Prior Lake/Scott County • No vehicle permit needed
Cleary Lake Regional Park has 6 miles of hiking trails on both paved and natural-surface trails. You’ll hike through mature forest, over prairie and near Cleary Lake for views of the water here and there.
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Part of Three Rivers Park District, Cleary Lake is one of Scott County’s most popular parks, and for good reason. It’s beautiful! It’s not one of the bigger parks and the trail system isn’t extensive, but it’s plenty of length for most hikers and trail runners.
The 3.3 Mile Loop Trail Around Cleary Lake
Definitely the most popular trail of the park, the 3.5-mile paved trail that encircles Clearly Lake is great for runners, hikers, families, dog walkers—pretty much everyone!
You can pick up the trail at multiple trailheads from the surrounding neighborhood, or from any of the parking areas off the main entrance.
The lake is mostly surrounded by mature trees, so it’s not what I’d call a lakeview trail, but you do get glimpses of the water from time to time. There are a couple benches strategically placed along the trail that overlook the lake if you enjoy rest stops!
The day I hiked this loop the trail was actively used, included by many families. I always love to see that. The more people out enjoying our parks and trails, the better!
Lighted Fall Hiking on the Natural-Surface Trails
Here’s a unique option: in the south half of the park are the natural-surface trails (grass and dirt). In the fall, you can hike until 9:00 pm under lights on two of them—the Poplar and Lakeside Trails.
Of course in the dark you won’t get the full glory of the fall colors, but it’s nice to have those hiking or running hours extended into the evening.
Hiking on these lighted trails is open until the park starts grooming them for cross country skiing, usually with more than 3 inches of snow.
Winter Hiking at Cleary Lake
The paved trail around Cleary Lake stays open all winter for hikers. The rest of the trail system is groomed for cross country skiing, so those are off limits for everyone else once we have good snow cover.
Other Activities at Cleary Lake Regional Park
The paved trail around the lake is, of course also good for biking, especially because it connects directly with the Big Woods Regional Trail.
Cleary Lake is small, unmotorized and entirely within the park so it’s a peaceful paddling destination. Bring your own canoe, kayak or paddle board or rent one there at the swimming beach during the summer season.
Campers, there are 20 tent sites and two RV sites in the park in two small campgrounds. They both have direct access to the trail system.
As already mentioned, cross country ski trails are groomed for winter use. Snowshoeing is allowed on the multi-use golf course trail…and probably anywhere else off-trail (including the lake, once the ice is thick) that isn’t groomed for skiing.
How to Get There
Cleary Lake Regional Park is at 18106 Texas Avenue in Prior Lake. 30 minutes south and a hair west of Minneapolis.
Click here to access summer and winter maps (scroll down).
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