|Distance||2.8 miles roundtrip|
|Terrain||A few hills|
- Multiple boardwalks
- Viewing platforms of lakes
- Variety of scenery
I have once again returned to Carver Park Reserve (see the previous post about the Grimm Farm Loop), this time to try some shorter, family friendly trails near the Lowry Nature Center. There is quite a variety of scenery here, from lakes to hardwood forest to hills surrounding marshland. Even better, there are several boardwalks (if you've read my posts often you'll know how excited I get about boardwalks)! All in all, a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors.
Dogs are not allowed on unpaved trails in this park, which unfortunately is every trail in this hike; there are no good paved alternatives near the nature center, so if you have a dog, head to the off leash area located on Park Drive (head back to Minnesota Highway 5, turn left, then turn left on Park Drive) instead. In general, the trails near the nature center in any Three Rivers Park District operated park are easier and family friendly. This park is no exception, and there are several connected loops here so you can tailor your hike to meet your distance needs. Almost all of the trails near the nature center are open for hiking all year except for the Tamarack and Lake Trails that close during winter. I saw a handful of people on my Saturday afternoon visit, but expect to see more during the warmer months.
From the parking lot, follow the sidewalk to the nature center and turn right to begin the Maple Trail. This trail meanders through hardwood forest (especially nice in fall) to a viewing platform on top of a small hill. After passing the sledding hill on your left side, the trail will split. Turn right, then stay right at the fork immediately after. There are some gentle elevation changes as you approach the viewing deck. Ahead, there will be a sign pointing to the left if you wish to climb a (very) small hill to the viewing platform overlooking Sunny Lake. Although the tree canopy blocks the top part of the view, the lake in front of you is entirely undeveloped and without the sound of cars or civilization.
Continue on the Maple Trail, and the path soon exits the woods and crosses a wetland via a springy plastic boardwalk, pictured below. The trail reenters the forest, circling the wetland you just crossed and going up and down a few small hills -- there is a bench about halfway between the boardwalk and the next trail intersection if you get tired. At the intersection ahead, you can choose to go right if you wish to end the hike early and return to the nature center, or you can turn right to begin the Oak Trail.
From Minneapolis, take Interstate 35W south to Westbound Minnesota Highway 62. Take the exit for U.S. Highway 212. After crossing Interstate 494, take the exit for Minnesota Highway 5 - Arboretum Blvd. Continue straight for quite a while, then turn right on County Road 11 (Victoria Blvd). This is the main park road, and you will start to see signs identifying each park area. Look for the signs pointing towards the Lowry Nature Center, then turn right. Park in the lot at the end of the road.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free at all Three Rivers Park District parks and trails. There are flush toilets, a staffed information desk, and educational exhibits in the nature center and a sledding hill and play area nearby.