The Central Lakes Trail
(CLT) runs 55 miles from Osakis west to Fergus Falls.
This description uses
the Central Lakes trailside markers for reference. They
have been developed from the old Burlington Northern
Railroad mile markers.
The CLT begins at mile
129.5; where it is a continuation of the same numbering
system from the Lake Wobegon Trail.
The Central Lakes Trail
begins where the Lake Wobegon Trail ends. This point is on
the outskirts of Osakis, MN; about 1 mile east of the
downtown. If you are looking for a place to park a car it
is best to head downtown.
The first of three nice
trailside Gazebos found in Osakis. The trail also passes
over a rural highway on an old wooden trestle here.
For the next mile or so
you will be passing through the small town of Osakis. There
are many trailside amenities, including benches, picnic
tables, and gazebos,
130.4 Downtown Osakis
At this location you can
find a nice parking area (look for the four sided clock
tower), the commercial district, the information center,
etc. The Chamber of Commerce is located about a block to
the south of the trail. Check it out for local and trail
Just to the north is a
public boat launch and parking area for Lake Osakis.
130.4 to M 130.8
Traveling west, you pass
through a beautiful tunnel of trees for about one-half mile,
where you leave Osakis.
This is a fairly busy
highway crossing; please be careful! You will then head
uphill for a couple of hundred yards. This is the largest
single climb on the entire trail.
The trail is really out
in the open and in the sunshine. No wonder crops grow so
well here. The next several miles provide for great views of
the surrounding farmland and prairie. You will likely be
feeling you left the towns and highways well behind.
The trail goes under a
large, wooden bridge. Note the cross bars on the bridge that
once carried power lines. The marking for "132.9" is a mile
marker left over from the days when trains used the trail
133.5 to M 134.3
The trail is elevated on
an old railway grade; which provides for very nice views of
the surrounding farms and wetlands.
A very nice trailside
A couple of very small
streams pass under the trail near here. Stop and enjoy the
sounds if you desire.
136.0 Town of Nelson
Meet the little town of
Nelson as you cross Nelson Street, named after the rugged
pioneer politician who became a Minnesota governor and U.S.
Senator. There is a small commercial area just to the north
where you might pick up something to eat or drink.
The trail crests on a
small hill, crosses a highway and dips for a short ride down
a steep hill and into another valley of trees. Note the sign
that says you're passing Westin Station.
138.5 to M 142.5 Alexandria area
The trail passes through
several miles of commercial, business, and residential
areas. There are a number of street crossings to be careful
for. The section also passes along many lakes and wooded
areas, and provides some nice “rest stops” for trail users.
The trail goes back into
seclusion at about mile 142.5
Stop on this bridge for
a view of Lake Geneva and Lake Victoria.
140.8 to 141.0
Pass under a railroad
trestle and then under busy Highways 27 and 29.
The Alex- Bike and
Fitness Center is located just to the north, and between the
bridge and underpass. There is a connecting path to the
Watch for the statue of
"Big Ole," the Viking at the north end of downtown. With
plenty of parking, this is another good spot from which to
start a trail ride. The Kensington Runestone, the Douglas
County Historical Museum, the Alexandria Chamber of
Commerce and the Maritime Museum are within a block of the trail here. Ahead, note
the former depot that once was a stop for trains, and is now
The trail skirts the
south side of Lake Angus, and has a connecting path to a
public swimming beach.
A very busy road
crossing, and the end of the commercial area.
142.5 to M 148.0
This is a very scenic
section of the trail. It passes along many lakes, through
wooded hills, and offers several trailside rest stops.
Please take time to enjoy!
A nice trailside picnic
shelter welcomes cyclists to Garfield with a place to rest
and find trail information. There is parking and a
waterless toilet. A convenience store can be found just to
the south, and the town center just to the north, where a
couple of cafes are located.
The next ten miles of
the trail are predominately in open country, with long views
of prairie, farms, and scattered wetlands and lakes. You
will be within sight of a paralleling highway on this
The raised former
railroad grade offers nice views of Aldrich and Nelson
•M 153.9 Brandon
You pass along the south
side of town, with convenience stores visible to the south.
The downtown is about a block to the north. A small
trailside park and shelter are located at mile 153.8.
•M 154 to 156.2
Stowe Lake Wildlife Area.
The trail passes along
the south side of this prairie wetland area, offering many
opportunities for bird and other wildlife watching. A
display area can be found at Mile 156.2.
You pass over the very
small Chippewa River.
•M 158.8 Entering
A nice picnic shelter
with parking and a toilet is located along the trail.
Informational signs are also present. The downtown area is
located a few blocks to the southwest, where you can find a
convenience store, and a couple of eating establishments.
A street crosses in the
downtown area of Evansville.
An old railroad bridge
crosses a creek.
Douglas County Highway
#1 crosses the trail. Please be careful!
The next 7 miles of
trail pass through a very scenic area of woodland, lakes,
and wetlands. The scenery is quite different from the more
open landscape just to the east.
•M 163.4 Melby
The trail skirts the
south side of the very small community of Melby.
The trail passes between
two large lakes, Lake Christina to the north and Pelican
Lake on the south. There is a boat landing at the Grant
County line with a parking lot. Pelican Lake's claim to
fame is the large walleye taken from this lake that appeared
in the movie "Grumpy Old Men". The fish was returned after
its brush with fame and is said to be still swimming around
the lake. The Seven Sisters hills are located on the north
side of Lake Christina, several miles to the north. This
lake is well known for its large population of ducks during
You pass over Highway
#178 on a large bridge.
Community of Ashby
A bright sign welcomes
you to the Ashby business district. A small parking area
with picnic tables is here as well. If you are biking into
town you will likely want to exit the trail at this point.
A little further up the trail there is a grassy rest area.
If you are leaving your bike and walking the block or two to
the main commercial area this may be a more convenient
In either case, the main
street lies only a block south of the trail. You can find a
café or two, a grocery store, two convenience stores, a
hardware store, Ashby City offices, etc. There is a nice
city park just to the south of the main street with
bathrooms. A Bed and Breakfast is adjacent to the Park.
If you do not exit the
Central Lakes Trail in Ashby, you will not see much of town,
as the trail passes through a fairly deep cut of land. You
will however get an intimate view of the Ashby Elevator and
the sweet smells of grain processing. This is another
reminder that you are in grain country.
Leaving Ashby, the trail
turns to the Northwest running straight and flat through
slightly rolling farm fields and marsh lands for about 6
miles. This region is quintessential rural farm landscape,
dotted with many wetlands. There is limited shade and
refuge from the wind on this stretch between Ashby and
You are now entering the
Otter Tail Empire where Grant County Hwy 48 becomes Otter
Tail County 48 also called Otter Tail County Veterans
Memorial Drive. It will also connect with the Otter Tail
Scenic Byway at Dalton.
•M 175.1 Town of
Dalton and Highway 35 crossing
The Threshermens Grounds
entrance is on one side of the highway, and a very nice city
park on the other side.
The Lake Region Pioneer
Thresherman's Association's annual Threshing Show is held
the first weekend after Labor Day. Their Threshermen's
breakfast is worth scheduling for.
You will also find a
sign there telling of the great ski jumping days at the
Walter Erickson Ski Jump which was once the highest ski jump
in Western Minnesota at 64 feet. The jump was blown down in
1967 by 80 mph winds.
Skiing was a regular
form of transportation for the early Norwegian immigrants to
the area. They would often ski to Dalton in the winter for
Many locals use the
entrance to the Threshing Show grounds as an unofficial
The city park has a
shelter, toilets, drinking water, and a playground.
To visit the downtown,
head north a few blocks on Highway 35. You can find a small
grocery store, a classic small town café, and a few other
About three tenths of a
mile from the entrance of the Dalton Threshing Show area you
pass under Main Street. This provides a second opportunity
to get to the downtown area.
•M175.4 to 182
The trail now takes you
a long way from the highway. You will be passing through
miles of rolling woodland and along a multitude of lakes and
wetlands. Bring along your binoculars, find a quiet spot
and watch nature in its splendor. Wildlife and Wildflowers
abound here. If you visit in June you might wish to keep an
eye out for the many yellow, and rarer pink Lady Slipper
A highlight of this
section of trail is the Stony Bridge over the Pomme de Terre
River. The French explorers named this river after the
potatos or apples of the earth the Indians shared with
them. You will easily miss this stream if you are not
looking down for it, or listening for its babble.
The railroad bed is very
high along here and provides many beautiful views of the
river valley. There is a bench with a spectacular view a
few tenths of a mile past the stream.
The trail crosses a
small gravel road.
The trail crosses a
small gravel road.
The trail crosses
•M 182 to 182.5
You pass along Lye Lake,
which offers a wide array of bird life. Birders will want to
pack their binoculars and spend some time here. The trail
stays along the north shore in a tunnel of trees. Across
the Lake (to the south) is Swan Lake.
A sign indicates the
continental divide. The wetland only a few hundred yards to
the south flows into a chain of rivers ending in the
Missippi (Gulf of Mexico). The Lakes and wetland just to
the north flow into the Otter Tail River, eventually ending
up in Hudson’s Bay.
•M 183.2 Entering
A sign indicates a short
connecting trail to Pebble Shores Drive (a residential
area). This can provide trail users access to the Pebble
Lake Swimming Beach by riding about 0.6 miles on Pebble
Shores drive, then walking or riding down the hill at the
golf course maintenance building.
Riders can also continue
on Pebble Shores Drive about another one-half mile, and
then catch a city bike path into town.
The trail passes along
Pebble Lake on a high embankment, providing wonderful views
of the lake. DeLagoon Park can be seen on the north side of
the Lake, the Swimming Beach and Golf course on the
signed “turn off” to DeLagoon Park and trailhead. This is a
very large and beautiful park, with campground, toilets,
drinking water access, picnic shelters, boat ramp, softball
field complex, etc. The connecting trail from the Central
Lakes Trail is paved (about 1/8th mile) to a parking area
within the campground. This is the official trailhead for
the area. If you continue from the parking lot into
DeLagoon Park, you will have to be on a gravel road for
about another 1/8th mile before encountering a paved road.
a city bike path that connects this park to the golf course,
swimming area, and into the city along Pebble Lake Road.
184.3 to 184.7
trail passes along a section of the Federal Prairie Wetlands
area. There is a kiosk providing some information and a
nice overlook of the wetlands. Wildlife is quite abundant
passes under MN Highway 210.
Central Lakes Trail officially ends. The trail currently
ends in the parking lot of a storage facility on the north
side of the highway. A new trail into town has been
recently completed however, allowing trail users to
Continuing into Fergus Falls
will quickly (within one mile) encounter convenience stores
and some fast food restaurants. You will also see Grotto
Lake Park on the left, with a large Otter statue, and a nice
park. The Downtown area lies about one-half mile farther to
the northwest. The primary hotel and “big box” shopping
zone lies about another 2 miles to the northwest along