LaSalle Lake Recreation Area and their Scientific and Natural Area go hand in hand. Officially two different entities, separated by the road, are both wonderful to explore.
With a long weekend planned at Itasca State Park, I was itching to see the two other nearby parks, LaSalle Lake and Bemidji State Park in this part of the state.
While both could easily be a full-blown adventure, crossing off the far-away parks was a summer goal of mine. There was not a chance I was going to let this one slip by me.
I packed up the car and headed out to see what LaSalle Lake Recreation Area is all about.
What is LaSalle Lake Recreation Area in Northern Minnesota?
This Minnesota State Park got a head start on the development of this Recreation Area thanks to the existing resort on the North Side of the property.
The state purchased the campsites, cabins and other features. This allowed them to officially open their doors one year after they purchased the land in 2001.
The park’s land was selected due to its outstanding biodiversity. There are over 90 different species of trees and shrubs, 140 species o herbaceous plants, and 12 species of orchids. In the early 1900s, an early Native American Elk Lake Culture prehistoric site was discovered.
5 Top Reasons to Visit LaSalle Lake Recreation Area in Minnesota
LaSalle Lake is Minnesota’s deepest lake with over 18,600 feet of shoreline. It’s also one of the State’s most pristine lakes, supporting walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, black crappie, and bluegill sunfish populations. Make sure to bring your boat, canoe or kayak to get on the water.
There is also a fishing pier and swimming beach at the park.
Hiking through a Deer Exclosure (LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area Hiking Club Trail)
Miles: 2.9 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 150.2 miles
The hiking club for this park is actually in the LaSalle Lake Scientific and Natural Area. With a small parking lot on the side of the road, you’ll quickly enter the Deer Enclosure.
This gate system is designed to allow the plant life to grow undisturbed. In July of 2012 a windstorm took down a lot of the Jack Pine Forest. Today, it’s hard to see the effects thanks to the preservation efforts.
The entire hike is fairly flat through Prairie and Jack Pines. At the end is a great overlook of the Mississippi River. Without seeing it first hand, I wouldn’t have believed it was anything more than a creek.
Below you’ll also look out for a Willow Dogwood Shrub Swamp in the valley.
The official mileage for this hike is listed as 2.9 miles. I think this grossly overestimates how far it is. The milage is probably from an old map. I’d say round trip it’s closer to 1.5.
The State Recreation Area also has 11.5 miles of trails wandering through the park. The trails range from easy to difficult.
Staying in Luxurious Cabins
Because the property was once a resort, they got the jump start on some of the cabins. Unlike the traditional state park accommodations, these are spacious with multiple bedrooms.
They have modern features like Fridges, TVs and large porches. There is also traditionally campsite at the park too.
Snowshoeing at LaSalle Lake Recreation Area
The remoteness of LaSalle Lake Recreation Area makes it a perfect destination for snowshoeing. The landscape constantly changes.
The Challenge Trail, for example, has some of the more difficult terrain and a bridgeless section that crosses the LaSalle Creek. There are also some easier Hunter Walking trails for the beginner snowshoer.
Coffee Pot Landing
For those on a Mississippi River Canoeing journey, their first stop is mostly likely Coffee Pot Landing. As they navigate through the winding, weed-filled portion of the river, it’s hard to even imagine that this is the Mississippi.
The first official campsite has an Adirondack-style shelter and metal bridge over the river. The landing is accessible by car as well for those wishing to follow along with their traveler.
You can read more about this location in the book Mississippi Solo.
Other Questions About LaSalle Lake Recreation Area
How to Get to LaSalle Lake Recreation Area?
LaSalle Lake Recreation Area is a few miles from Itasca State Park. Google Maps does a great job of navigating you between the two parks. The only thing I noticed is the lack of signage for the entrance.
Depending on where you are going within the park, your turn-off comes quick and is on either side of the road. Be mindful of this. There are also multiple entrances instead of the traditional park office.
How much does it cost?
All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7. Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.
Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.
Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days
Would I go back to LaSalle Lake Recreation Area?
With how close it is to Itasca State Park, it’s hard to pick which destination to stay at and which to Day Trip to. If you are looking for an escape from the Itasca Crowds, LaSalle Lake Recreation Area is a the better place to stay at. This park is one that I would love to spend more time at, exploring their backwoods trails and hitting the water.