Within the Minnesota State Parks system, camper cabins are an extremely successful amenity. Intended for campers who prefer the security of a solid structure, yet are willing to bring along their own linens, cook stove, water, and other essentials, camper cabins are the perfect in-between for park enthusiasts only moderately into “roughing it.”
In fact, a “camper-cabin jet-setting crowd” actively seeks out these experiences, said Steven Dwyer, senior project manager for Minneapolis design firm HGA. So when HGA teamed up with Travis Van Liere Studio to master plan the new 456-acre Whitetail Woods Regional Park near Farmington, Minnesota, camper cabins were an essential component.
“We tried to design camper cabins that would clearly build on the success of other examples, yet offer something unique,” said Dwyer. The response he was sought was buzz along the lines of “Yeah, but have you tried the cabins at Whitetail Woods? They’re stunning.”
Nestled on a steep slope within a pine forest in the new park, the three 227-square-foot cabins are elegant, modern red-cedar boxes with rustic dark-stain shingled exteriors. A short elevated walkway leading to a recessed entry clad in red cedar siding separates the cabin from the nearby trail, while also providing accessibility.
The rectangular cabins extend into the site 14 feet off the ground, terminating in floor-to-ceiling glass that frames the surrounding pine trees before opening onto a recessed 100-square-foot red cedar deck.
“The master plan vision hinted at the possibility of tree houses,” said Dwyer. But after considering cost, size, and accessibility, he took another approach. “My idea was not about building a tree house, but a house in the trees, with a window and deck that frame the forest like a work of art.”
Each ADA-compliant cabin sleeps four to six people, on two full-size built-in bunk beds and two foldout couches. The table seats four, with two folding chairs tucked away in casework to increase seating to six. The cabins include electricity and reading lights. Windows open for ventilation. The deck has two Adirondack chairs.
A nearby bathhouse has restrooms, showers, and a drinking fountain. Campers either prepare food on their own cook stove or over flames in the fire pit.
“Imagine being cooped up on a rainy day in one of these,” said Dwyer. “We tried to design a cabin that would not only accommodate the need for a place to stay, but would be a place that you would really want to stay.”