At over 10,000 acres (4,047 ha), Maplewood is one of the larger parks in the state’s park system. Thanks to glaciers and the Alexandria Glacial Moraine, it features lots of rolling hills and many lakes of varying sizes. About 25 miles (40 km) of hiking trails, including the 6.6 mile (10.6 km) Hiking Club route, wend there way over and around these hills and past several of the lakes.

Two days ago it was warm and sunny. Yesterday it was not warm and not sunny. Today, as we pulled into Maplewood, it was blindingly sunny 😎 and definitely not warm (28℉/-2.2℃). But there was no breeze and all that sunshine amply compensated for the cold, so we got going in a cheerful mood.

Extra cheer was generated by this being the day before the opening day of hunting season – during which this park remains open to hikers and other users. We have no issues with responsible hunting and we were a day early, but we still pulled on colorful clothing. Just a habit we got into during hunting season in Oregon – where hikers have to fend for themselves.

We started at the Trail Center parking lot and went south past Cataract, Grass, Bass, and Little Grass Lakes to Cow Lake. This part of the Hiking Club Trail is also a segment of the 4,800 mile (7,680 km) North Country Trail (NCT), which runs across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. This was our second encounter with the NCT, having hiked a section of it in the Sheyenne National Grassland last year.

From Cow Lake, we went back north along the shore of Beers Lake, over some hills to the east, and then west to the Trail Center. Thanks to some overnight precipitation, there was also a very faint dusting of snow ❄ on the trail when we started – but it didn’t last.

A trace of snow at the start
But plenty of sunshine 😎
Snowfall was measured by the flake
Sun but no leaves on a segment of the North Country Trail, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Sun but no leaves on a segment of the North Country Trail
Along the trail
An aura of sunlight on last summer’s foliage
Prairie
Cataract Lake, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Cataract Lake
Leaves on water
Under the dome of Heaven
Grass Lake, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Grass Lake
On through the forest
Leaves
The shelter at the hike-in campsite at Intersection M

The hike-in campsite at M was where we left the North Country Trail and started back north on the Hiking Club route. But first we followed a short spur trail over for a look at Cow Lake.

Cow Lake, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Cow Lake
Cow Lake, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Cow Lake
Heading north toward Beers Lake
The snow melted at the first touch of the sun
Beers Lake, Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Beers Lake
In the hills north of Beers Lake
Climbing toward Intersection T
Heading west through a hilly prairie
And back into the forest
Leaves
Almost back to the parking lot

As we were getting back to the parking lot, we noticed that hunters had started arriving in anticipation of opening day. So our timing couldn’t have been better, colorful clothing or not. For us, this had been a great hike. All the leaves and Fall colors had departed but it was still a beautiful place, what with the forests and lakes and golden-hued prairie. After a quick lunch in Pelican Falls, we made the 3 hour or so drive back to Minneapolis.

It’s possible (but unlikely) that we’ll quest another (new to us) state park this year – or before the snow flies. So our state parks quest for 2022 concluded with us having hiked 137.4 “official” Hiking Club trail miles (219.8 km) in 47 different parks.

We don’t have a favorite, as all were worth visiting and each offered something uniquely interesting. A whole lot of the history of this state can be found in why and how these areas came to be state parks. And, of course, we got to see a whole lot of Minnesota as we quested our way to these parks! 😁

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