Central Lakes State Trail
The 55-mile-long, paved trail starts in Fergus Falls and travels southeast through the communities of Dalton, Ashby, Melby, Evansville, Brandon, Garfield, Alexandria, Nelson and Osakis. The trail, a former railroad grade, is generally flat and level. It passes through a varied landscape of woods, grasslands, lakes, wetlands and farm fields. Communities with rest stops and amenities are generally seven to ten miles apart. The Central Lakes Trail is open to non-motorized use and groomed for snowmobiling in the winter.
Along the Trail
The official Fergus Falls Trailhead is near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 210 and 19th Street, where you can find parking, bathrooms, picnic facilities, a bike repair station and play sculpture. Camping facilities are at DeLagoon Park, about a mile down the trail from the trailhead. This large park offers camping, swimming and picnic facilities.
Traveling from Fergus Falls you’ll cross the Continental Divide, where water flows south into the Mississippi or north into Hudson Bay. The small communities along the trail tuck in neatly between reed-lined lakes and the occasional farm field and you’ll easily find camping, restaurants and places to rest.
Stop for a photo op at the well-known statue of Big Ole the Viking at the north end of downtown Alexandria, near the Runestone Museum. If you’re visiting in early summer, keep an eye out for pink or yellow Lady’s Slippers blooming along the trail.
Just east of Osakis, the Central Lakes State Trail connects to the 65-mile-long, paved Lake Wobegon Trail. From DeLagoon Park, city bike routes take you to Grotto Lake Park with the famous statue of Otto the Otter. Feasibility of a connecting trail between Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids is being explored. Another trail in the planning stages would connect Ashby to Battle Lake and Glendalough State Park.
The Lake Wobegon and Central Lakes Trail are built on the rail corridor formerly owned by Burlington Northern Railroad Company. As the profitability of the railroad line declined, Burlington Northern leased use of the tracks to smaller short line railroads. One of the last such companies was the Otter Tail Valley Railroad, which ran trains between Moorhead, MN and Avon, MN, from 1986 until1991, when the line was officially abandoned. The Lake Wobegon Regional Trail opened in 1998 and the Central Lakes State Trail was dedicated in 2005. The two trails officially joined near Osakis, MN in 2007.