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Sakatah Lake State Park offers visitors a variety of hiking trails for all levels of hikers. The park has a total of 5 miles of trails as well as fishing, paddling and more. The best part is it’s close to Minneapolis!
There’s a term we like to throw around in Minnesota called “Fools Spring”. Its when temperatures start to go above 30 again and the snowmelt in their yards. Minnesotans get optimistic about going out and exploring the world again.
The only problem is your front yard is a horrible representation of the rest of Minnesota. We call this Fools Spring. I decided to venture out during this time to gather up another Hiking Club password, at Sakatah Lake State Park.
The Sakatah Lake State Park Highlights
Sakatah Lake State Park is an hour south of the Twin Cities making it easy to get to in all weather conditions. It’s positioned between Mankato and Faribault in Waterville MN.
Because it’s so close, we decided it would be a great Day Trip worthy adventure. The park hosts all kinds of campers, including Bike-in sites.
During the Summer months, Sakatah Lake State Park Facebook groups have ragged on how buggy it’s been there. This is why I chose to hit this one up in less buggy seasons.
This is a common problem for a lot of MN State Parks positioned near the water. It’s also why I prefer to hike in the Fall and Spring. Little did I know, winter wasn’t quite over yet.
The Whapekute tribe, members of the Dakota Nation were the first to inhabit the area. They named the park Sakata, which translated to ‘the sights and sounds of children playing on the hills. The nearby Cannon and other nearby rivers served as trading routes.
A trading post was established on the land separating the Upper and Lower Sakatah Lakes. In 1826 a trader, named Alexander Faribault, established a trading post on the northeast shore of cannon lake.
It was one of the first European settlements created here.
In earlier years, much of southern Minnesota was transformed into farmland or railways, leaving behind patches of trees. Sakatah lake was left untouched.
In 1962 there was interest in making it a state park. After a few years, they finally were able to get backing to make it happen.
The park has Oak Savannah, Rolling hills, Bur Oak, ravines, and Tallgrass prairie. The park sits along the southern side of Upper Sakatah Lake.
The open fields, wetlands, and upland forests provide the perfect habitat for deer, squirrels, raccoons, mink, rabbits and coyotes. Hawks and owls also live in the park
Sakatah Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2.3 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 40.9 miles
Sakatah Lake is another great starter Hiking Club Trail. It is relatively flat and only a couple of miles making it easy to handle for the entire family.
The hike takes you through the big oaks and sections of Hidden Pond, as well as gives you some good views of the lake, depending on the season. The loop circles the campground and park entrance.
For those not staying at the campground, the parking lot for the trail is down the hill from the ranger’s station. If you’ve gone to the boat launch, you’ve gone too far.
After parking, you’ll need to take the road up to the trail crossing.
Winter Hiking in “Fools Spring”
During Fools Spring, things are a bit unpredictable. There is plenty of melting, followed by freezing. This is great if you are trying to tap some maple syrup, but doesn’t make for the best hiking environment.
First up, the roads are icy. Not the hard ice, but the slick ice with fresh melt on top, making things even more dangerous.
The snowpack is uneven due to the freezing as well. Instead of looking up, you have to make sure you have secured footing at all times.
Hiking poles are a must in this type of hiking. Also, make sure everyone in your group has a pair of Yak Tracks or another ice cleat. The road from the parking lot to the trail is very slick.
Thankfully the rest of the trail was manageable with only iced-over snow that we could sink into. We found some of the most animal prints we’ve found on the Sakatah Lake Hiking Club Trail.
The snow helped, but the park is not visited much in the winter, making it easier to spot the footprints left behind.
Other Things to Do At Sakatah Lake
The park has traditional drive-in campsites but also has some bike-in campsites for those using the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. You can also reserve a cabin for a luxury retreat!
Sakatah Lake State Park is well known for having the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail running through it. The trail is 39 miles long, starching from Mankato to Faribault.
At some point, we ventured off the main hiking club trail for a walk on the trail, only because it was groomed and became less of a struggle to walk.
The park office offers paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks for rental so you can glide effortlessly around Upper Sakatah Lake in one of these. The lake is perfect to relax and slow down a little.
Thinking about getting your own Stand Up Paddleboard? Consider trying an inflatable board. We love the Goosehill Sailor Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle Board Review: Best iSUP. It’s easy to set up and transport!
The park has a great fishing lake stocked with walleye, largemouth and white bass, northern pike, and panfish. Drop your boat in the water, ice fish, or fish from the dock.
Fish For Free in Minnesota State Parks
Did you know if you have a Minnesota driver’s License you can fish for free in Minnesota State Parks? The only expectation is if the body of water requires a trout stamp, or if you are in a Recreation Area. To fish for free you must be:
1. Fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park; or
2. Fishing through the ice, from a boat or a float on a designated lake that is completely encompassed within a Minnesota state park.
Click here for the official statue.
Visit Kamp Dells
The biggest reason people visit Waterville is not for the State Park, but because of Kamp Dells. They are positioned directly on the opposite side of the lake.
Kamp Dells is a family campground with a waterpark. You can imagine the appeal for families that don’t have as of fair skin like mine.
Questions about Sakatah Lake State Park
When is Sakatah Lake State Park open?
The park is open daily from 8 a.m – 10 p.m. The park closes for a week in the fall during hunting seasons. Check their website for the latest information.
Can you swim in Sakatah Lake?
Yes and no. There is no official swimming beach at Sahkatah Lake State Park. Because of how shallow the lake is, it tends to grow algae and is not optimal once mid-summer hits.
How much does it cost to visit Lake Sakatah Lake State Park?
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 again?
We found Sakatah Lake State Park to be very secluded. Besides the Park Ranger, we only saw one car leaving as we came in. It was a fun walk in the empty woods, with only the sounds of snow crunching, trees creaking and a few woodpeckers to keep us company.
Most others that I’ve talked to have chosen winter to visit this park, but in the Spring and Fall, I’m sure it is beautiful too. Probably a little easier to do without all the snow to deal with. I would definitely do it again.