• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    200 Feet

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Hike through some of Minnesota's last native prairie land and explore the kettles and kanes of this glacially formed environment. Glacial Lakes State Park is a great, low risk introduction to backpacking trips for first time backpackers.

Glacial Lakes State Park is located on the easternmost border of the once immense prairie that covered much of the Great Plains. This prairie oasis gives visitors a taste of what traveling across the that treeless wilderness would have been like for American Indians and pioneers two hundred years ago.

Although the park offers drive-in campsites, the best way to see the park is to hike the three or four miles into one of the backpack sites. Not only will you get a chance to see more of the park, the backpacking sites off solitude, space, and a much more immersive experience. If you haven't backpacked before, don't be intimidated! Although it feels like wilderness, you are only a few miles from other people, so this is a good place to learn and make mistakes.

Although this trip can be done anytime of year, fall and spring are the best times to go. The park has virtually no shade and the summers can get very hot, while winter camping in Minnesota can offer its own set of complications.

Begin your hike at the horse camp parking lot where you can leave your car for the duration of your stay. There are several sites scattered throughout the park, the trails crisscross each other, and the signs aren't always easy to decipher, so keep a trail map with you. I would recommend staying at the Kettle Lake site since it's the most remote and on water - always a plus.

This is a great park for a weekend trip. Arrive Friday after work, trek straight to your site and set up, and enjoy stargazing, a fire, and maybe a quick swim before going to bed. Then you can spend Saturday leisurely exploring the park's trails and relaxing before heading home Sunday morning.

Make sure to stop in Darwin, MN on the way back to check out the World's Largest Ball of Twine - a roadside wonder that should be on everyone's bucket list.

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Hiking Boots
  • Hiking Poles (Optional)
  • Outdoor Clothes - Appropriate for the Season
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Light Weight Camp Stove and Fuel
  • Water and Water Filter
  • Food
  • Camera
Other useful supplies:
  • Pocket Knife
  • Rag
  • External Charger for my camera
  • Hatchet
  • Extra set of clothes and socks
  • Flashlight
  • Advil
  • Rope
  • Notebook
  • Pillow and Extra Blanket
  • Cooking and eating supplies
  • Compass
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Joe Whitson Explorer

Minnesota Native. Check me out on Instagram: @joewhitson and feel free to shoot me an email if you want to talk more about things to do in Minnesota: joekentwhitson@gmail.com

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