Take a Tour Through Lake Phalen in St. Paul

Lake Phalen

 Michael Hicks/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Lake Phalen is the second-largest lake in St. Paul, and one of the prettiest. It's in the northeast of the city, near the border with Maplewood.

Lake Como and Phalen Lake are the two most visited lakes in St. Paul.

Lake Phalen is in Phalen Park, which also has a golf course, a recreation center, playgrounds, picnic areas and grills. There is a man-made beach on Phalen Lake.

Lake Phalen is 3.1 miles around, complete with a walking path and a cycle path that circle the lake. The path is mostly flat, with a few short but steep hills.

Walkers, joggers, cyclists, cyclists with children in bike trailers, moms with strollers, roller skaters, and rollerbladers all use Phalen Lake.

In common with many other lakes, the cycle path is a one-way path, circling the lake in a clockwise direction. This trip starts at Phalen Beach and follows the trails clockwise around the lake.

There is a parking lot nearby the beach, and a couple more around the lake.

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Attractive Views From the Lake Shore

View of Phalen Lake, St. Paul
Clara James

Follow the trail clockwise from the parking lot at the beach house.

There are a few short but quite steep hills here. The lake looks very pretty from the higher parts of the trail, seen through the trees.

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Watercraft and Wildflower Gardens

Boats at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

You'll pass the Lakeside Activities Center. Watercraft like kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats can be rented here in the summer. A wildflower garden is opposite the Center. Also near the Center is a memorial to Civilian Conservation Corps personnel, made from rocks from all 50 US states.

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03 of 09

Playground and Picnic Grounds

Playground at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

You'll pass a children's playground, and picnic grounds, as you continue around the lake.

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04 of 09


Bridge and Water Lilies at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

The trail crosses over a bridge. The water beneath the bridge flows into Lake Phalen from nearby Round Lake to the north-west and is filled with water lilies in the summer.

Lake Phalen is the southernmost lake in a chain of lakes and itself drains to the Mississippi through Phalen Creek, in the south of the lake. Today Phalen Creek is mostly covered over and flows through storm drains.

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Boats and Birds

Birdwatching Sign at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

Near the northernmost tip of the lake is the boat launch. There is also a wildlife viewing platform, with a sign showing different water birds visitors might see at Lake Phalen.

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Lake Phalen Shoreline Restoration

Shoreline Restoration at Lake Phalen
Clara James

Rounding the northern tip of the lake, the trails run next to East Shore Drive. Early in the last century, the vegetation on the lakeshore was considered unsightly, torn up, and replaced with rip-rap, stone cladding. The bank of the lake is currently being rehabilitated, with natural plants allowed to regrow.

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Wetlands and Wildflowers

Wetlands at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

Follow the trail around the southern edge of the lake. There are more natural areas here, with wetlands, wild plants, and wildflowers growing.

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Lake Phalen Beach

Lake Phalen Beach, St. Paul
Clara James

Phalen Beach is a well-maintained beach on the west shore of the lake. The beach opens for swimming on Memorial Day weekend, in common with many other Minnesota beaches. Lifeguards are present at the weekends in early summer, then all week during the school summer vacation.

A sand volleyball court is on the beach.

After the beach, you are back where you started.

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Events at Lake Phalen

Dragon Boat at the Dragon Boat Festival at Lake Phalen, St. Paul
Clara James

Lake Phalen hosts many events in the summer, including the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Solar Boat Regatta. During the Winter Carnival, ice boat racing ​is held at Lake Phalen.

The University of Minnesota holds several sailing meets at the lake.

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