Church steeples, colleges, cows, lakes and the mythical city of Lake Wobegon greet you on the 62 miles of the Lake Wobegon Trail from St. Joseph to Osakis, with a spur north from Albany to Holdingford. The paved trail goes through the state's leading dairy county, seven communities, three lakes, two colleges, two monasteries, and the boyhood home of Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis, Sauk Centre. While much of the trail follows I-94, there are beautiful stretches of woodlands and lakes.
The St. Joseph Trailhead is easy to find, just under the water tower. A few miles outside St. Joseph, see the old town of Collegeville, which now consists of only a few homes, but once had a popular train depot, boarding house, post office, and store. You can turn left at Collegeville for a 2.5-mile side trip to Saint John's University.
Eight miles down the trail at Avon, you'll find shelters, bathrooms, a water fountain, and a two-storied lookout tower/shelter that gives you a bird's eye view of the surrounding region.
The next 5.5 miles is perhaps the most beautiful along this stretch of trail, with deeper woods, prairies, and lakes. Keep an eye out for Ladyslipper orchids in May and June.
Just east of Albany a spur of the Lake Wobegon Trail goes north nine miles to Holdingford, home of Minnesota's longest covered bridge. This spur connects with the paved SOO-Line Trail at the county line and offers pastoral views of a natural landscape. The SOO-Line trail goes through Bowlus, crosses the Mississippi River at Blanchard Dam, and ends at a trail head on Highway 10.
West of Albany, you'll find Freeport, the birthplace of Lake Wobegon. Garrison Keillor is said to have had the inspiration for some of his fictional places here.
Head west for 5.7 miles to Melrose, home of the historic St. Mary's Church and Rectory and the Melrose Area Museum. The official Melrose Trailhead is across the road near the Melrose Feed Mill.
When you arrive in Sauk Centre, take a detour to see the Original Main Street made famous by Sinclair Lewis in his novel Main Street. Farther up, you will find a city trail dropping back to Sinclair Lewis Park, where you can find camping, bathrooms and parking.
The 12-mile stretch between Sauk Centre and Osakis veers off into the country through the tiny town of West Union, before entering Osakis.