Plan your next nature escape: 10 hiking destinations less than an hour from Detroit Lakes
A recent report by WalletHub found that Minnesota is the third best state for summer road trips based on category rankings like safety and activities. Many of those activities are involving the plentiful forests and lakes that the state of Minnesota has to offer.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are 66 state parks in Minnesota, as well as 25 state trails, 35 water trails, and 62 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas.
Regional Trail Coordinator Matt Davis stopped by Detroit Lakes recently to teach some hiking, camping and backpacking basics. He also recommended some trails within Detroit Lakes city limits, as well as a few that are a short drive away.
Davis works for the North Country Trail Association, which is named after the longest footpath in the United States, and runs across the northern tier of the United States. It is approximately 4,600 miles long.
One of the sections of this massive trail is the first on the list of Davis' recommended trails nearby where you can enjoy a day of hiking and return home before dark.
Later on in the list are some options where camping is also an option.
North Country Trail hiking route to Itasca
A 60-mile segment of the North Country Trail that can be accessed at the Highway 34 Trailhead, this trail heads northeast through Hubbel Pond WMA, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Greenwater Lake SNA, White Earth State Forest, and Itasca State Park. There are numerous hike options to choose from.
North Country Trail scenic loop in Fergus Falls
This is a ten-mile loop in Fergus Falls that goes through scenic spots like One Mile Prairie, the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, Delagoon Park, Central Lakes Trail, and the downtown Riverwalk. The hike includes urban hiking, hiking in the forest along the Otter Tail River, hiking along a rail trail and prairie pothole hiking.
Dunton Locks County Park
For a day trip, or on your lunch break, Dunton Locks is a park within Detroit Lakes that has 4 miles of natural surface multiple-use trails that are open to hiking and mountain biking. It is located between Lakes Sallie and Muskrat and can be enjoyed free of charge.
Detroit Mountain Recreation Area
Detroit Mountain is a city-owned recreation area that has 11 miles of multiple-use trails that are open to both hiking and biking. The cross country trails are open to hiking, but the downhill bike trails are not. A season or daily trail pass is required.
Mountain View Recreation Area
Mountain View is another hiking spot that doesn't offer campsites, but there are 3 miles of singletrack or doubletrack multiple-use trails. Enjoy horseback riding or mountain biking in addition to hiking at Mountain View.
Greater Sucker Creek
Greater Sucker Creek is the newest park in Detroit Lakes, and it's free. It's located on 290th Avenue near the mouth of Sucker Creek on Big Detroit. One hundred seventeen acres of natural park and 4 miles of hiking trails can be found here. There are also two marshwalks through riparian wetlands along Sucker Creek.
Itasca State Park
When staying at Minnesota State Parks, it is a good idea to get a year-round permit for $35. Otherwise, a single day permit is $7. The year-round pass can be used at the Itasca, and the three parks that follow on this list. Itasca State Park has over 200 campsites as well as cabin lodging options. It is close to the Mississippi Headwaters and offers 49 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail. According to NCT, some of the best trails are the Brower Trail, which will take you along the edge of Lake Itasca. Here, one might stumble on some blueberry bushes in late summer, Dr. Roberts Trail (2-mile loop route) where you can see the Old Timer's Cabin and lady slipper orchids or the NCT segment where you'll land at the "'true headwaters" of the Mississippi River. There is a swimming beach and they offer kayak, bike and fishing boat rentals.
Buffalo River State Park
Buffalo River State Park is located in Glyndon, Minnesota. It is the closest state park to Detroit Lakes at about 30 miles away. The park has 44 drive-in campsites, as well as one larger site that can accomodate a large group of up to 50 people. Buffalo has 12 miles of hiking through prairie and river bottom hardwood forests. In addition to hiking and camping, the park offers a picnic and swimming area. Camping at Buffalo, listen for bobolinks, prairie chickens, marbled godwits and upland sandpipers. NCTA (North Country Trail Association) suggests checking out the adjacent Nature Conservancy-owned Bluestem Prairie.
Maplewood State Park
Located in Ottertail county, Maplewood State Park encompasses 9,500 acres of glacial hills covered with maple-basswood forest and eight major lakes. Lake Lida is the favorite spot for visitors to swim because of its sandy beaches and large picnic areas. There are 71 campsites, and four of them are available during the winter. This park has 25 miles of hiking trails through the rolling leaf hills, and many of the trials are open to horseback riding. The park is known for its orange, gold and red shades of leaves in the fall and is host to 150 bird species and 50 species of mammals. NCTA suggests hiking Hallaway Hill Overlook (0.8 mile loop) or the Hiking Club loop route (6-mile loop).
Glendalough State Park
Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake, Minnesota has 9 miles of hiking trails through a mixture of prairie, hardwood forest, and lakes. The park has 26 campsites and a swimming beach on Battle Lake. There is a picnic area with a shelter as well as a fishing pier. The trail center and historic lodge are open year-round. The park also rents boats, canoes, kayaks, skis and snowshoes. NCTA suggests hiking the Prairie Hill Interpretive Trail (1.5 mile loop).