Lowry Nature Center Trails

Carver Park Reserve, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, December 23rd, 2017
Last Updated: Thursday, January 4th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.8 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No


Hike Summary

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.

This fun boardwalk across a (frozen) wetland is a nice change of pace

This fun boardwalk across a (frozen) wetland is a nice change of pace
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The Oak Trail winds around some wetlands surrounded by hills, much like the picture below taken near the start of the trail, and leads to the Aspen Trail. After passing some wetlands, the trail bends to the left and a boardwalk crosses the marsh. Turn right at the junction to continue to the Aspen Trail, or continue straight to return to the nature center.
Snowy hills next to the frozen marsh

Snowy hills next to the frozen marsh
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At the next intersection, turn right to take the Aspen Trail, another path that winds through the hills adjacent to wetlands. In a bit, you will reach an overlook of Stone Lake, pictured below. The opposite side of the lake has some development, evidenced by the cell tower in the image. The trail continues until it ends at the Tamarack Trail.
Looking across the icy Stone Lake

Looking across the icy Stone Lake
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Right where the Aspen Trail meets the Tamarack Trail is a great viewing spot on the shore of Crosby Lake, where I took the picture at the top of the page. In the winter time, you must turn left here and return to the nature center (I know there's snow in my pictures, but it technically doesn't count as winter until there's enough snow to groom for cross country skiing). Otherwise, turn right to take the Tamarack Trail around Crosby Lake. Stay straight at the next intersection to continue towards the boardwalk through the wetland. When you see a lone picnic bench ahead, there will be a boardwalk at the bottom of a short hill heading into the tamarack filled wetlands, pictured below. The tall sticks you see sticking out of the marsh like dead pine trees are tamaracks, which are a unique species of tree that is both coniferous and deciduous -- most of the year it has green needles, but these needles yellow and fall off in autumn, leaving it completely bare in the winter. At the end of the boardwalk, turn around and turn right when you reach the trail again.
The snow blanketed boardwalk into tamarack filled wetlands

The snow blanketed boardwalk into tamarack filled wetlands
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Eventually the trail ends at what looks more like a service road than a trail. Turn left here and follow this wide path the remainder of the hike back to the nature center. You'll pass Crosby Lake on your left side, where I saw an interesting looking couple running laps on the frozen surface. And there you have it, a nice easy hike great for the whole family through a good variety of landscapes. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!


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.

Nearby Hikes

Looking across Lundsten Lake in Carver Park Reserve
Grimm Farm and Lakes Loop
Carver Park Reserve, Minnesota
The most scenic bench in the park overlooking a lake
Independence Lake Regional Trail Loop
Baker Park Reserve, Minnesota
Looking at the trail lined with goldenrods
Goldenrod Trail Loop
Anderson Lakes Park Reserve, Minnesota
The beautiful waters at Hyland Lake Park Reserve
Ski Hill Loop
Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Minnesota

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