Summertime drags its feet getting here and runs away fast in Minnesota. Better get out there and enjoy it while it lasts.
Here are a half-dozen interesting day trips in the Detroit Lakes area. The $25 annual state park vehicle permit will get you into the parks, and may be the best investment you make this summer.
La Salle Lake
You may not have heard of La Salle Lake State Recreation Area. That’s because it’s Minnesota’s newest state recreation area.
It offers a great wilderness experience and peaceful getaway amid red and jack pine forests and woodlands.
Take advantage of fishing opportunities on Minnesota’s deepest inland lake at 213 feet. Other highlights include a coldwater stream, a scientific and natural area, and a pristine stretch of the Mississippi River.
La Salle Lake State Recreation Area is located eight miles north of Itasca State Park.
To get there: From the north entrance of Itasca State Park, go north on Clearwater County Road 2 for six miles. Turn right onto Clearwater County Road 40 and proceed four miles. County Road 40 becomes Hubbard County Road 9. The recreation area will be on your right, on the south side of the road.
Glendalough State Park near Battle Lake is nestled in the transition zone between prairie and hardwood forest.
Glendalough offers a true respite from civilization. Crystal clear Annie Battle Lake is a 335-acre, non-motorized “Heritage Fishery” that provides a tranquil fishing experience second to none.
Special regulations sustain a steady supply of large sunfish, crappie, and the occasional walleye for the frying pan, and large bass for the camera. Near the pristine shores of this lake are a cart-in campground and canoe-in campsites, all free from the traffic and noise of traditional drive-in camping.
Annie can also be the starting point for an exploration of the park by canoe or kayak on the connecting creeks. The restored historic Glendalough lodge on the north side of the lake details the park’s history as a private retreat and game farm for the Minneapolis Tribune.
A paved bike trail loop and numerous hiking trails, including two interpretive trails, meander along five lakes, through rich woods and blooming prairies. Wildlife abounds year-round, and there are many observation decks along the trails. Trails are groomed in winter for skiing and snowshoeing. Picnicking and swimming is available on two sandy lakes.
To get there from Battle Lake, go 1.5 miles north on Highway 78, then 1.8 miles east on Ottertail County Road 16.
Lake Bemidji State Park is a great playground any time of year, offering visitors swimming, boating, fishing, bird-watching, hiking, camping, biking, picnicking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and year-round naturalist-led activities.
Hikers can explore the beauty of a tamarack bog carpeted with showy lady’s slippers, pitcher plants, dragon’s mouth, grass pink, and insect-eating sundews.
Most flowers are blooming in the bog during late spring and early summer.
The park is located 10 minutes north of Bemidji off Highway 71 North. Follow the park signs.
Buffalo River State Park is for prairie lovers. Trails wind through one of Minnesota’s finest and largest remnant prairies. Listen for bobolinks, prairie chickens, marbled godwits and upland sandpipers. A picnic area, swimming area and campground are located in the hardwood forest along the Buffalo River. The park is only 14 miles from Fargo-Moorhead, and offers a popular swimming beach.
To get there from Detroit Lakes, take Highway 10 west for 31 miles and look for the signs.
The maple forest turns brilliant shades of orange, gold, and red in the fall at Maplewood State Park, but it’s a great scenic drive to get there any time of the year.
It’s especially popular with motorcyclists in the summertime.
Eight major lakes and many ponds offer water lovers places to swim, fish, boat, and simply relax.
Lake Lida has a sandy beach and large picnic areas for visitors.
Drive along the scenic route to observe the wildlife: The park is host to 150 bird species and 50 species of mammals.
The extensive trail system attracts hikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers.
To get there from Pelican Rapids, go east for seven miles on Highway 108.
And don’t overlook the granddaddy of them all: Established in 1891, Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park.
The stately park has more than 32,000 acres and includes more than 100 lakes.
Walk across the mighty Mississippi as it starts its winding journey 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
Stand under towering pines at Preacher’s Grove and get a taste of what the great forest looked like hundreds of years ago.
Visit the Itasca Indian Cemetery or Wegmann’s Cabin, landmarks of centuries gone by.
Camp under the stars, or stay the night at the historic Douglas Lodge or cabins.
Explore Wilderness Drive past the 2,000-acre Wilderness Sanctuary, one of Minnesota’s seven National Natural Landmarks.
Or climb aboard the 141-passenger Chester Charles II excursion boat for a cruise around Lake Itasca.
The south entrance to the park is 23 miles north of Park Rapids on Highway 71.
The north entrance is 21 miles south of Bagley on Highway 92-Highway 200.
All the state parks and recreation areas have summer programs for kids and adults. Check their websites for details.