One of the most accessible and beautiful lakes in the Twin Cities is also one of the best-kept secrets in my opinion. Sure, Lake Phalen can be crowded at times (like this weekend I imagine), but on a recent, gorgeous Sunday afternoon, my husband and I basically had the lake to ourselves. What’s more, I read that the beach at Lake Phalen is St. Paul’s only swimming beach! (Could that really be true?)
Just a few minutes northeast of downtown (off 35E), Lake Phalen is a summertime dream for picnickers, swimmers, walkers, bikers, runners, or those who just want a sandy beach to sunbathe on. Fishing fans can catch walleye in the lake, while boaters can launch their own boats or rent canoes and sailboats.
We packed a picnic lunch and after a brisk 3.2-mile walk around the lake, spread our blanket on a grassy lakeside spot before running into the sand and jumping in the water to cool off. The well-maintained sand volleyball area was just waiting for players. No one swam at the beach. Where was everyone? Must have been a lucky weekend for us.
There’s much more to explore in the Phalen area, too. Phalen Park boasts an 18-hole golf course, boat launch, play ground, amphitheater, and of course, picnic areas and a pavilion. The swimming area is small, but just right for a quick dip. Lifeguards are present, too, so you can feel good about lounging on the beach with a book while the kids splash around in the water.
Earlier this summer, a St. Paul Staycation blog reader and parks + rec guy named Brian made his case for the Lake Phalen area, pointing out lesser known places to explore. His tips were so helpful that I am re-posting them below. Enjoy!
“Highly recommend you and the family … head out to the very north tip of Lake Phalen Regional Park. In fact, go all the way up to Frost Ave. in Maplewood, and park in the Round Lake Park lot/entrance. It’s a 1.1-mile loop around little old Round Lake (which connects to Keller Regional Park to the north and Lake Phalen to the South and East).
“It’s especially nice and quiet on early weekend mornings,” Brian continues.
“Sip coffee, enjoy the trees and native plantings, wander the trails, and listen to the birds chirp before all manner of walker, biker, rollerblader, and the din of local traffic gets going. We really like being in that area around sunrise. Once you get a feel for the main paths, you can venture into some of the dirt trails that wander through the re-planted oak savannahs and woodlands.”
It’s comments like these that act as a reminder that no matter how long you live in a city, there is always more to discover! Thanks, Brian!
Where: 1615 Phalen Dr., Saint Paul, MN 55106
Phone: (651) 632-5111
Hours: Sunrise – 11 p.m.