Lake Erin Loop

Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota

Trip Date: Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★☆☆(3/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.6 miles roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

This short little hike around Lake Erin is what I would call a leg-stretcher: an easy trail that isn't a worthy destination by itself but is a perfect stop on a road trip. The entire loop around this lake should take less than half an hour out of your day, and you can enjoy some delightful nature. As you can tell from the picture below, this lake is especially beautiful in the fall.

Looking across Lake Erin in fall

Looking across Lake Erin in fall

The directions for the hike are pretty straightforward, just follow the trail going around the lake starting from either the north or south side of the parking area. If you start on the south side, the trail intersects with a spur leading to the North Country National Scenic Trail; follow the signs for Lake Erin and stay left at this intersection. There are no other trail intersections on the remainder of the hike. Given that this trail is directly on the side of a highway, the road noise is apparent throughout the hike, especially if a large truck drives past. But that shouldn't be an issue because you're not doing this hike to explore wilderness and escape civilization, you just want to use your legs for a bit before you have to sit in a car again.

I will now describe the loop starting from the south. After staying left at the only intersection on the trail, you will begin a short journey through the forest, crossing the little wooden bridge pictured below. The trail here is only wide enough for one person and gives a more intimate feel.
One of a couple short bridges along the Lake Erin Trail

One of a couple short bridges along the Lake Erin Trail

Soon, there will be breaks in the trees allowing you to finally see the lake, as shown in the picture below. Eventually, the trail travels slightly uphill for a short time, and you can see even more of the lake, as shown in the picture at the top of the page.
Lake Erin is overgrown with marsh grasses

Lake Erin is overgrown with marsh grasses

After, the trail descends to another wooden bridge, with Lake Erin on your left and a pretty pond on your right, as pictured below -- this was my favorite spot on the entire hike. Once across the bridge, the trail winds into the forest once again, and you'll cross another short wooden bridge before returning to the parking area.
Another small bridge affords you this beautiful wetland view

Another small bridge affords you this beautiful wetland view

I hope you enjoy this little hike as a part of your next road trip up north. Check out Crow Wing State Park for another excellent stop along Minnesota Highway 371 (somewhere different to go on your drive back home). Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Instagram and Twitter!

Important Information

There isn't much information available on the official Chippewa National Forest website about most of its trails. There are no written rules on the website nor were there signs posted on the trail prohibiting dogs, so you shouldn't get in trouble if you have your dog on a leash. This is definitely a family friendly hike (and stopping here might help your kids survive another hour or two in the car). As for seasonal availability of the trail, my guess is they don't groom or maintain the trail in the winter, but you can probably hike it nevertheless. I visited on a Wednesday afternoon and saw no one else; I wouldn't expect to see a crowd even on nice summer weekends.


From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 94 west toward St. Cloud. In Monticello, take the exit for Minnesota Highway 25, then turn right. After crossing the river, turn left onto Park Boulevard. Turn left onto U.S. Highway 10. In Little Falls, stay right to continue on Minnesota Highway 371 for about 80 miles. The parking area is on the right side of Minnesota Highway 371 after driving through Hackensack, indicated by a giant Chippewa National Forest sign.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There is a picnic area but no restrooms near the lot.

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External Links