Lake with lily pads and blue sky
One of the top lakes in Minnesota: Hand Lake near Backus and Pine River, Minn.

Top things to do in Minnesota: Boat, fish, kayak, paddleboard, swim or just look at its 10,000+ lakes

While Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, that’s not exactly true. We have 11,842 lakes in Minnesota. And that’s only the ones that are 10 acres or larger. Out of the 87 counties in Minnesota, only 4 do not have a natural lake: Mower, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rock.*

This means you can find lots of things to do in Minnesota – and never run out of lakes to explore – our state offers the best lakes perfect for boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, jet skiing, fishing, ice fishing, swimming, water skiing and more. All of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes are worthy of a visit and all guarantee a scenic road trip.

*Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources).

Lake trivia question: Water skiing was invented on one of Minnesota’s lakes – which also happens to be the longest lake on the Mississippi River. Which one? Read on to find out.

List of the best Minnesota lakes

Now, I think it would be impossible for anyone to rank the best lakes in Minnesota as they all have their own personality and special something to make them the best. And, I have serious doubts anyone has visited every single one of Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes. So, instead, I will provide a list of the best Minnesota lakes where you can fish, ice fish, boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, swim, jet ski or just look at as recommended by a local (me) – organized in alpha order rather than a ranking.

With one exception: Lake Superior is definitely the best of all Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and its North Shore is the state’s most scenic drive any time of the year especially during fall foliage season.

Best of the best Minnesota lakes first posted July 2019. Republished: 08.27.2020; Updated 11.23.2020

Before I take you on a tour of some of Minnesota’s best of the best 10,000 lakes, I must disclose the following. This post contains links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may – as a marketing affiliate – receive compensation if you link to or purchase products and services from places such as Amazon, BluehostConstant ContactIt’s a Lovely LifeHotelsCombined/Kayak, etc. I’m also a huge fan of Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito repellent so am a happy participant in their Refer-A-Friend program. You will need it especially if hiking near lakes.

Here are my favorite Minnesota lakes that also make the best road trips – and many times located in the best MN state parks.

2 Top things to do in Minnesota: Boat, fish, kayak, paddleboard, swim or just look at its 10,000+ lakes

Best lakes in Minnesota: Albert Lea Lake | Albert Lea, Minn.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Albert Lea Lake at Myre-Big Island State Park in Albert Lea, Minn.

I have crossed over Albert Lea Lake on the interstate countless times in my 27 years of living in Minnesota. And it wasn’t until just recently that I finally detoured off I-35 to take a closer look at Albert Lea Lake, located at Myre-Big Island State Park (a post coming soon in my Minnesota State Parks Staycation Challenge Series).

The exit to Albert Lea (pronounced Lee, not Leah as Siri calls her) is located just 11 miles north of the Iowa border and about 90 minutes south of Minneapolis. Well, unless it’s construction season…or winter…or raining. This is an easy Minnesota road trip – but if you’re looking for a more scenic drive, take some of the back MN country roads to Albert Lea.

One of my greatest surprises I learned about Albert Lea Lake was how shallow it is – only 3 to 5.5 feet deep. When you drive over Albert Lea Lake on the interstate, it’s pretty massive with water on both sides of the road. I just assumed it was deeper. But don’t that deter you as this glacial lake covers 2,669 acres with more than 20 miles of shoreline – plenty of space for water recreation. And there’s a really big island called Big Island where you can camp, picnic and hike.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside attractions you may like

Young woman looking at SPAM exhibit
My niece checking out one of the exhibits at the surprisingly historic and quirky SPAM Museum .

To maximize this Minnesota road trip to Myre-Big Island State Park in Albert Lea, MN, drive 18 miles east to Austin, Minn. where you can visit the SPAM Museum (yes, it’s a thing and worth the drive!), the Hormel Historic Home and get a taste of European architecture with the stunning St. Augustine’s Catholic Church built in 1866.

Please see the SPAM Museum’s website for hours as well as their COVID-19 preparedness plan.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Alice Lake | Marine on St. Croix / Scandia, Minn.

Fishing pier on a blue lake with trees and a sandy beach on the shoreline
You’ll find Alice Lake at William O’Brien State Park in Marine on St. Croix, Minn. It’s a great place to fish from the pier, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, picnic or hang out on the beach (pictured far upper right). It’s also near where you can launch a boat on the St. Croix River.

I discovered the small and intimate Alice Lake during my Minnesota State Parks Challenge when I hiked at William O’Brien State Park in the Marine on St. Croix / Scandia area. You’ll find a small beach at Alice Lake with lots of picnic tables, a fishing pier as well as boat access to the St. Croix River – a 169-mile long tributary of the Mississippi River.

I’ll soon publish a post on my experience at William O’Brien State Park, which is one of the most scenic drives of Minnesota – the St. Croix Scenic Byway. Until then, take a look at my Interstate State Park (aka Taylors Falls State Park) post for some scenic views of the St. Croix River bluffs.

Baby Lake | Hackensack, Minn. – one of the best lakes in Minnesota

Baby Lake, Minnesota; pin sunset and rainbow on a lake with a boat dock
One of the best lakes in Minnesota: Baby Lake | Hackensack, Minnesota

I captured this beautiful sunset and rainbow at our friends’ cabin on Baby Lake when my husband and I swung by to hang out with them at their tiki hut bar (we were staying in a nearby cabin on Hand Lake – see below). Baby Lake is located in Hackensack, Minn. We’ve gone pontooning on this lake at night and experienced the magical northern lights, shooting stars and the Milky Way.

Despite its name, Minnesota’s Baby Lake is 737 acres with a mean depth of 31 feet and maximum depth of 69 feet. But that’s all relative.

Leech Lake, which I drove by recently, is near Baby Lake. By comparison, Leech Lake is 111,527 acres, the third largest lake within Minnesota’s borders. That’s like 1,157 Mall of Americas. If I did my math right (a little challenged in that area).

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Bemidji | Bemidji, Minn.

Windsurfer on lake beach
Love Lake Bemidji – one of the Mississippi River’s lakes.

As a hockey mom, I’ve been to Bemidji once or twice over the years. But that would be in the winter where we spent the majority of our time inside the hockey rink and at safety meetings (aka happy hour). And Lake Bemidji, I’m pretty certain, was most likely frozen. So I was pleasantly surprised at how gorgeous Lake Bemidji and its namesake state park are – some of the trails run right alongside Lake Bemidji.

According to the Minnesota DNR website, this lake was called Bemiji-gau-maug by the Anishinabe nation, which means cutting sideways through / diagonally. That’s because the Mississippi River runs through Lake Bemidji.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside attractions you may like

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji, Minn.
You can find these huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox on Lake Bemidji in Bemidji, Minn.

And then if you go to the other side of Lake Bemidji, you’ll find larger-than-life statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox – a fun photo op. They measure 18 ft. x 5 ft. and 10 ft. by 23 ft. respectively. I left a few people in this shot (right background) so you can better appreciate the scale.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Hand Lake | Backus, Minn.

Hand Lake, Minnesota
Pontooning is a favorite thing to do on Minnesota’s best lakes: Hand Lake | Backus, Minnesota

So grateful to my friend who has now loaned me her family’s cabin on Hand Lake in Backus, Minnesota twice. Such a beautiful place and one of my top Minnesota lakes. I was solo the first day and night last summer so enjoyed the peaceful lake where the only sound came from the frogs…and spent most of my time sunning on the pontoon while reading and writing. My husband joined me the second day and Hand Lake served as our base camp as we explored Itasca State Park (about 90 minutes away).

When I returned to Hand Lake this summer, the cabin served as base camp for a couple of state parks in my Minnesota State Parks Challenge series: Charles A. Lindbergh (Sr.) State Park in Little Falls, Minn. and Lake Bemidji State Park in Bemidji, Minn. Posts coming soon on those two experiences.

Additionally, since I was in the neighborhood (an hour or so away) I stopped at Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer Lake, Minn. You can read about the Mississippi River’s widest point (11 miles wide) later in this post.

Minnesota Twins Gear at

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Itasca | Itasca State Park, Minnesota

You can actually wade across the Mississippi Headwaters | Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota (Clearwater County) feeds into the Mississippi River Headwaters, where it begins its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s so shallow you can actually wade across the Mississippi River (only knee deep and ~20 feet across). How cool is that?

Travel / safety tip: Just because kids can walk across those rocks like nothing, there is a good chance you could fall into the Mississippi River. I’m hoping no one was watching the live webcam during my attempt. Yes, I can say I fell into the Mississippi River and my husband caught it on camera. No, I will not be releasing those photos anytime soon.

See my full review of the top things to do at Itasca State Park – part of my Minnesota State Parks Staycation Challenge.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Maria Lake (Bjorkland) and Little Mary Lake (Maria) | Monticello, Minn.

Blue lake at shoreline with vegetation and a sunburst
You can reach the remote Maria Lake (Bjorkland) at Lake Maria State Park by hiking or by horseback riding (the park has several equestrian trails).

You’ll find these two lakes, Maria Lake and Little Mary Lake at Lake Maria State Park in Monticello, Minn. Note that Maria is pronounced (Muh-rye-uh – like the singer).

Fishing pier on a blue lake with kayaker in distance
Little Mary Lake is actually larger of the two lakes. You can park nearby and launch your kayak or canoe. This is also were you’ll find the self-guided Zumbrunnen Interpretative Trail overlooking Little Mary Lake.

With 16,000 acres, I found Lake Maria State Park a great place for solitude and social distancing. The two lakes are perfect for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and fishing. Use of outboard motors greater than 20 horsepower is prohibited making these the best Minnesota lakes if looking for tranquility and calm. Watch for more details when I write about my experience at Lake Maria State Park.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside attractions you may like

Close-up of sunflower
Visit one of Minnesota’s best sunflower fields during bloom season: July through September

My most popular post is about where to find the best Minnesota sunflower fields. Fish Sunflowers partners with Minnesota farmers and volunteers to plant 10-12 sunflower fields every year. All of their MN sunflower fields are free to visit during the sunflower bloom season July through September. This past season one of the best sunflower fields in Minnesota was located in Monticello near Maria Lake State Park. I stopped at the sunflower farm before my hike. I’ll update this post before the next sunflower season.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Marion | Lakeville, Minn.

Sunset on a lake
So blessed we live within walking distance of one of the best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Marion in Lakeville, Minn.

I only live a few blocks away from Lake Marion in Lakeville, Minn., so I’m a little partial to our hometown lake. Lake Marion features a beach at Antlers Park, grills, shelters, a playground, volleyball court and a bike path. Back in the day, Antlers Park was an amusement park.

On the other side of Lake Marion you can find a bike and walking path, Juno Trail, that’ll take you to Casperson Park and the public boat launch. It also features a playground and fishing pier. Some areas of the Lake Marion shoreline are private property, but they are well-marked if you want to do some shoreline fishing along the public areas.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Mille Lacs Lake; Isle, Minnesota

Rocky shoreline of Mille Lacs with a sunset
Father Hennepin State Park gives you close access to the beautiful Mille Lacs in Isle, Minnesota.

One of the most popular and second largest lake within the borders of Minnesota (i.e., excludes Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods) is Mille Lacs Lake – or just Mille Lacs (means Thousand Lakes in French). How big is Mille Lacs? It’s 132,516 acres, yet only 42 feet deep.

Mille Lacs is known especially for its fishing – regular and ice fishing; it is one of the best, if not the best, Minnesota lake for fishing. Walleye is a fan favorite in Minnesota and you’ll find many other species including muskie and bass. The second largest lake in Minnesota is also popular for water recreation activities such as boating, kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding, and more.

Visit Father Hennepin State Park on Mille Lacs

When you visit Mille Lacs, make sure to stop in at Father Hennepin State Park, which has a sandy beach, volleyball, picnic tables, shelter and grills as well as couple of short and easy yet beautiful hiking trails. Just 15 miles away from Father Hennepin State Park is the 10,000-acre Mille Lacs Kathio State Park with lots of hiking and horse trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, water activities and is designated as a National Historical Landmark with 30 archaeological sites throughout the park. Learn more about the best MN state parks.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Minnetonka | Minnetonka, Minnesota

Lake Minnetonka Minnesota
Largest lake in the Twin Cities metro area: Lake Minnetonka | Minnetonka, Minn.

One time I mentioned Lake Minnetonka to someone from out of state and he asked, “That’s a real place? I thought it was only in the movie Purple Rain.”

Yes, Lake Minnetonka is a real place. In fact, it’s one of the top 10 largest lakes in Minnesota – and the largest lake in the Twin Cities. And it has a fascinating story – many historical stories – that my friend and his wife shared with us as he took my son and me out to explore one small section of the lake (it’s really big).

Learn more (my second-most popular post according to Google): 20 facts about Lake Minnetonka that may surprise you.

Best lakes in Minnesota to visit: Ogechie Lake, Onamia, Minnesota

The historic Ogechie Lake in Onamia, Minn. was home to Dakota people hundreds of years before European explorers and settlers arrived in Minnesota.

My husband and I recently discovered the historic Ogechie Lake during our hike at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park (part of my Minnesota State Park challenge). A National Historic Landmark, this state park in Onamia, Minn. is home to at least 30 significant archeological sites.

The Landmark Trail next to Ogechie Lake shares more details with interpretive signs about the area’s intriguing history. The Dakota people known as Mdewakanton lived in permanent villages along Ogechie Lake hundreds of years before European explorers arrived in the 1600s.

Reports say the best fishing is near the Buck Moore dam at the foot of Ogechie Lake. And you can also canoe or kayak on Ogechie Lake (there’s a canoe access on Rum River in Mille Lacs Kathio State Park that feeds into the lake).

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Osakis | Osakis, Minn.

Dock on Lake in Osakis Minnesota
One of the best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Osakis | Osakis, Minn.

Enjoyed my time with friends at their cabin on Lake Osakis, located about two hours northwest of the Twin Cities. I learned how to kayak, paddleboard and drove a jet ski for the first time last summer. We also went fishing on Lake Osakis. When I say we, I mean I was only along for the ride to enjoy the sunset and drink beer.

Read more about how I spent 24 hours in Lake Osakis – part of my Exploring My Own Backyard In Minnesota series.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside attractions you may like

Vikings statue roadside attraction
One of Minnesota’s roadside attractions: 28-foot Big Ole Viking in Alexandria, Minn.

Drive 15 miles west of Lake Osakis to Alexandria, Minn. for a photo op with the 28-foot Big Ole Viking statue. This controversial roadside attraction (the city claims to be the birthplace of America) was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair in Chicago. You’ll find this larger-than-life statue in Big Ole Central Park next to Lake Agnes, another top Minnesota lake, and near the trailhead of Central Lakes Trail.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Pepin | Lake City, Minn.

Overlook on Lake Pepin with trees and blue sky
You can catch this view of one of the best lakes in Minnesota, Lake Pepin (also the longest lake on the Mississippi River), at Frontenac State Park in Frontenac, Minn.

Geography was one of my favorite classes in college (even though I was an English major). But there is so much I don’t know. For example, did you know that the Mississippi River has lakes? I mean, I knew lakes are sources of water for the Mississippi (like Lake Itasca). However, I must have missed that day at school when they talked about how there are lakes on the Mississippi River (there are 14 natural and artificial lakes on the Upper Mississippi).

And Lake Pepin, a natural lake in Lake City, Minn. is the longest lake on the Mississippi River – 21 miles long.

Lake Pepin fun fact: Water skiing was invented on Lake Pepin in 1922 by Ralph Samuelson. Read more about Lake Pepin and the beautiful trails overlooking the water in my post: Top things to do at Frontenac State Park.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Prior Lake | Prior Lake, Minn.

Sunset on Prior Lake , Minnesota
Prior Lake in Prior Lake, Minn. is one of the top recreational lakes in Minnesota.

This beautiful body of water, Prior Lake, is right next door to me (if you call 10 miles next door), and I’m fortunate to have friends who live right on the lake (actually know two others, Dan and Bill…just waiting patiently for their invites). Lots of boating, pontooning, tubing, fishing and floating going on in Prior Lake where people live year-round.

Ranked as one of the top 10 most popular recreational lakes in Minnesota, I agree that Prior Lake is a lot of fun. You’ll find 956 acres of water in what’s known as Lower Prior with a maximum depth of 60 feet while Upper Prior is about 386 acres with a max of 50 feet.

Sunset on Prior Lake pontoon view
Best lakes in Minnesota: Sunset on Prior Lake

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside / lakeside attractions you may like

Lakeside restaurant lit up and night and decorated in 4th of July banners
Prior Lake is considered one of Minnesota’s best recreational lakes. And one of Minnesota’s best lakeside restaurants and bars is Charlie’s on Prior, located on Prior Lake.

A day or night out on Prior Lake is not complete without a stop at Charlie’s on Prior, one of the best and popular lakeside restaurants and patio bars in Minnesota. You can reach Charlie’s on Prior by car or by boat. While they offer inside dining, you’ll also find covered outdoor seating as well as tables with umbrellas. Please see Charlie’s on Prior’s website for current social-distancing guidelines, takeout by car or boat and reservation criteria.

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Best lakes in Minnesota: Rice Lake | Owatonna, Minn.

Boardwalk leading to fishing pier overlooking a blue lake with trees and surrounding wetlands
Top lakes in Minnesota: Rice Lake, Owatonna, Minn.

Minnesota lakes fun fact: With 11,842 lakes in Minnesota, there’s bound to be some duplicate names. Rice Lake happens to be the third most common name for a lake in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota DNR. I’ve read that anywhere between 10 and 120 lakes in Minnesota are named Rice Lake – need to research this more.

The Rice Lake I visited during my Minnesota State Parks Challenge is located in Owatonna – about 70 miles from Minneapolis. Rice Lake State Park offers a beautiful view of the lake as well as magical trails through the woods and prairies. Watch for a post soon on my Rice Lake State Park experience.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Sakatah Lake | Waterville, Minn.

Fishing pier on blue lake and blue sky

Sakatah Lake and Lower Sakatah Lake, located just south of the Twin Cities in Waterville (near Faribault, Minn.), covers nearly 1,200 acres and is perfect for fishing, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing and more. You’ll also find a nice bike path that actually runs 39 miles from Faribault to Mankato, Minn. Located in Sakatah Lake State Park, this area is also great for hiking and camping.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Superior | Silver Bay, Minn.

Rocky cliff overlooking a lake

Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, is in a league of its own. And one of my favorite places in the world. That’s right. Not just Minnesota. The entire planet. While I’m not ranking the best lakes in Minnesota in this post, Lake Superior is – without a doubt – the best lake in Minnesota. The largest fresh body of water in the world looks, behaves and sounds more like an ocean. I could just sit and watch Lake Superior do its thing all day long.

This image was taken at Tettegouche State Park’s Palisade Head, along the north shore of Lake Superior (which is really the west coast). I have hundreds of Lake Superior photos to share, but selected this one as we accidentally came across this view and there is no hike – this view is just a few steps from the parking area. If this view of Palisade Head looks familiar, the movie Good Son, starring Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, from the early 90s filmed on location here.

Caution: There are no barriers at Palisade Head at Tettegouche State Park so don’t get too close to the edge of the bluffs. Lake Superior is pretty big so plenty to see and enjoy at a safe distance.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood: One of the best Minnesota roadside attractions you may like

gondola ride in mountains with fall foliage
One of the most popular destinations near Lake Superior is Lutsen Mountains – perfect for hiking or taking the gondola ride or zipping down the alpine slide.

For some of the best roadside attractions in Minnesota, please see A local’s guide to Minnesota’s North Shore – the most scenic drive in the U.S. as well as A local’s guide to the best MN state parks. Here you’ll find some of Minnesota’s top photo-op stops along nearly 150 miles of Lake Superior’s shoreline – from Duluth, Minn. to Grand Portage, Minn. near Canada. You’ll find recommendations to the most beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails as well as iconic historic sites and top places to visit such as the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse and much more.

One of the most popular roadside attractions near Lake Superior is Lutsen Mountains Summit Express Gondola. Ride 1,000 feet up Moose Mountain to a mountaintop chalet where you can take in the panoramic views of the Sawtooth Mountains, breathtaking foliage and Lake Superior. Or you can zip down Eagle Mountain in Lutsen’s popular half-mile alpine slide (open seasonally) after taking a chairlift ride to the summit. See my full review of Lutsen Mountains Summit Express Gondola Ride. Opinions are always my own.

Check Lutsen Mountains’ website for their operating hours as well as their COVID-19 operating protocols.

Where to stay at Lutsen Mountains: Caribou Highlands Lodge

Lutsen Mountains sign

Not a camper or glamper? Caribou Highlands Lodge is one of the best places to stay on the North Shore in Minnesota. This Lutsen, MN resort is the most centrally located place to stay on the North Shore. And it’s dog-friendly. The Minnesota state parks closest to Caribou Highlands Lodge are Cascade River State Park, George Crosby Manitou State Park and Tettegouche State Park.

Check out my full review of our hosted Odyssey Resorts stay at a three-bedroom townhome at Caribou Highlands Lodge. Opinions are always my own.

Additionally, Odyssey Resorts offers several more of the best lodging accommodations on the North Shore and near Split Rock Lighthouse. Choose your Odyssey – suites, cabins and cottages.

Best lakes in Minnesota: Lake Winnibigoshish | Deer River, Minn.

Lakeshore with boat dock and trees on shoreline
Lake Winnibigoshish (aka Big Winnie) near Deer River, Minn. is the widest point on the Mississippi River – 11 miles wide. And at 59,000 acres, it’s the fourth largest lake in Minnesota (excluding Lake Superior).

Any guesses on how to pronounce Lake Winnibigoshish? I really don’t know, but did learn that its nickname is Big Winnie. That I can pronounce.

So why Big Winnie? Lake Winnibigoshish is the fourth largest lake (59,000 acres) within the borders of Minnesota (meaning that list excludes Lake Superior). And, at 11 miles wide, Lake Winnibigoshish is the widest point of the Mississippi River. That’s pretty spectacular when you can wade across 20 feet at the Mississippi River headwaters just 100 miles away at Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park. There’s no wading across Lake Winnibigoshish as its average depth is about 15 feet and around 70 feet at its deepest.

Word of caution: Before heading to Big Winnie in remote Minnesota, fuel up. You will be driving for miles and miles and will not see a gas station.

Oh, and make sure to apply my favorite Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito repellent (available in wipes or spray). Yes, I participate in their Refer-A-Friend program where I may receive a small compensation if you purchase their products (at no additional cost to you), but this stuff is like magic. No exaggeration: I felt like I was in a horror movie attacked by black flies and swarms of mosquitoes when I stopped in right before dusk at Big Winnie (not good timing as that is the mosquito witching hour). I wish I had recorded it because I have never seen that many mosquitoes in my life and I’m sure it would be very entertaining to see me wildly swatting as I dashed to my vehicle – and they were so focused on me as their target, felt like they were zeroing in on me in every direction. Of course, I was in a remote area of the lake so not sure if it’s like that everywhere at Big Winnie. Just my experience that day.

And, btw, not one single mosquito bite. I tell you, Aunt Fannie’s is magic. And it’s good for the environment and you.

Where can I find more information about Minnesota lakes, fishing regulations and water access sites?

I’ll continue updating this post about the best lakes in Minnesota as I visit more lakes – many of which I find during my Minnesota State Parks Challenge. One of my favorite sources about Minnesota lakes is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Lakefinder.

The online Lakefinder tool provides data for more than 4,500 lakes and rivers in Minnesota – information such as:

And these are only a fraction of the best of the best 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. What’s the top-ranked lake where you live? Let me know in the comments.

Pin it for later! Top lakes in Minnesota – the land of 10,000 lakes

Sunset on Prior Lake

Exploring my own backyard series: Things to do in Minnesota

Here are other posts in this Exploring My Own Backyard series: Top things to do in Minnesota and Minnesota State Park Challenge series.

View of trees and waterfall
Take the Minnesota State Park Staycation Challenge
Pine trees on lake
Top things to do in Minnesota: Visit Itasca State Park – home of the Mississippi River headwaters, 200+ year-old pine trees and more
20 facts about Lake Minnetonka that may surprise you
20 facts about Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota that may surprise you
Minnesota's North Shore scenic drive and road trip along Lake Superior
Minnesota’s best fall foliage road trip – a local’s guide
Minnesota's Largest Candy Store and other sweet places
Exploring my own backyard: Minnesota’s sweetest treasures

Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
Exploring my own backyard: Minneapolis and St. Paul historical walking tours

Things to do in Minnesota
Exploring my own backyard: My top 11 places to visit in Minnesota

Pelicans flying over and floating on lake
Exploring my own backyard: 24 hours in Lake Osakis, Minnesota

Mall of America Nickelodean Universe Ferris Wheel
Exploring my own backyard: Navigating the Mall of America


Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. Minnesota has certainly grown on me. It’s much more beautiful than I thought. Your posts also help navigate me to see the best. I want to explore MN even more when I see your tips and pics!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words…greatly appreciate it! And while I’m not a fan of the cold winters, I do love Minnesota in the summer.

  2. Wow, so many lakes! I’m going to have to put Minnesota on my travel wish list for sure. Thanks for sharing the beauty around where you live.

    1. You’re very welcome…so many lakes…when I was up north earlier this month, I was driving through a chain of lakes on both sides of the road all with different names.

  3. I love a good lake. When we first moved back to Indiana, we bought a house on a local reservoir – it was a lovely place to live. Even though we’ve moved back to the suburbs, I still feel that call to water often!

  4. So many lakes to see. I would like to visit them too. My favorite lake in the Phoenix, AZ valley would be Saguaro Lake. It is great for wakeboarding and surfing.

    1. I’ve been to the Phoenix area a few times…not familiar with that lake so will need to keep it in mind the next time I visit.

    1. Thank you so much…I’m wishing I was back on the lake right now also (although it’s not that difficult…there is a lake only a couple of blocks away and a huge pond in my backyard).

  5. I love going to the lake! One of these days, I’ll have to visit one in Minnesota. I haven’t spent a lot of time there yet, but I hope to. The lakes look beautiful!

    1. I know! I’ve lived here 26 years and have only hit a small fraction…in fact, my city, Lakeville, has several lakes and I’ve only been to the one closest to my house.

  6. Lake Superior looks amazing! I never knew there were cliffs around it. I have never been but it looks pretty amazing and I may need to put this on my list!

  7. I love this! We have a vacation house on Lake Sinclair in Georgia so we are definitely lake lovers! I have never visited Minnesota but I need to!

    1. Ha! Now that would be an impressive bucket list to complete. It would be interesting to learn if anyone has ever achieved that goal.

  8. Revisiting this post has made me want to visit Minnesota more than ever! I have always loved water, and your photos make every lake look fabulous. And I would love to wade across the Mississippi!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s been on my bucket list to go to the Mississippi River Headwaters and so happy we finally had an opportunity last summer. Super cool experience.

  9. That picture of Alice Lake looks so inviting. I want to lounge on the beach and go for a paddle. I may have missed it, but do you have a favourite? I think I would have a hard time choosing which to lake to visit first.

    1. So hard to choose a favorite as they each have their own special something. Lake Superior is my favorite as it reminds me more of an ocean. I love Lake Marion because it’s just a few blocks away from my home; I have friends who live on lakes so I love hanging out with them on their pontoon or at their cabin. I really can’t rank them until I’ve seen all 11,842 of them. Ha!

  10. I am always amazed at how uncrowded the lakes are. That is a really nice feature of Minnesota lakes. It seems like there is some planning in the development. They are just lovely!

  11. I appreciate this as a great reference tool! I am also interested in your affiliation with Kayak…how is that going? Is it worth it? How has your experience been? Please email me!!!

  12. Minnesota looks like heaven for people that like being outside (well, in the summer!) All these lakes are stunning!

    But, if you have more than 10,000 lakes, there must be some that are completely private. It is mad that there is soooo much beauty for you to explore!

  13. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had no idea there were so many lakes in Minnesota! It’s incredible. I look forward to revisiting your list as you update it to learn more about these areas 🙂

  14. Wow, I had no clue there were so many lakes in Minnesota. And that you live so close to one is really cool. I think I’d be paddleboarding and kayaking a lot if I lived that close! Minnesota seems like the perfect summer vacation spot with so many lakes and great hiking!