/  North America   /  United States   /  Minnesota   /  
Lake Vermilion

5 Best Lakes in Minnesota (2023)

There is a good reason why Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It amazes people to find out that Minnesota is actually home to 11,842 lakes, and out of all these, it’s an impossible task to determine which ones are the best. There are so many lakes in Minnesota that you will be spoilt for choices when deciding which ones to visit.

5 Best Lakes in Minnesota

Without any further delay, let’s check out the best lakes in Minnesota that warrant a visit.

1. Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis

One of the quietest of all lakes in Minnesota is the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. The Lake of the Isles is often also given the title of being the most beautiful lake in the state. This beautiful lake is surrounded by a path is specially designed for cycling and walking. There is also a road that takes you around the lake and is one of the most scenic drives in Minneapolis.

The lake is not that far from downtown Minneapolis. While the summer months are for boating and fishing, in the winter, you can enjoy ice skating atop the frozen surface of the lake. There is also a dog park nearby.

At the center of the lake are two wooded islands that are well-known protected wildlife refuges, and you can only check them out from a distance. There are many stately houses that dot the western side of the lake and are worth checking out.

2. Lake Vermilion in Saint Louis County

This freshwater lake is located in northeastern Minnesota in Saint Louis County and is named after a French fur trader. Lake Vermilion is the fifth largest lake in Minnesota, having a surface area that stretches over 15,000 hectares.

Lake Vermillion is not only a major tourist attraction in Minnesota, but it also attracts visitors from other parts of the country. The lake is famous for its fantastic fishing opportunities, especially for walleye and muskie fishing. In fact, in the 1940s, the National Geographic Society had ranked Lake Vermilion as one of the most scenic lakes in the United States.

One of the most breathtaking views is at sunrise and sunset, as you get to see a stunning rainbow of colors and an unforgettable vista. With crystal clear water and bright blue sky overhead, this lake is big and beautiful and a must-visit when you are in this area.

3. Lake Harriet in Minneapolis

Lake Harriet is another urban oasis located in the southwest part of Minneapolis. This lake is a famous spot for holding special events and festivals throughout the year. There are plenty of boating activities here, including sailing. The lake is also home to two beaches, which are the perfect spots to cool off in the scorching summer months.

A treat for visitors to Lake Harriet is the historic bandshell along the shores of the lake that features live bands and movie screenings for free. There is also a pavilion that overlooks the water and offers the ideal spot to relax and unwind after a day of fun.

You can bike or walk around the paths that surround the lake. Additionally, there is a park nearby that provides a variety of activities for children. A garden and separate playground for kids is also included. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard for the entire day near the lake, or you can even rent a bike to enjoy the beautiful surroundings by trail.

4. Lake Pepin in Goodhue and Wabasha County

Located between Minnesota and the state of Wisconsin, Lake Pepin is renowned for being the biggest part of the majestic Mississippi River. The lake was formed by a backup of water along the Chippewa River delta. Today, the lake spans just under 30,000 acres and has a length of 21 miles. With such a huge area, there are hundreds of acres of water for visitors to explore to their heart’s content. This has also made Lake Pepin a favorite recreational spot for the people of Minnesota.

Lake Pepin is home to three marinas where you can launch a boat to spend the day on the water or opt for spending your time fishing in hopes of catching pike, catfish, walleye, and much more. There is also a beautiful lighthouse that overlooks the lake and is located at the entrance to Lake City Marina. Interestingly, this is the only working lighthouse along the entire Mississippi River, so worth checking out if you have time.

For visitors who prefer to stay on land, consider checking out the Frontenac State Park, which is located on the shores of Lake Pepin. This park has some great camping, bird watching, and hiking options. You can also drive around the lake and explore the many small towns nearby and check out a variety of shopping and local dining places.

5. Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is certainly home to some of the best lakes in Minnesota. If you happen to find yourself driving along the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, you don’t want to miss seeing Bde Maka Ska, the biggest lake in Minneapolis. This lake was earlier known as Lake Calhoun.

Just like the other urban waterways of Minneapolis, Bde Maka Ska is surrounded by a looped pathway for walkers and bikers and a beautiful parkland for children to enjoy and play around in.

Bde Maka Ska stretches for over 400 acres and is home to three beaches. If you are not in the mood for swimming or unwinding on the beach, you can always try your hand at canoeing, kayaking, or windsurfing on the lake.

You will find many visitors enjoying a picnic, playing volleyball, or practicing some sports at one of the athletic fields located along the shores of the lake in the park. You can also bike or walk around the 3.2-mile long trail that takes you around the lake.

Apart from these mesmerizing lakes located throughout Minnesota, there are many other fantastic water bodies that you should not miss out on. Some of these include:

  • Mille Lacs Lake in Mille Lacs, Aitkin and Crow Wing Counties
  • Lake Superior in Saint Louis County
  • Rainy Lake in Koochiching County
  • Gull Lake in Cass and Crow Wing Counties
  • Leech Lake in Cass County
  • Lake Itasca in Clearwater County
  • Lake Bemidji in Beltrami County.

Where do you want to go?

Get a Quote