Relax on the Beach ⛱️ ☀️

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parks and rec


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June 2022

"Go outside... amidst the simple beauty of nature... and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be."

Anne Frank

Hmong family hanging out at the beach, mom sitting on a red chair with younger kid, while the older kid and dad are building sandcastles by the water.

Discover the Beaches of Minnesota State Parks

The land of 10,000 lakes offers many opportunities to relax and play lakeside. You can find a beach close to home, right here in Minnesota, surrounded by majestic forest trees or peaceful prairie expanses. 

In this issue of the Trailblazer, we share a few of our top state park beach choices. Some of these beaches are true hidden gems, while others have an ardent fan base... giving you the perfect excuse to plan that weekday getaway to enjoy some solitude. Remember to always check visitor alerts on park's webpages before going, as conditions may change throughout the season. For instance, this year's historic floods are affecting shorelines and parks and trails operations. 

Find a beach, pack a picnic and the fishing rod, grab the umbrella and hiking shoes, and add a little beach time to your state park adventure.

Graphic reading "destinations."

Zippel Bay State Park

Two miles of white sand beach on Lake of the Woods, one of the world's largest lakes. Come for walleye fishing, birdwatching, boating, camping, diverse wildlife or to relax along the sandy shoreline.

Young blond child laying on the beach and playing with sand, blue skies and big lake seen in the background.

The swimming beach has a picnic area with a pavilion. There is a marina on Zippel Bay and a stone jetty providing protected access to Lake of the Woods.

Located in a jackpine, aspen and birch setting along a two-mile sand beach shoreline of Lake of the Woods, Zippel Bay State Park is the perfect destination for those seeking both opportunities for nature observation and an ocean-like beach experience.

Two kids seen from a distance standing and swimming in a large lake with white caps.

Garden Island State Recreation Area, the northernmost unit in the state park system, is one of 14,000 islands on Lake of the Woods. The boundary between the United States and Canada, runs through the lake, which is 55 miles (88.5 km) wide at its widest and varies in depth from 4 to 35 feet (just over 1 meter to about 10.5 meters) in the southern bays to more than 150 feet deep (46 meters) in northern areas. The mood of the lake is always changing and can go from tall crashing waves to perfect stillness. 

During June and July, four species of ladyslippers and many other orchids grow along the trails at Zippel Bay State Park. Edible mushrooms and a great variety of berries also abound at the park. Birding is excellent at Zippel Bay and Garden Island — be sure to watch for sandhill cranes and piping plovers.

Aerial photo of a wooded island with sandy shores on big lake.

Remote and virtually undeveloped, part of the attraction of Garden Island State Recreation Area is the challenge of getting there — as you leave the south shore of Lake of the Woods, the island is 19 miles (30.5 km) away and not yet visible on the horizon. But once you arrive, the island itself will charm you.

Hayes Lake State Park

A beach on an artificial lake fed by the north fork of the Roseau River. Only electric motors are allowed on Hayes Lake, making it a choice destination for paddlers.

Beach on lake, with trees in the background reflected in the quiet water

Hayes Lake meets the forest edge for spectacular shoreline timber views. PHOTO: Lori Warne. Below, white bottle gentians, a wildflower pollinated almost exclusively by bumble bees, as they're one of the few insects strong enough to pry open the closed flower.

Complement your beach getaway with fishing, paddling, hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding! 

A white bottle gentian, a tubular wild flower with large green leaves.

Some days it's just you, loons and moose while you traverse around Hayes Lake. Fed by the north fork of the Roseau River, the lake supports crappie, sunfish, largemouth bass and northern pike. Fish on the pier or rent a canoe or kayak at the park office to get out on the lake.

Explore Hayes Lake State Park or hang at the swimming beach to observe wildlife. Birdwatchers have spotted more than 200 species in or near the park. The summer is perfect to look for orchids, gentians (pictured) and blueberries (you can pick fruit, not flowers). Hiking trails include a bog walk and connect with the Beltrami Island State Forest, the second largest of Minnesota's state forests. Seven miles of horse trails run through the park and into the state forest. 

Young Asian-American boy mountain biking through a forest by the lake. Text reads "I Can Mountain Bike! Registration is now open."

Camden State Park

The spring-fed swimming pond with a beautiful sandy bottom that stays at a constant cool 😎 temperature of 60 F (15.5 C). Trail runners and cyclists can enjoy a refreshing plunge on a hot day after cruising through the prairie.

Beach and park building can be seen in the background across a swimming pond from the wet rocks where the photographer captured the shot.

The pond was built by the Veterans Conservation Corps in 1934 and it soon became very popular for people to come out and "bathe." The restroom/changing building, made from local stone, is still named "The Bathhouse."

With its diverse habitats, including prairie, wetlands and woodlands, Camden State Park offers much for visitors to enjoy pre- or post-swimming. 

Young girl wrapped in a towel and holding a donut. It's a summer day and there's a swimming pond in the background that she was just enjoying.

You can ride the singletrack mountain bike trails at the park or bike, walk or roll(*) on the paved Camden Regional Trail that connects the park to nearby communities. Walk along the wooded Redwood River valley or get a bird's-eye view of the river from the overlook on the Dakota Valley Trail. In summer, purple coneflowers and blazing stars add a touch of color to your nature walk. Follow rock cairns on the Prairie Pools Trail as you hike through tallgrass prairie to a sitting boulder with a panoramic view of a large restored wetland complex. The park's younger visitors will enjoy some time at the playground, a result of the work of Friends of Camden State Park.

(*) The 1-mile segment within the park is relatively level, but the rest of the trail has a variety of slopes that do get steep. 

A Latinx instructor shows an East Asian mom and her kid how to set up a tent. Text reads, "I Can Camp! Registration now open."

McCarthy Beach State Park

The sandy beach on Sturgeon Lake. Come for the wading, stay for the starry nights.

Lake beach surrounded by trees. Kayaks on shore, colorful umbrellas and beach-goers. A couple of pontoons can be seen on the lake.

Swimming, paddling, lounging or yoga. What's your adventure?

McCarthy Beach State Park boasts a half-mile of shoreline on shallow waters that extend hundreds of feet into the lake, making this a perfect destination for kiddos. You will want to stay out for the magnificent sunsets and night skies. 

People practicing yoga on the beach at sunset. Orange sun is reflected in the peaceful lake water.

Beyond the swimming beach, a chain of five connected lakes provides opportunities to paddle. If you don't have your own kayak, canoe or paddleboard, you can rent one from the park office. You can also borrow fishing gear at the park and wet a line from your boat or one of the docks — McCarthy Beach State Park has seven lakes with trout, walleye, bass, northern pike and panfish.

Hikers and mountain bikers will also enjoy the rolling hills and valleys. Traversing the park, the Taconite State Trail offers access to many more miles for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Rest or picnic in the shade of the park's boreal forest, surrounded by stands of red and white pine, leatherleaf-black spruce lowlands, birch and aspen.

Birders and keen observers will be treated to sights of loons gliding on the lakes and great blue herons stalking small fish in the shallows. 

Tips graphic

Beach Time is Good for You

There's nothing like a soft, sandy beach to walk barefoot and feel the sand slide between your toes. Walking barefoot on the Earth, known as "grounding" or "earthing," enhances health and provides feelings of well-being. 

The sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that increase blood flow to the brain and heart and help with relaxation. Try it out!

From the MCV Archives

Into the Great Wide Open

Swimmer with cap and goggle in lake. In the background, a motorboat and other swimmers.

PHOTO: Tom Thulen

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

Open-water swimmers trade endless laps in the pool for long stretches of outdoor serenity and adventure. Full story.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a print magazine dedicated to Minnesota’s wild places and creatures. For more stories, visit or subscribe.

#BlackHikersWeek: June 22-27

More than a hashtag, this week uses carefully curated days to inspire discussions around various topics such as barriers that prevent the Black community from exploring nature, how hiking impacts our overall health, and solutions to help make the outdoors more inclusive and inviting for everyone. Join and share! @BlackPeopleWhoHike@WeColorOutside