If you can only hike one time of year, make sure it is in Fall. It’s probably one of the best times to hike climate-wise, with cooler temps but a shining sun.
The bugs have all gone away during a recent freeze and if you can time it right, you will get to see some amazing Minnesota fall colors. The Rice Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail didn’t disappoint.
We end up loving Rice Lake State Park, as it was a beautiful short hike, relatively flat with a great view. But there is more to do at Rice Lake than just hike!
The Rice Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy and Flat
Total Miles Hiked: 38.7 miles
Minnesota’s Fall Colors
The hiking club trail is amazing because you get to see the entire park. I wish I was joking, but the park is really that small. Most of the hike is in the tall Oak Trees.
But there is a small portion that takes you through the prairie. Being so wooded, making it is the perfect enjoy Minnesota’s Fall Colors.
Explore MN always posts a color chart, showing when is the best time to see colors. The goal is to get there before the map turns red.
Download a free Rice Lake State Park map with Avenza Maps. They are GeoPDF maps allowing you to track your movements with your phone’s GPS. No need for the internet!
Along the Rice Lake
The most scenic area of the park is along Rice Lake. With the views of the water, and golden trees its something everyone should experience.
Honestly, all hikes should be done around water. That’s probably why I loved Rice Lake so much!
Finding the Hiking Club Password
The nice thing about doing a few MN State Park Hiking Club Trails is you start to get a knack for finding the passwords. Now that I say that probably going to bypass the next one completely. This one was easy to find from either direction on the trail.
Camping at Rice Lake State Park
There is something for every type of camper here. With back-in RV sites, Electric, Tent, Cart In Site, group camping, and Canoe in Sites. Those are probably my favorite option.
They do not promote hammock camping. Before setting up, you need to get approval on the trees and there are only a few sites that support a single hammock. If you plan to set up this way, call the campground first and confirm which sites can accommodate this before making your reservation.
Water Craft Campsites
Rice lake is the headwater for the Zumbro River. It also provides the perfect opportunity to canoe and enjoys the lake. And when you are done, stay at one of their 5 canoe in sites located on the opposite side of the park. These sites are remote.
Fall in MN is one of the best time of year to explore. Make sure to check out the other great things to do! 28 FUN Things To Do In During Autumn in Minnesota
Other Fun Things to Do at Rice Lake State Park
Rice Lake State Park is generally more mellower than some of the other MN State Parks. Which makes it great for Birdwatching. They are also home to many Waterfowl and songbirds.
If you get the chance, you can also rent a canoe and enjoyed a little more of Spring Lake. Because of its size, a location, it’s a calmer lake to paddle through.
Spring and Fall Migration/Birdwatching
During spring and fall migrations, whistling swans, Canada, snow, and blue sees; ducks, and pied-billed grebes make their way through the park. Black terns have nesting areas within the park.
Birdwatching | Hiking
During springtime, before the trees have gotten their leaves, the floor pops with wildflowers
In The Area
In order to get to Rice Lake State Park from Highway 35, you will most likely have to go right through the heart of Owatonna. They have a lot going on, like a beautiful historic downtown, parks and even a Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo. If you have some time, also visit the Village of Yesteryear or the Orphanage Museum. Let’s not forget about their shopping at Cabela’s or Medford’s Outlet Mall. If you can plan it right, Owatonna is home to the largest FREE County Fair in MN.
Other Questions about Rice Lake State Park
Can you swim in Rice Lake State Park?
There is no swimming beach at Rice Lake State Park. Unless your canoe or boat to the center the lake isn’t ideal for swimming. It’s surrounded by a cattail marsh and floating bog.
What kind of fishing is in Rice Lake State Park?
Rice lake has a bunch of different types of fish in the lake. You’ll find trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, bream/bluegill, steelhead trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, striped bass and muskie her.
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.
How much does it cost to visit Rice 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 back?
Rice Lake State Park is beautiful. I loved getting the chance to hike around here. As many of you know, I had a well-loved dog, Jazzy that loved to go on hikes with us.
Last fall, about a week before we went here, she was diagnosed with Cancer. We knew how much she loved hiking so we wanted to take her on one last adventure before she wouldn’t have the energy.
We opted to go here because of its proximity to the cities and the flat terrain. It was amazing. It’s also the reason I’m not sure if I can go back because it reminds me of the heartache.
It is truly a beautiful place filled with a lot of great memories. If you have a chance to visit Rice Lake State Park, do so in the Fall. It was truly spectacular.