Chain of Lakes Paddling

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Minneapolis may be a metropolis, but with a 13-mile circuit of interconnected lakes just 15 minutes southwest of downtown, you will forget you are in a bustling city. During a warm and sunny summer day, paddling the Chain of Lakes circuit is a must-do either solo or with the whole family.

Written by

Molly O'Connor


13.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

2.1 miles


1 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

Half an hour to as long as you want


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Late spring- fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Dogs are allowed on the trail; they are not allowed on swim beaches, food service areas, in buildings. Dogs must be leashed, cleaned up after, and under their owner's control at all times. There is an off leash dog park near Lake of the Isles.

Fees Permits




Just a hop-and-a-skip from downtown Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, and Lake of the Isles offer smooth water for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. With views of the Minneapolis skyline as well as some of Minneapolis’ nicest homes, there’s a lot to see while paddling the Chain of Lakes.

What Makes It Great

Once you have your watercraft, head north from Lake Calhoun's boat dock towards Lake of the Isles. First, cross under the two bridges and watch bikers wiz by on the bike trail adjacent to the waterway. You will know you have the reached Lake of the Isles when you see the two-forested islets the lake was named after.

As a paddler, you cannot walk on the islands, since they are strictly protected wildlife refuges, but you can get a good glimpse of them. Throughout the year, over a hundred migratory birds visit or spend their summer on the Lake of the Isle islets. The common visitors are the mallard duck, Canadian goose, and the great blue heron. But if you are patient, you may see the elusive night heron or horned grebe nesting along the island’s shore. Don’t forget to look along the lakes shoreline to see some of Minneapolis’ biggest and oldest homes. Depending on the season, the water may be swampy, especially along the shore towards Cedar Lake. Evade the green algae and go west towards the bridge. Here, patches of lily pads guide you through a channel that leads you to the backyards of Kenwood’s nicest homes.

Cedar Lake tends to be quieter compared to the other lakes, which means it is the most photogenic as well. The best time to paddle and photograph at Cedar is in the fall. All the trees that border the lakeshore turn into a vibrant yellow and reflect from the still water just like in a painting. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit the smallest lake in the circuit called Brownie Lake. The lakes rustic nature and remote location makes it the perfect get away from the city, while not leaving the city at all. Only accessible to non-motorized watercraft, Brownie Lake is a popular fishing spot for the locals.

If you are not tired yet, return to Calhoun and head southwest. On a sunny day, the lake is full of kayaks, sailboats, and paddle boards. If you get to the lake early enough on a Saturday, you may even see a group of paddle boarders doing yoga on the water. Don’t be shy to say hi to the many other paddlers on the water; citizens of the Twin Cities tend to be a friendly bunch. After a long day of paddling, make sure to paddle to the west side of Calhoun for the best view of the Minneapolis cityscape.

Who is Going to Love It

The Chain of Lakes is perfect for couples wanting a different activity for a date, families wanting to introduce their children to paddling, or someone who just wants to enjoy a day on the water.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

There is free parking on the road bordering Lake Calhoun. There is also ample parking in the nearby neighborhoods. If you don’t mind a parking fee, there are also several available parking lots adjacent to the lakes. If you own a boat, there is a boat ramp near Lake Calhoun's Tin Fish Restaurant. On Cedar Lake, there is Cedar Point Beach, which is where many people take their water crafts as well.

If you don’t own your own boat or board, you can rent canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, or paddle boards at Wheel Fun Rentals at Lake Calhoun. Ranging from hourly rates of $18-$25, it is easy to get a watercraft in the water. 

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Chain of Lakes Paddling

3000 East Calhoun Parkway
Minneapolis, MN, 55408
44.948277, -93.305606

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