Victoria, Carver County • No park pass needed
About Carver Park Reserve
At 3,719 acres, Carver Park Reserve is one of the largest public natural areas in the Twin Cities metro. The Reserve is a combination of mature hardwood forest and restored prairie over rolling hills. Several lakes lie within the Reserve’s boundaries, too.
About 30 miles of trails are available for hikers at Carver Park Reserve, including multi-use paved trails, and natural-surface trails. There are natural-surface trails for foot traffic only and also several miles of combined use for hikers and horses.
You’re welcome to bring your dog along on any of the trails in Carver as long as it remains leashed at all times.
Hike and Run Natural-Surface Trails
There are about 20 miles of natural-surface trails—mowed grass and dirt—in Carver Park Reserve, making it one of the largest networks in the Twin Cities.
Lowry Nature Center
There are 5 miles of trails in the Lowry Nature Center area, including several loops you can combine for the mileage you’re looking for.
I hiked on the Tamarack Trail around Crosby Lake, and just a short portion of the Cattail Trail. Everything was incredibly green in mid-spring when I went. The flowers were starting to bloom, I saw butterflies and dragonflies, and—alas—a couple mosquitos!
Stop in Lowry Nature Center for a color map of the trails. The front of the map shows the entire park while the back shows just the trails around the Nature Center. The back also gives mileage for each loop, which isn’t available anywhere else.
Some of these trails include portions of floating boardwalk. These are a neat experience assuming you don’t get motion sickness! Those areas are marked on Nature Center trail system (the back of the map).
These trails by Lowry Nature Center are the only ones designated for winter hiking. Much of the rest of the system is groomed for cross country skiing.
Horse Riding Trails
About 9 miles of horse riding trails are included in the total number of natural-surface trails in the park reserve. These are in the west half of the park, with several different parking areas to access them. There are several different loops to choose from.
Hike and Run Paved Trails
Hikers and runners are welcome on the paved multi-use trails that loop around Carver Park Reserve. There are about 9 miles total, with access at several different parking areas.
You’ll share these trails with dog walkers, bikers and in-line skaters.
What’s to Love about Carver Park Reserve
This park is beautiful! Mature forests, the water, several picnic tables and benches along the trail (Tamarack and Acorn Trails, that is).
The trail system is well-marked with both sign posts identifying the trail and periodic maps of the park with a red You Are Here dot. That helps immensely! The map is great, too—color coded and well-designed.
Having this many options for hiking-only is really nice. You could do it all at once if you’re ambitious (about 5 miles total), or try different trails each time you go.
Of course you’re free to hike on the paved trails and horse trails, too. So there’s a LOT to choose from.
As I walked, I kept imagining what these trails would be like during peak fall color season—stunning, I’m sure!
What Else To Do at Carver Park Reserve?
For families with young children, Lowry Nature Center has a pretty cool outdoor play area you can try after a short hike through the woods. This area is being completely re-done in 2021. We’ll see what the changes bring!
As I already mentioned, there are several miles of biking and horseback riding trails. Historic Grimm Farm is up the road a ways, and also part of the Reserve. And there’s Lake Auburn Campground and swimming beach as well.
Canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are available for rental there by the beach, or bring your own boat to paddle Lake Auburn.
In the winter, most of the trails on the west side of the park are groomed for cross country skiing. A couple miles of trails are set aside for winter hiking and snowshoeing near Lowry Nature Center.
How to Get There
Carver Park Reserve is sandwiched between Highway 7 on the north and Highway 5 on the south in Victoria. For best access, take Highway 11 that bisects the Reserve. Then take the Reserve road that heads east toward Lowry Nature Center and park in that lot.