Independence Lake Regional Trail Loop

Baker Park Reserve, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, August 12th, 2017
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★☆☆☆(2/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 6.2 miles roundtrip
Time 3 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Often when I write about a hike, beautiful pictures make me second guess low ratings. While this is an excellent route for horseback riding and bicycling (and possibly trail running), the slower speed of hiking makes this a long, boring journey. It doesn't matter how nice some of the scenery was, overall the hike really wasn't worth the boredom.

Three Rivers Park District does not allow dogs on unpaved trails, so you must used the parallel paved trail if you bring your dog. I wouldn't subject children to this trail except as punishment; for enjoyable family friendly hikes try the trails near the Marshview Group Camp or the trails along Lake Independence. This loop is not available during winter. On a Saturday afternoon, I was the only person on the unpaved trail, although I could hear a decent number of bikers on the nearby paved trail. Halfway through the hike I was hoping for new scenery and sick of the grass that was just long enough that it resisted each step, so I switched to the paved trail and can say there were periods of time that I was by myself and didn't see any bikers.

From the parking lot, follow the paved trail into the park. Depending on your needs, take either the paved or unpaved trail. In both cases, I highly recommend turning left and doing the loop clockwise; this saves the best scenery for the end so you don't finish your hike with a boring "am I done yet" slog. The entire first half of the loop has exactly the same forested scenery and is mostly flat. There are a few breaks in the trees, but there isn't much to see. The most exciting part for me was finding the giant frog bigger than my fist pictured below (this probably happened in the first mile, so I still had a long way to go).

This frog on the trail was bigger than my fist

This frog on the trail was bigger than my fist

A little over halfway through the loop on the eastern edge of the park, there will be a dirt service road on the right (it is shown on the official map leading to a small lake). You should take this short road to see the nice lakeside view below, unless you have a dog -- there are no dogs allowed signs posted (they are really adamant about applying the no dogs on unpaved trails rule). It is likely that the area at the end of the road will be overgrown, but there is a bench there for you to enjoy this little secret.
This secret lake view can be yours!

This secret lake view can be yours!

After you continue on the main trail, the scenery will finally begin to change, giving you some marshy and grassy views. Then you will begin a gradual uphill climb where you will see a rolling plain. At the bottom of the descent of those hills, you will come across the marker pictured below for the 45th parallel (if you're a map nerd like me you'll appreciate it).
This marker designates the 45th parallel

This marker designates the 45th parallel

Finally, after miles and miles of walking, you will reach the best scenery of the hike with marshy lakeshore and tree filled hills in the distance (see the pictures below). However, this part of the trail is also adjacent to the noisy highway -- there is no winning on this hike. This final bit of beauty will help you persevere to the finish.
View of Lake Katrina from the trail

View of Lake Katrina from the trail

The most scenic bench in the park overlooking a lake

The most scenic bench in the park overlooking a lake

If you've made it this far, congratulations. Though the trail itself is not very difficult, keeping yourself entertained for 6 mostly boring miles is. Hopefully you have a better experience than me, or you heed my advice to bring your bike. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Three Rivers Park District does not allow dogs on unpaved trails, so you must used the parallel paved trail if you bring your dog. I wouldn't subject children to this trail except as punishment; for enjoyable family friendly hikes try the trails near the Marshview Group Camp or the trails along Lake Independence. This loop is not available during winter. On a Saturday afternoon, I was the only person on the unpaved trail, although I could hear a decent number of bikers on the nearby paved trail. Halfway through the hike I was hoping for new scenery and sick of the grass that was just long enough that it resisted each step, so I switched to the paved trail and can say there were periods of time that I was by myself and didn't see any bikers.

Directions

From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 394 west to U.S. Highway 12. In Maple Plain, turn right on Baker Park Road. Look for a Three Rivers Park District sign on the right side and turn into the parking lot -- this driveway can be hidden by plants and is easy to miss.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free at all Three Rivers Park District parks and trails. There are no facilities at this lot.

External Links

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