The Insiders Guide to the Minneapolis Lakes

Minneapolis has 13 lakes that are 5 acres or greater. The largest 5 lakes in Minneapolis make up the chain of lakes, and are a portion of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. Read more to get the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.

There are a ton of scenic spots throughout the city that do not include the lakes. The Midtown Greenway and Minnehaha Creek run passed some of the lakes. The creek creates Minnehaha Falls and ends in the Mississippi River.

The Longfellow Garden and the Lyndale Park Rose Garden is in full bloom June through September.

Downtown also has many fantastic free things to see. St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins Park, Nicollet Island, and Gold Medal Park, to name a few.

If you are in to hiking in the city, Minnehaha Falls, Winchell Trail, and Theodore Wirth Park are some urban treks.

Each lake has a different vibe and purpose. Decide what lakes are worth the visit for you with this guide.

Lake Nokomis, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes

Lake Nokomis was formerly known as Lake Amelia. It was renamed in 1910, in honor of Hiawatha’s Grandmother, Nokomis.

The city of Minneapolis created this lake from a marsh in 1907. When they purchased the land the water was 5 foot deep at it’s deepest. Minneapolis made it 33 feet at it’s deepest point by excavation of the land. That is why this lake is considered “man-made.”

One of the most memorable things setting this apart from the other Minneapolis lakes is it’s 80’s fitness course. There is a spot for pullups and dips among other metal equipment.

Lake Nokomis has two beaches, the large beach has a park for kids to play at and a kioski for watersport rentals. Sand Castle is a restaurant next to the big beach. There are seats overlooking the water to enjoy a cold brew from the brewery trucks that come on the weekends (in the summer).

The Cedar Ave Arch bridge crosses over the lake. Occasionally, there are airplanes directly over head.

Most of the photos below have been taken within the last 4 years we have lived here. It showcases how the seasons can really make the lake come to life.

Click here to see the photos

Lake Harriet

Lake Harriet‘s walking path is 2.75 miles, and the biking path is 2.99 miles.

One of the best things about this lake is looking at the many houses that overlook the water as we walk/bike. The houses are diverse in architecture and most are large with a ton of windows. Occasionally, we will guess how much they are worth. We are floored to see the cost not only of the homes, but also the property taxes.

The castle-like pavilion has excellent coffee and a variety of foods if you get hungry.

The Lyndale Park Rose Garden is 1.5 acres of garden. It was the second rose garden open to the public in the United States. Located directly next to Lake Harriet, making it easy to see both in the same outing. It is best to visit late June to September when the garden is in full bloom.

Click here for more photos of Lake Harriet

Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska

The largest (401 acres) and the deepest (87 feet) of the Minneapolis lakes is Lake Calhoun. Since Uptown is adjacent to the lake it also receives the most amount of people visiting the area. Making this one of the best locations to put up a hammock or have a picnic and people watch.

This Lake is 3.2 – 3.4 miles around. Those numbers depend on what path you are on (biking or walking). It features 3 beaches, multiple playgrounds overlooking the water, and some sculptures scattered throughout the land.

Lake Calhoun was Bde Maka Ska in 1800s. They Incorporated the name back in 2018. Bde Ska Maka means “White Earth Lake.” Even though it may be hard to say, it is cool that the history of the lake was brought back to light.

There is free street parking in all of the neighborhoods around the lake. Remembering where you parked can be easy. Simply, make a mental note of what mansion you are in front of and what angle you have of the Minneapolis skyline.

Click here for more photos of Lake Calhoun

Lake of the Isles, the insiders guide to this Minneapolis lake

Lake of the Isles is sandwiched between two other connecting lakes (Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska and Cedar Lake). Millions of visitors arrive each year to bike and walk the 3 miles of trails around the waters edge.

Starting as an odd shaped marsh, the Minneapolis Park Board engineered this lake into what it is today.

Even though there are upwards of 5 million people who visit each year it is one of the quietest lakes in the city. I assume it is because there is not a beach. Since there is no record of water quality, swimming is not advised

If you insist on being in the water, consider renting a non motorized boat or another water sport option. There are an abundance of people who enjoy paddling/boating. This allows you to explore the multiple connecting lakes in one day.

At Lake of the Isles many stately houses outline the edge. Some of the old homes even have statues in their yard. We enjoy picking out our favorite homes as we pass by.

To keep you and your pup entertained, one end of the lake is home to a dog park. There is a portion of it for small dogs in conjunction to another area for bigger dogs.

Free street parking is easy assessable in neighborhoods surrounding the lake. The parkway circles the lake, if you choose to experience a scenic drive from your car. Just another helpful tip from the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.

Click here for more photos of Lake of the Isles

Lake Hiawatha

There is nothing like walking through a park with the smell of giant pine trees to welcome you to the lake. This is the insiders guide to the Minneapolis Lakes.

Mature trees, a golf course, Minnehaha Creek running through it, and a lake that covers 50 acres of land all describes Lake Hiawatha.

Lake Hiawatha is merely steps north of Lake Nokomis. The city of Minneapolis bought the 240 acres of land in the 1920s. Originally, the lake was just a marsh. The city transformed it to an oasis with large trees.

Today it is a beautiful lake with a variety of amenities and park activities overlooking the water. They even have a wading pool to accommodate little ones. Some years regrettably, they have to close the beach due to contamination (good thing they have that pool).

When you walk Lake Hiawatha there are many options. The golf course takes over a large portion of the land on one side of it. If you want to walk more than the portion of sidewalk next to the lake, here are a couple suggestions.

Option 1: Walk in the residential area around the golf course.

Option 2: Follow the sidewalk, cross over 28th Ave, travel along the Minnehaha Creek 1.5 miles to Minnehaha Falls.

Click here for more photos of Lake Hiawatha

Loring Lake/Pond

Loring Lake is across from the Sculpture Garden and is accessable by taking the Irene Hixon Whitney Pedestrian Bridge.

There are parking garages close to Loring Park, and street parking if you get lucky. To see everything in the area we recommend parking in the sculpture garden parking lot. Then, take the pedestrian bridge over to it. We hope this insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes is useful.

The Holidazzle is hosted in Loring Park next to the lake. The month of December they string Christmas lights along every tree. This event hosts beer tents, craft booths, food stands, fireworks, movies in the park, and other fun events!

Click here for more photos at Loring Pond

Powderhorn Lake, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes

Get the insiders guide to this Minneapolis lake, Powderhorn. It consists of 11 surface acres of water with a 22 foot maximum depth, it is small but mighty. It features a wading pool, ice rink, and 65 acres of park land.

The Powderhorn Art fair is hosted here every year. To be honest, the only times we have been to Powderhorn was for that event. The 2020 fair is going to be online, from the comforts of your own home.

I appreciate any events next to a scenic place. This is one event attracts visitors to come to Powderhorn would not visit otherwise.

The best part about this art fair is it is free for artists to participate, and there is no obligation to buy.

The art tents are those white dots across from the lake in our photograph. Parking in the nearby neighborhood is pretty painless. If you are anything like me and can’t remember where you park drop a pin on Google maps to help you find your car when you are finished.

Cedar Lake

With a maximum depth of 51 feet, 169 surface acres of water, and 3 beaches, Cedar Lake is a fantastic swimming lake.

North of Lake Calhoun is Cedar lake. You will find just under 2 miles of Ground Rounds Trail, and excellent fishing.

The best part about this lake (in our opinion) is the beach on the North side. Parking can be tricky in the residential neighborhood and often you will have to walk a ways. That is helpful in keeping the crowds low, for more family friendly swimming.

The beach on the east side tends to be the most crowded, but excellent people watching. As a result, this helps give you the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.

Diamond Lake, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes

Diamond lake is 55 surface acres of water directly East of 35W. Most of the trails are right off the busy road, but it is still gorgeous.

This lake features a great park, and sports and rec center called Pearl Park.

We regularly drive by this lake to get to many other places within Minneapolis. Unless you have kiddos there is not much to do there, other than fishing and taking in the scenery.

Smaller Noteworthy Lakes

In comparison to the other bodies of water in Minneapolis these are tiny. If you are close by to them they are still worth at least driving by.

  • Brownie Lake
  • Grass Lake
  • Wirth Lake (technically in Golden Valley)
  • Mother Lake

Enjoy the all the lakes with these fun activities:

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36 thoughts on “The Insiders Guide to the Minneapolis Lakes

  1. I live on the East Coast, so I have never been to any of the Minneapolis lakes. They are beautiful! The Loring Park picture is so beautiful. I would love to go there and do some photography!

  2. This is an awesome guide to the beautiful lakes we have in Minneapolis. Living here my whole life, I still haven’t checked all of these out. There really is so much to do in Minnesota!

  3. You have really beautiful photos of the lakes that you have featured. Makes me want to look for lakes here in the Philippines.

  4. Thanks for sharing these beautiful lakes. It is always very relaxing spending time near the lake, and if there are birds, that’s a huge plus!

  5. I’ve always wanted to make a stop in Minneapolis! It looks so beautiful. Lakes are my happy spot, especially if you get to run around them!

  6. Beautiful lakes indeed! I really love seeing pictures like since I am a nature lover. Thank you for sharing this! Reading your story makes feel nostalgic about traveling!

  7. Gorgeous photos! I never knew there were so many lakes in Minneapolis! I’ll have to plan a trip to see them in person once this pandemic is over.

  8. I’ve never been to the state of Minnesota or Minneapolis, so this was so interesting to read. As an avid lover of lakes, I’d also be keen to see one of these myself in person. Minneapolis Lake is particularly stunning!

  9. I have never been to Minneapolis but all of these lakes look SO beautiful! I need to make a trip up that way and check out all of the lakes!

  10. Great guide! makes me want to explore the lakes badly. I really want the boarders to open again

  11. Wow! What a fabulous list of lakes to keep everyone healthy and refreshed. I like living near a body of water because I feel that it energises me when I need a break from my busy life.

  12. The Minneapolis lakes area looks perfect for a long holiday in nature. I love swimming and hiking, and this destination seems to have a little bit of everything.

  13. Lake is natural beauty..and it gives much pleasure and comfort to deep inside the soul..these lakes looks so lovely and mesmerizing..Thanks for the review..🙂

  14. I’ve traveled to all the lakes in NY state. I guess now that I know about the ones in MN, I’m going to have to get there as well. I think Loring lake might be best for me. I like to keep my distance from the tourism and such. Thanks for the info!

  15. I’ve never been anywhere other than New York but I’d love to visit more places in America in the coming years. Thank you so much for sharing and showing us the beauty that Minneapolis has to share.

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