Location: Monticello, MN
Management: Minnesota State Parks and Trails
Trail Surface: Natural Surface - Dirt Trails
Environment: Primarily Oak Forest, some grassland, several lakes
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate
Cell Phone Reception: Good
Parking: Plentiful, no charge. Main parking at trail center. Parking also available at the Lake.
Dog Rules: Dogs on Leash, 6 foot maximum
Recommended Gear: Waterproof boots when hiking in early winter and early spring. Lots of mud during those times of year. Otherwise, any shoe is fine.
Free Park Friday November Free Guided Hike at Lake Maria State Park
For some, this may be a bit of a drive out of the Twin Cities, but that's why it's always quiet and peaceful here. This is an often-overlooked State Park in Minnesota, and it has so many great features. Worth visiting!
Lake Maria State Park has 14 miles of hiking trails, secluded backpack campsites, and the Lake itself for quiet water recreation. All of the backpack campsites are 1 - 2 miles from parking. They are spread out, quiet, and mostly nestled in the woods or near the lake. There is excellent fishing here I am told! I come for the trails, though.
My Favorite Loop
If you want a mostly-private hike, I suggest taking this route. There are some rolling hills, varied landscapes, and multiple offshoot options if you'd like to extend your trip.
From the park's main entrance, drive past the information center and take a left towards the Trailhead. There's plenty of parking here as well as a visitor center, water, and restrooms. If the visitor center is closed, there is a vault toilet at the horse campground. Gear up, bring poop bags, and head out, taking a left when you reach the trail. You'll take a horse trail (thus the lack of people) around the perimeter of the park. The trail winds through beautiful oak forest, across prairie, and through a quiet meadow.
After a mile, you'll meet up with the Bjorkland Trail loop. Here, you can continue on a large loop and echeck out the campsites. It can be buggy in the woods during the summer, but it's perfect in the fall. To keep the hike short, take a right and head back to the main trailhead and the parking lot.
Anderson Hill Loop
Another great route to take is to hike up the Anderson Hill Overlook. It feels great to use your legs on this short uphill trek, and the views at the top are lovely, especially during fall foliage. There's a handy bench to catch your breath, then dive back into the trees on an awesome trail.
There are several options after the overlook to finish your hike. You can keep it short and head back to your car via the road system or make a longer hike through the trail system. Park at the trailhead marked on the map or near the Information Center at the entrance for a shorter loop.
on top of the overlook
Photos From the Trail