Minnesota Lakes Guide: Top 14 Picks

Updated September 1, 2020

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Minnesota is full of almost too many lakes to count. That’s why our team put together a Minnesota Lakes Guide of our top 14 picks! There are big ones, small ones, deep ones, shallow ones, and everything in between.

Throughout this post, we’re going to focus on Minnesota lakes, mostly in and around the cities. Of course, we’ll have to mention some of the other excellent lakes in Minnesota. Note that we’ll start in Minneapolis and then work our way out and to the north.

Let’s jump into our Minnesota Lakes Guide and see where the best spot to go boating, fishing, and everything in between this summer is.

Lake Bde Maka Ska

Lake bde maka ska, minnesota lakes

Easily the most well-known lake in Minneapolis, Bde Maka Ska was formerly known as Lake Calhoun. Hence why it’s our top pick for the Minnesota Lake Guide! The lake has an average depth of 82ft and makes for a popular recreation location. Many people enjoy fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or walking and cycling around the lake.

Renting watercraft is a popular way to experience some of the fun the lake has to offer. Here’s a great rental location if you’re looking for some fun in the water and don’t have equipment of your own. Two other lakes that are attached through small waterways are Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you might just visit all three!

Lake Harriet

Lake harriot.

Another famous Minneapolis lake, Lake Harriet, is known as a great spot to enjoy all different kinds of recreation. There’s a bandshell, beaches, and even a bird sanctuary located at the north end of the lake. Minnehaha Creek flows out of the south end of the lake. The creek leads us westward to Lake Nokomis.

Lake Nokomis

Lake Nokomis.

Lake Nokomis is the smallest of the last three lakes that we’ve shared. The lake is 204 acres and 33ft deep. It’s a great public park with everything that you’d want to have at a lake. This is a great spot if you’re trying to get away from the crowds that are often present at Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet.

Lake Minnetonka

Lake Minnetonka is a huge body of water with some of Minnesota’s wealthiest and most beautiful communities surrounding it. The shoreline of this 14,000-acre lake spans 100 miles. Lake Minnetonka is a popular spot for boating, fishing, sailing, swimming, and much more.

If you like the party scene on lakes, be sure to check out “Big Island” where tourists and locals pull the boats onto a sand bar to enjoy some good times. We couldn’t resist featuring this lake in our Minnesota Lake Guide and for good reason!

Prior Lake

Prior Lake is another large body of water. You’ll commonly see boaters enjoying the miles of water that can be traveled between the upper and lower portions prior lake. Mystic Lake Casino is a popular attraction that brings in a number of tourists year-round. Mystic Lake Casino is the closest and largest casino near the twin cities. Learn more about Prior Lake by reading the Prior Lake City Guide!

Lake Waconia

Located in Carver county west of Lake Minnetonka, we have Lake Waconia. While it’s not as large as the lakes around it, it’s still a fantastic lake. Around the lake are several top-rated wineries that you should be sure to check out. If you’re looking for a lake that’s a bit smaller than Minnetonka but still offers great fishing and boating, this is the one!

White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake is located northeast of MPLS in the city of White Bear Lake. It’s a popular attraction for St. Paul residents. Fishing, boating, and ice fishing in the winter are popular activities. There are several beautiful, well-kept beaches and parks as well. Learn more about White Bear Lake by reading the White Bear Lake Guide!

Mille Lacs Lake

Heading north on 169, we find Mille Lacs Lake. Mill Lacs is one of the largest lakes in Minnesota and spans three counties, including Crow Wing and Aitkin. The lake is home to Grand Casino Mille Lacs and some legendary fishing spots. This lake has made appearances in the National Bass Fishing tournament series and the National Walley Fishing tournament series.

Many individuals believe that the next state and world record Walley and Muski are swimming in these waters. But you’ll have to visit to find out!

Gull Lake & Whitefish Chain

Gull Lake and Whitefish Chain. Boy surfing wave.

Just west of Mill Lacs is Gull Lake and the White Fish Chain of Lakes in Brainerd and Nisswa. Both of these lakes are popular vacation spots for people from around the world. Whether it’s the sparkling clear water, clean shorelines with beautiful houses, or the restaurants that you can drive your boat right up to, these lakes have a good time to offer.

Leech Lake

Leech Lake is a large addition to Minnesota’s lakes. Attractions to this lake include the North Lights Casino and the Chippewa National Forest. The Lake is located right in the middle of the Nation forest, which makes it feel secluded and tucked back like some of Minnesota’s more northern lakes.

Lake Winnibigoshish

One of northern Minnesota’s walleye havens in Lake Winnibigoshish or otherwise known as Lake Winnie. This lake is also located in the Chippewa Nation Forest and is just north of Leech Lake. Winnie isn’t too far south of the Minnesota, Canada border, but there are still two more significant bodies of water that you’ll have to visit!

Red Lake

If you’re a true walleye fisherman, then you’ve heard the legends of the amazing fishing on Red Lake. People have told stories of how you can’t even keep the bait on your line because there are so many fish. The one drawback to fishing on Red Lake is that the vast majority of the lake is off-limits to the public. Because the lake is on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, there are special regulations provided by the Minnesota DNR. Despite a few hoops that you might have to jump through, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to fish in this lake.

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota Lakes.

The walleye is a fish we’ve talked a lot about in this post. That’s because it’s Minnesota’s state fish. So, if you’re looking to catch a few of these famous fish, then the very best place to look is the Walleye Capital of the World. Lake of the Woods. Located in Minnesota’s arrowhead, Lake of the Woods is a massive body of water with a large amount of it in Canada. If you do travel north of the border, you’ll find that the lake slowly turns into hundreds of millions of smaller bodies of water until finally landing at the incredibly huge Lake Winnipeg.

For the true north experience, you can camp right near the boat landing at Lake of the Woods and enjoy the many trails and sounds of nature. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see a few black bears and other wildlife as well.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

The world’s largest freshwater lake. What else can we say? The Lake Superior and Duluth areas are great for anyone. If you like nice hotels, there are several great options for the lake. There are amazing local stores and coffee shops from Duluth all the way along the shore to Canada. If you’ve been living in the cities and have never taken a drive up the North Shore, then you’re definitely missing out. You can even visit the Voyagers national park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

The land of 10,000 lakes has so much to offer. As a state, Minnesota has some of the most amazing lakes and an incredible heritage. If you’re looking for a new lake to explore, consider trying out the MN DNR lake finder. LakeFinder is an app that helps you to find lakes throughout the state and offers great info on them.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve made it through the Minnesota Lakes Guide and the different activities you can do at each, tell us which lake is your favorite in the comments below!


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C Smith
C Smith
1 year ago

Let’s start with Lake Superior. There is no lake in Minnesota that can rival the beauty of the lake or surroundings.


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