Wilder Bell Tent
My Favorite Winter Camping Experience
Friday Favorites: March 12, 2021
I’ve loved camping ever since my dad took me for the first time when I was nine years old. Being from Minnesota, winter camping has always intrigued me, and when we received an invite to stay at this charming canvas bell tent in late winter, I jumped! The Wilder Bell Tent is located four miles south of Taylors Falls on a historic property in Shafer, MN, just off the St. Croix River. If you’re looking for a quiet retreat that’s a few minutes drive from scenic Taylors Falls, you have to book a stay at the Wilder Bell Tent.
Read on for all the details from our recent winter camping experience!
Welcome to the Wilder Bell Tent
Arriving at the Wilder Bell Tent means the start of a relaxing retreat in the St. Croix River Valley. We were greeted by the hosts’ two adorable dogs while we started unpacking the car. The hosts left a rolling cart for us to bring our things to the tent, which was so thoughtful. We passed a flock of chickens and their coop as we made our way to the tent, located just south of the farm house. Surrounded by lovely mature trees, we could smell the wood-burning stove from the tent as we approached and it was so inviting.
The Bell Tent and Amenities
Unzip the tent and walk into the most charming and cozy space! In the center of the tent is a tall branch with twinkly lights and beyond that, the queen bed (which had some of the most comfortable bedding I’ve slept on). There are two beautiful wooden chairs for lounging, and the hosts provide a 5-gallon jug of water, hand sanitizer, lanterns, tea kettle, mugs, tea and hot chocolate, playing cards, and extra blankets. They even left us a dozen colorful eggs from their chickens!
They also provide plenty of wood for the campfire and wood-burning stove in the tent. If you’re not a fan of the cold I suggest planning a visit in the warmer months!
Near the tent is a campfire area with a grilling grate and a picnic table. For dinner and snacks we brought steak and shrimp from Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland, plus cheese curds and their Minnesota- and Wisconsin-style summer sausage (we were on the state border, after all). Jeremiah grills a mean steak and our dinner over the campfire did not disappoint! We also made a stop at Trap Rock Brewing in St. Croix Falls for a few crowlers. There are plenty of places to purchase great food and beverages for your time at the tent.
There is no plumbing or electricity, which was just fine with us! We love being out in the woods and unplugging. The hosts have solar-powered lights on the tent and plenty of lanterns for lighting the campsite.
While there wasn’t plumbing there is a great little outhouse a short walk past the campfire, and even that was well-appointed! The hosts stocked it with toilet tissue, hand sanitizer, and battery-powered twinkly lights. The roof was smartly made of clear acrylic so when we turned on the lights the outhouse glowed at night, making it easy to find for a middle-of-the-night visit!
A Must Do: Hike to the St. Croix River
Whether you visit Wilder Bell Tent in the winter or summer, the ½ mile hike down to the St. Croix River is a must! The hosts have a map drawn in the front of their guest book; I took a picture of it so we could reference it if needed during the hike. The trail leads down a few big hills so prepare for the uphill journey, but it’s so worth it. After you pass through the NPS’ Eagle’s Nest Campground you reach the edge of the river. We brought hot chili in a thermos and enjoyed it on our trusty picnic blanket, listening to the water and wildlife. Two “talkative” trumpeter swans flew right over us just as we sat down, it was magical.
SUMMERTIME BONUS: Our hosts told us that the beach is super sandy and it’s a great swimming spot!
BIGGER BONUS: Dogs are welcome at the tent, too, which is perfect since there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring.
Sneak Peek: The Writers Cabin
The hosts of the Wilder Bell Tent are working on a second AirBNB rental on their property: a super quaint writers cabin! We got to check it out during our stay and I’m already itching to stay at this tiny cabin when it’s ready. Can’t you just picture sipping a cup of coffee with the sun rising through those stunning windows?
This property used to be a working farm, complete with a barn, silo, smokehouse, and even a huge cucumber garden! The silo and other foundations are still on the property for you to find. Be still, my abandoned-building-loving heart!
Things to Do in the Area
In the Colder Months
Taylors Falls is stunning in the winter, and a lot less busy! Grab a hot coffee and a morning bun at Coffee Talk (make sure to visit the upstairs to explore tons of amazing historic photographs), stop at Romayne’s on Main for mac ‘n cheese bites or pig wings, explore the river and potholes at Interstate Park (be careful, it gets slippery), or hit the slopes at Wild Mountain.
In the Warmer Months
Visiting the area in the summer? Explore the history of Taylors Falls (including a collection of New England- Style Greek Revival homes built in the mid-1800’s), rent a canoe, kayak, or take a paddleboat tour on the St. Croix River, visit Franconia Sculpture Park, try the adventure park at Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area, or gorge yourself on delicious burgers, malts and cheese curds at The Drive In!
Looking for other nearby towns to explore during your stay at Wilder Bell Tent? Check out my posts about visiting Marine on St. Croix or Osceola!
If sleeping under the stars and exploring the stunning St. Croix River Valley sounds good to you then head here to book a stay at the Wilder Bell Tent!
*Please note that our stay at Wilder Bell Tent was compensated but all opinions are my own.