Sakatah Lake State Park is an 840-acre park that offers 5-miles of hiking trails and over 60 different campsites. With lakeshore views and hardwood forest, Sakatah is a great escape for the overnight camper.
62 miles directly south of Minneapolis is the tranquil Sakatah Lake State Park. Established in 1963, this park offers hikers and backpackers the opportunity to explore 5 miles of challenging trails. The 39-mile long Sakatah Singing Hills Trail bisects the park along the shoreline. Once a former rail bed, this mostly-paved trail is a good alternative for people interested in a flat and easy stroll through hardwood forest. Only 3 miles are within the park boundary.
A common pattern for many of Minnesota’s state parks is the Native American influence in their names. Before the first settlers came, Minnesota already had its own borders set by rival tribes. In this region, the Dakota, more specifically the Wahpekita tribe, lived here and named their area Sakatah, which means “singing hills.” Many battles were fought between the Wahpekita and its enemy tribes, but what is most remembered is Sakatah Lake’s involvement in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
What Makes It Great
Not only does the park have great hiking, the lake is also a popular destination for canoe paddlers and fisherman. You wouldn’t know by looking at Sakatah, but the lake is actually a wide section of the Cannon River. If you have your handy fishing pole, walk a little less than a mile to the lakeshore and pop a squat on the fishing pier or rocky outposts. You may be lucky to catch a walleye, northern pike, panfish, large mouth bass. The best time to go enjoy the water is in the early spring and fall because the bugs are minimal and the algae bloom is non-existent. The bloom peaks during the midsummer, so if you visit then, plan on enjoying the lake from afar.
Except for the straight Singing Hills Trail, the other trails are connected via a multi-loop system. Varying in length and elevation, each trail offers its own unique personality. The Oak Tree Trail takes you through a shady forest of white oak, elm, and walnut. The Singing Hills Trail offers a 8-foot wide paved path through a canopied railway bed. Look out for bicyclists passing on your left. Connecting from the old railway bed, the Wahpekute Trail parallels the lakeshore and connects hikers to the fishing pier, picnic area, and remote group campground.
To the east, there is a 1-mile long Big Woods Loop (also known as Tanka Canwitc). Walk beside the stands of oak and maple that are characteristic of a big-woods forest and then from the highest point, look out to the southern prairie that borders it. Known as an ecotone, this section of the park is a transition zone between the “big woods” and the prairie commonly found in southern Minnesota. Not many parks feature this, which is what makes Sakatah Lake State Park stand out from other parks.
Sakatah Lake State Park has more than enough to do for a 2-day stay and has more than 60 campsites to choose from. Some campsites are farther from facilities than others, so depending on what suits your needs, it is recommended to research which campsite you would like before you leave.
Who is Going to Love It
If you’re looking for a park that is off the beaten-path, then Sakatah Lake State Park is a great option.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park office is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is parking available at the fishing pier and near the campground. It is best to park near the campground, since there are multiple trailheads in the area.