Lake Maria State Park

If you like to hike unpaved loop trails without having to share the trail with bikes, this Minnesota State Park might be for you. You also will not see RVs or car campers. This park has only hike-in campsites and a few hike-in cabins.

My husband and I almost camped here once years ago but the mosquitoes convinced us to go elsewhere. This past Sunday was my first time back since that buggy day and I am happy to report that bugs were not an issue at all. Disclaimer: It is mid-September and it has been unusually dry. That explains the change in mosquito population.

This is also a great place to train for a long distance hike. You can hike as many miles as you choose and then set up camp. If you have trouble with your gear you are not too far from civilization. The trail center is in the center of the park and the campsites are scattered throughout. There are a few cabins as well. Minnesota State Park cabins are usually just a room with bunk beds and a table. Think of them as a tent made of wood. I have had some really wonderful personal retreats at State Park cabins and I want to add this park to that list.

Sunday was a ten mile day hike. I took my time and it felt luxurious. the weather was incredible. Not too hot or too cold and the sun was shining. September in Minnesota is the best.

I drove in all the way to the end of the gravel road to the picnic area. The road was bumpy and looked like it probably gets muddy when it rains a lot. This park has lots of ponds, wetlands, and a few lakes. No wonder the mosquitoes love it so much. If you don’t like driving on gravel you can park at the trail center. That road is paved.

From the picnic area there is a half-mile interpretive trail that I enjoyed very much. It looked like a ton of work went into creating the signage and boardwalk. It also looks like that work was done long ago and it could use a little care and some updates. When they update the informational signs, I hope that they include the indigenous people of the area, especially if they are going to talk about how the plants of the area “were used by Native Americans”. Is the use of past tense accurate? Are they talking about the Dakota people or the Ojibwe people? Who wrote this information and what source did they use? These are the questions I pondered as I walked. It was interesting to learn more about the many uses of the wetland plants.

The trail maps that are posted at every intersection indicate which trails allow horses. Mostly the horses have to stick to the perimeter loop. That is about 7 miles. I do not think any of the trails allowed bikes. I did encounter a few groups of horses with riders. I stood off to the side of the trail to let them pass. I had forgotten how massive and majestic horses are.

There is also a stand of old growth trees here. The sign said that means they are over 125 years old. Not nearly as old as the giant sequoias but older than any of us.

There were many things on my to-do list that did not get done this past weekend. I do not regret for a second the day I spent just walking and looking and thinking and drawing. It was a good day. I hope you are having good days as well.

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