The trail is a 4.6 mile loop. Hikers who can’t get enough of the area can also check out the 2.2 mile Hematite Trail loop which is an easy to moderate flat walk along woods, boardwalk, and lake shore.
Destination Distance From Downtown
2 of 5 diamonds
Moderate, there are a few hills to navigate and the full length could be a bit much for small children or older hikers.
Time To Complete
Perfect for year-round hiking. Wildflowers abound in the spring and summer, terrific fall color blooms red and yellow, and it’s great for a crisp winter day with a chance to see wintering bald eagles in the air.
On Leash Only
Pets must be on a leash of 6' or less and under physical control at all times. Dogs are not permitted at the Woodlands Nature Station. However, there is a kennel you may use to keep your dog while you visit.
There are no parking fees, but there is a $5 fee for some of the other attractions at the park.
This trail around the 180-acre Honker Lake was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to manage waterfowl and now hosts several wildlife reintroductions such as beaver, osprey, giant Canadian geese, and otters.
In addition to the lake environment, the trail winds it’s way through thick forests and meadows, so don’t leave the camera at home, there will be numerous opportunities to snap good wildlife photos. Along the lakeshore watch for osprey diving for fish, beavers going about their industrious business, and lotus flowers blooming. After the hike consider a cool down at the Woodlands Nature center to check out the displays, the bat boxes, and rescued native animals.
What Makes It Great
There aren’t a whole lot of places in the country where you can hope to see the great American symbol, the bald eagle, out flying around. But a winter walk along the Honker Lake Trail could be just the place to spot them hunting the shorelines looking for easy prey.
This area has some of the best opportunities to find wildlife in the region because of the diverse terrain of prairie, wetlands, lakeshore, upland, and bottomland forests. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resident flock of giant Canadian geese which nest in the area and give the trail its name. The well-tended path is mostly flat and easy going with only a few hills and some steps to navigate, but it has something for all nature lovers.
In the hot dog days of summer, the hike can be broken up with a picnic and or a swim anywhere along the path. Swimming (at your own risk, of course) is allowed anywhere in the park. Be sure to bring insect repellent to protect yourself from ticks, primarily from March through October. And it’s a good idea to be familiar with poison ivy so you can avoid it.
Kayaking and canoeing provide a different vantage point to wildlife in the calm and shallow waters of the lake. It’s possible to rent canoes and kayaks from the Nature Station (seasonally).
Who is Going to Love It
If you’re looking for a day outside and want to get back-to-nature without having to head for the backcountry, then this is the perfect trail. Honker Lake is also great for families who like to get outside together and learn about the natural environment. There is a Nature Station near the trailhead that provides many educational opportunities about the area and is worth a visit prior to starting the hike.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Follow the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway which is the main north/south road in Land Between The Lakes.
There are restroom facilities, picnic areas and developed and backcountry camping in the park. Licensed hunts for deer, turkey, squirrel, and other small game animals happen throughout the year.