Lake Shetek State Park is a great little park in Southwestern Minnesota with so many fun things to do. This park packs in history, lake life, biking and so much more.
This summer my parents decided to stay at Lake Shetek State Park for an impromptu adventure and couldn’t stop talking about all the fun things to do there. The secluded park was such a great escape for them, I had to check it out for myself.
The park sits alongside Lake Shetek which drains into the Des Moines River. It reminds me a lot of the beauty of Camden State Park, a few miles away. It mixes prairie landscapes, lakes, biking, and more.
The Best Things to do at Lake Shetek State Park
Hike the Loon Island Trail, aka the Lake Shetek State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 1 mile
Total Miles Hiked: 155.8 miles
The Loon Island Interpretive Trail is a 1 mile long loop in one of the most interesting parts of the park. It is also the official Hiking Club Trail for Lake Shetek State Park.
To get there, park near the boat launch. Then take the causeway over to the island. After far as hiking club trials goes, this one was very quick on a flat surface.
It was like taking a nice relaxing stroll. Along the way, you’ll find a few places to relax on a bench and learn about the history of the park.
If you are looking to explore a little more, there are a bunch of other hiking trails around the park. Most are close to the lake.
Do you have your Shetek State Park Map downloaded yet? You can get a free GeoPDF map from Avanza downloaded to your phone.
Visit the Shetek Monument & Koch Cabin Site
Throughout the park, you’ll notice a few historic sites about the Dakota Conflict of 1862. The events here weren’t directly part of the US Dakota War of 1862. The group that attacked was not part of the same treaty.
The events happened around the same time and it’s believed it was caused by Dakota’s overall frustrations boiling over.
The Koch family, Andreas, and Christina were farmers who lived near what is now called Shetek, Minnesota. On August 20, 1862 a group of Dakota arrived at the Koch Cabin, shooting Andreas Koch.
Christina was told they would be allowed to leave unharmed. She alerted the other settlers nearby and they started leaving the area. The group made it 2.5 miles away before they ran into more Dakota.
With tensions rising, the inevitable finally happened. After four hours of fighting, Christina was captured by the Dakota tribe. She was in captivity for 10 days before getting free.
The family bury their son in a shallow grave next to what would later be called Shetek Monument, which is where he still lies today.
You can visit both the Koch Cabin site and the Shetek Monument. Both serve as a reminder of the events of that time.
Rent a Boat and Tour the Lake
Lake Shetek is a beautiful lake. It is a popular destination for fishing and water activities like canoeing and paddleboarding.
The park has equipment rental on-site, so it’s easy to access some of the best outdoor recreations Minnesota has to offer. Rent a canoe and get out on the water.
What makes the state park boating so much better than any of the other lakefronts I’ve come across is the sandy shoreline to dock your boat.
Just on the other side of the Loon Island Causeway, on the northern side of the park is a nice spot to beach your watercraft and enjoy a picnic.
Plan Your Stay at the Oak Woods or Sunrise Campground
Lake Shetek State Park has multiple opportunities for camping on the property. The two most popular options are the campground, but they also have cabin rentals. The campgrounds are both beautiful.
Sunrise campground is great for travel trailers and large rigs.
Oak Woods campground is better for tenters and smaller trailers. As a bonus, the Oak Woods campground has more shade and a view of the lake. I appreciated that you can camp by the lake, there is still community space in-between the water and the closest site.
Swim at the beach
Lake Shetek State Parks beach is one of the more unique beaches I’ve come across in my state park adventures. This one has a set of concrete steps leading down to the water. With very limited amounts of sand before getting into the water.
For those that want to sunbathe, you’ll need to stay in the grassy sections above the water. There is a great changing area there, as well as a playground and picnic area.
Bike the Casey Jones State Trail
Looking to stretch those legs a little more? Jump on the Casey Jones State Trail. The Casey Jones State Trail is a 6-mile, paved loop between Lake Shetek State Park and the city of Currie.
This rail trail is perfect for birdwatching, biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing. The trail does have two additional sections, all the way to Pipestone National Monument. Unfortunately, the other sections have not been connected together.
I love getting to bike into smaller towns and exploring them. It’s so much better than in by car. After biking in, swing into Trail’s Edge General Store and get some ice cream before taking a return trip home.
Little House on the Prairie
Love them or hate them the Little House on the Prairie books have stuck with me as a young girl’s perspective growing up on the Frontier. Her family traveled around Wisconsin, Kansas, South Dakota, and Minnesota trying to build a life for themselves.
While the family’s time in Minnesota was short, the town of Walnut Grove gained notoriety through the popular television show that was filmed in the 70s.
What I find most fascinating about the book is how the US-Dakota War shaped her view of the safety of the frontier. It’s felt throughout the books. What I didn’t realize until we visited Lake Shetek State Park, is just how close Walnut Grove was to where the conflict was occurring.
Did you know you can visit the Little House on the Prairie home? The original home has long since disappeared but you can visit a replica.
Little House on the Prairie is currently streaming on the Peacock App. You can also read the book series by clicking here. Fans of the TV Show will love the book, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated. I highly recommend it!
Where To Stay Nearby?
First and foremost you can camp right at the state park. if you are looking for a Glamping type experience, the lake provides a few opportunities for Airbnb Stays.
First is a traditional cottage that borders Lake Shetek State Park. A more modern stay is at a Cottage a few miles north of the park. It’s still lakefront, giving you everything you want. Then paddle into the park and enjoy.
How To Get to Lake Shetek State Park?
Lake Shetek State Park is in Southwest Minnesota. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from the cities. If you drive out, I highly recommend stopping at a few parks in the area. We went to visit Klein Woods on this trip too.
Would I go back to Lake Shetek State Park in Southern MN?
I am a little bummed I didn’t get the opportunity to visit during the summer so I could take in more of the water. There are also a few other activities you can only do during summer in the area, like visiting the Sod House and Jeffers Petroglyphs.
At the same time, it was such a fun escape in the fall. The lake was beautiful and a great visit. I would highly recommend checking it out for yourself.