Friday, August 28, 2015

Hiking trail circles pretty lake in Twin Cities

Red Trail loops
Eagle Point Lake
on cities' east side

Day hikers can enjoy a leisurely stroll around a scenic lake on the Red Trail at Minnesota’s Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

While several trails crisscross the Washington County park, the one circling Eagle Point Lake offers pretty views and is among the easier to follow. The hard-packed gravel Red Trail forms a 3.7-mile loop.

To reach the trailhead, from Interstate 94 in Woodbury, take Keats Avenue north. At 10th Street, continue straight/north into the park. Use the parking lot on the north shore of Margaret Lake. From the lot's west side, go left/south on the trail to head clockwise around the lake. In short order, you’ll arrive at Eagle Point Lake’s southwest shore.

Woods and meadows
The trail’s southern side is wooded with a variety of trees, including oaks, maples, paper birches and cottonwoods but also a variety of evergreens, particularly cedar, spruce and white pine. This section of the trail makes for a pleasant autumn walk. Patches of meadows featuring islands of ash trees sit amid the woodlands.

Upon reaching a shelter on the lake’s west side, though, the feel of the trail changes. The western and northern sides of the trail run alongside more open and gently rolling oak prairie that feature wildflowers and spruce.

About half-way up the lake’s west side, hikers will notice a windmill left from the days when this section of the suburbs consisted of farms. Lines of evergreens grow across the preserve, most of them planted by those farmers as wind breaks.

Upon crossing Farney Creek, the trail is nearing the lake's northern end. While shallow, Eagle Point Lake makes up for it in surface area at 111 acres. The lake used to be larger, and the trail essentially follows what at one time was its old sandy bottom. Eagle Point is so named because eagles used to nest on one of its peninsulas.

The crossing over Raleigh Creek marks the rounding of the lake's northern tip. Red oaks grow on a knoll to the left/north while on the right/south are the foundations of a former dock. Hikers also can see across the entire length of the lake from a small viewpoint.

As traveling down the lake’s northeast side, hikers are likely to see white-tailed deer if not their tracks on the trail. Raccoons and foxes also reside in park, and the underbrush on this section of the trail makes a perfect habitat for them.

At Trail Junction 29, turn right/southeast then cross another creek. Upon reaching Trail Junction 30, go straight/east, but if your dawgs are tired, take a shortcut by turning onto the Blue Trail. If staying on the main Red Trail, at Trail Junction 31, go south back to parking lot.

As most of trail heads through meadows or the marsh grass-lined lake, it is exposed to the sunlight, so don a sunhat and sunscreen. Also note that the trail sometimes is referred to as Eagle Point Loop; it’s used as a cross country ski trail in winter, and is referred to here by that name.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.