Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In Carver County, we take that label seriously. We’re talking every-day-all-year-long seriously. Take for example Lake Waconia, the largest lake in the County and second-largest in the Twin Cities area. Most days the 3080 acres of water are humming with activities like swimming, fishing, and general water sports. More recently, the winds that race across the water have earned it a place in the windsurfing community, resulting in several regattas.
But in the winter, this lake becomes a community of its own. Hundreds of ice houses dot the surface as fishermen try their luck in the frozen temperatures. If you’ve never seen it, the sight of the shanties alone is awesome. And when the fish start biting it really gets exciting.
Lake Waconia, Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, and Baylor Regional Park have event centers and shelters that can be rented in advance. The sizes and types of facilities vary by location, but all are situated within close proximity to the lifeguard-supervised beaches. There are hiking trails and playgrounds at each of the parks. Other amenities such as canoe, ski, or snowshoe rental, differ at each site. The Carver Park Reserve also rents outdoor equipment and provides camping, as does Baylor Regional Park.
If you’re looking for somewhere to hike, bike, inline skate, or just walk with your dog, the Dakota Regional Trail has got you covered. The total trail is over forty miles long. The twelve and a half paved miles in Carver County span from near Lake Waconia in the east out to New Germany in the west. Designated trailhead parking is available in Waconia, Mayer, and New Germany. The trail does not allow motorized traffic (including snowmobiles) and is not maintained in winter months.
“Any day of the year is a great day to visit a Carver County lake, trail, or park.”
A similar trail is evolving along a thirteen-mile corridor between Chaska and Victoria. When complete, it will connect the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail to the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail, creating a loop between the three. Currently approximately seven miles of trail have been completed. Parking and trail access can be found adjacent to City Hall in Victoria. This trail is also not maintained December through March, and is not available for use by motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles.
If you’re looking for a wet adventure without a trail, take a drive down to the Assumption Wildlife Management Area. Located on the southern border of Carver County, the 66-acre wetland basin is nestled into farmland northwest of Belle Plaine. The main purpose of Assumption WMA is habitat preservation of waterfowl and associated wildlife species. While most visitors are there to hunt waterfowl, there are also opportunities for trapping and of course photos.
Any day of the year is a great day to visit a Carver County lake, trail, or park. Many lakes have public water access or equipment rental facilities. Trails and parks are well-used and maintained. We are truly a four-season destination for fun in the sun. Or any other weather.
Roxanne is a freelance writer, fiber artist, and thirty year survivor of the hospitality and tourism industry. She is also a Commissioner on the Economic Development Authority in Watertown, MN.