me right there isn't a lot of tree cover or shade. But that was on the west loop. Am I still correct on that?
     
  11. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    We're going back this fall. My biggest complaint is that there are few good biking options. The park people wanted to build a nice trail through the park (it's a huge park) but the locals fought it and said it would "ruin the character'. Huh? Have these people never been to a state park or a Three Rivers park like Baker or Hyland where there are paved trails going through the wilderness? Anyway, the only biking is on trails that parallel city streets on the outside of the park, which is a bummer since biking is one of our favorite things to do while camping.

    But it's a great park.
     
  12. bsandey

    bsandey Active Member

    185
    65
    Jun 9, 2005
    Red Wing, MN
    Yes, it's still like that - Wide open area with very little trees. So it comes down to sacrifice - Give up shade for full hookups, or give full hookups, and go electric only, for some natural shade at your site.
     
  13. TDS-MN

    TDS-MN Member

    390
    7
    Sep 29, 2013
    Minneapolis, MN
    Ah, yes, #80 is maybe our favorite site we have had there so far.

    Agree with the comments on West loop. The east loop has maybe half of the sites that are pretty well shaded, with the other half being wide open, basically cut into a grassy field. We tend to prefer the shade.

    We have walked the trails heading east from the campground, and gone pretty far. I have seen bikers on them, but they are not paved and would have some challenging spots with sandy washouts, etc.

    Need to see if we can't find an open site one of these weekends yet before they close up for the season.
     
  14. morcguy

    morcguy New Member

    23
    0
    Aug 8, 2011
    We camp at Lebanon a couple times a year. East loop, most of the outer ring of sites are really well shaded, inside loop less so. West loop, no trees, just rows of massive RVs. Reserve early to stay at Lebanon, fills quickly. Very well-run place.
     
  15. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Just got back from Lebanon again (literally am taking a break from unloading the van and pup). A very wet, rainy weekend... somehow that's been a theme for us when camping here lol. But even as much as it rained, it still wasn't as bad as the forecast called for, and the major storms stayed south of us. We managed to still have a campfire each night (even though Friday night's was pretty short, and both nights were interrupted by rain). We went on a long morning hike, an hour canoe ride, and a bike ride. We had our usual post-tear-down picnic and let the kids play while wife and I played Ladder Golf. Also had plenty of time for cards and board games in the pup while waiting out the rain. All and all a great weekend, even though I'm drying things out now as everything is soaked.

    All 3 loops of the campground had a lot of vacant spots which is unusual for this campground... guessing the rest were "smart" enough to not go camping in the rain. No matter, we had more fun than we would have if we had stayed home.

    Most ironic moment: Seeing a site with which had arguably the biggest, most expensive, and most luxurious "pusher" in the entire park. And it had a flag by the road that said "Roughin' it"

    -Tim
     

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