Dreaming of a cabin stay but can't find the resources, time, or patience to browse the best rental lists to find one? Don't overlook our very own public parks. Similar to the NY State Parks cabin system just outside NYC, Minnesota's Whitetail Woods Regional Park outside Minneapolis offers three "camper cabins" for public rental.
The architect-designed, community-erected cabins are another clever way to increase outdoor accessibility by offering folks not comfortable with camping a way to still immerse themselves among nature for the night.
Built by county employees and high school students in a vocational program and completed in 2014, the Pine Forest Cabins, designed by HGA Architects and Engineers, are the result of phase one of an ongoing plan to revitalize Whitetail Park, which includes the addition of hiking and ski trails, boardwalks, a play area for fort building (?!), ADA accessibility, environmental protection and restoration, warming shelters, and somehow, even more. Designed to mimic treehouses, the cabin structures were an instant hit upon completion, pulling in so many park-goers the park added two more cabins as of October 2020.
Elevated up to 16 ft above the ground on concrete piers, each Pine Forest Cabin is accessed by footbridges located off a public hiking and ski trail. At 227 sq ft, the tiny cabins are cozy—to put it nicely—yet sleep up to 6 people on two built-in bunk beds and additional sleeper sofas. The remaining interior space is furnished with a dining area and storage for outdoor equipment. Floor-to-ceiling windows lead outside to an 80 ft sq deck overlooking pine forest.
Outside, there's a fire ring for cooking and restrooms are in a shared facility nearby-it is a campground, after all.
A glulam chassis supports a cedar and pine frame, with red cedar cladding inside, and dark cedar shingles covering the exterior. Plenty of windows let in fresh air and forest light. The cabins run on electricity and are heated, though air conditioning coms by way of natural ventilation and Wi-Fi is spotty at best.
The original Pine Forest Cabins have been joined by two Prairie Cabins completed by Aune Fernandez Landscape Architects in late 2020, structures that play on the horizontal lines and overhangs popularized in midwest design. All cabins in Dakota County Whitetail Woods Regional Park rent for $90/night, if you can manage to snag a reservation.