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Lake Elmo Directory Logo
1515 Keats Ave N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042
Admission: $0.00
Vehicle Fee- $7/daily; $30/annual – Waived on the First Tuesday of every month
Scroll down for a registration link
Hours of Operation:
Mon. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Tue. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Wed. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Thu. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sat. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sun. 06:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Lake Elmo Park Reserve Office Hours are the same as park hours.

Lake Elmo Park Reserve is popular with families for swimming, camping, birding/animal watching and hiking. Of its over 2000 acres, 80 percent is set aside for preservation and protection, with a goal to return it to a pre-settler condition resembling in the mid-1800s. When away from the developed areas, visitors can spot a variety of wildlife. I recall rather bold raccoons circling our campsites at night when we stayed in one of the rustic hike-in sites.

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Lake Elmo Swim Pond Beach

The beach may be the most popular destination at Lake Elmo. It is a man-made, chlorinated swimming pond, so you get the feel of a real beach with the chemical cleanliness of a pool. It is open for swimming from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Washington County beach hours are from 9am-8pm daily during the season.

FAQ: How much does it cost to swim at Lake Elmo? The beach is free with a park vehicle Fee ($7/daily; $30/annual). This fee is waived on the First Tuesday of every month.

Toddler playing near Lake Elmo Swim Pond in Lake Elmo, Minnesota
Lake Elmo Park Reserve – Swim Beach

The Playground at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

There are two playgrounds at the park — both a near picnic areas. Lake Elmo has a good sized play area near the beach. As far as play areas go, this is a pretty fun one, but probably still not worth the vehicle fee on its own. However, with its close proximity to the beach, families can spend a day at the park. It’s a bit too far away to be able to watch kids on both the playground and the beach at the same time, but close enough to go back and forth several times during the afternoon. You can expect everyone to sleep well after a day at Lake Elmo.

Hiking at Lake Elmo

The park has several hiking loops and some are can be on the long side for smaller kids. It pays to grab or print a map before setting out. We have a link to the Lake Elmo maps at the bottom of this article. Washington County began upgrading the hiking paths during the fall of 2019, among updates will be boardwalks along Eagle Point Lake.

Kid-Friendly Hikes: 10 Twin Cities Hiking Trails That Are One Mile or Less

Fishing in Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Elmo Park Reserve has a fishing pier near the campground and boat launch. The positives include its vicinity to a nearby play area for when the kids tire of sitting still. Unfortunately, the Minnesota DNR says this is a hard lake to fish and it has fewer fish species than nearby St. Croix Lake. More recently, the DNR has added a do-not-eat advisory for fish in Lake Elmo. If you do choose to fish, catch and release is the best current policy.

Fishing With Kids: 10 Best Fishing Holes in the Twin Cities

Archery at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

This park has a year-round seven target archery range with yard markers and stands. Find a list of more Twin Cities archery ranges here.

Birding at Lake Elmo

Washington County offers free, all-ages bird hikes at this and other county parks throughout the year. Families can also bring their birdwatching gear and hike along the park’s paths on their own schedule. Cardinals and several types of woodpeckers are pretty easy to spot year round. I’ve found it helps to have a bird call app on my phone to help me know what birds I am looking for by their songs. We have a list of other possible local bird sitings on our Birding Checklist: What to Pack for Birdwatching.

Lake Elmo Orienteering Courses

Orienteering is kind of a cross between geocaching and cross country. It is a sport that combines racing with navigation. To practice orienteering at Lake Elmo, you will need a map of the park and a compass. There are three levels of courses, all originating at the Eagle Point trailhead parking lot. If you don’t have a map, you can purchase one at the park office.

Winter Activities at Lake Elmo

Cross-Country Skiing:

Lake Elmo’s cross country ski trails are lit up for evening skiing. Ski passes are required for anyone age 18 and older using the ski trails. In fall of 2020, Washington County Parks announced that they would be moving away from the DNR’s MN Ski Pass to use their own Nordic Ski Pass.  The prices are about the same $6/daily and $30/season, but you will no longer be able to purchase one pass to cover both State Parks and Washington County Parks.

Ski Rentals Available:

The park rents Nordic Rocks cross country skis with adjustable poles (introductory level skis) in both youth and adult sizes. These skis can be worn over your own winter boots.

Learn more about Cross Country skiing in Washington Parks here.

Warm Up in the The Nordic Center

The building is open 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. for visitors to warm up by the fireplace and use indoor restrooms.

Birthday Parties at Lake Elmo

The picnic shelters are available to rent for Birthday Parties and other private gatherings. Again, because of the great beach, this is a popular place to host birthdays. For more birthday party ideas, we have compiled FFTC’s Ultimate Guide to Birthday Parties in the Twin Cities.

Camping at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Pre-kids, Lake Elmo was my go-to spot for hike-in camping. We always found it to be a beautiful campground. It’s been over a decade since we’ve camped there; and since they no longer allow dogs in campgrounds, we are unlikely to go back.

However for a family (sans dog), Lake Elmo may be a good choice for camping. If hauling kids and equipment up a trail is not your thing, the park has a modern campground with over six dozen sites that include electrical and water hook-ups. It has that great beach, a new playground was recently installed in the campground, and the park is really close to Minneapolis/St. Paul – making it a quick weekend getaway. Family campsites are inexpensive with prices depending on amenities. Reservations open in early January.

For other nearby camping ideas, Anne has compiled FFTC Family Camping Guide: Minnesota State Park Campgrounds.

Family roasting marshmallows around a campfire at Lake Elmo Park Reserve in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
Campers can choose between rustic, modern, RV sites and equestrian campgrounds

Prairie Restorations at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Washington County planted 16 acres of prairie (and prairie seed production plots) in Lake Elmo during the fall of 2018. You can find this prairie land west of the Rustic Campground. It help provide local seed sources for plantings. Up to 40 more acres will be planted in the coming year. Prairie areas are kept mowed  to a height of 10″ throughout the growing season to help the native grasses establish.

Free Vehicle Days at Washington County Parks

Because it is managed by Washington County, Lake Elmo requires a vehicle permit ($7/day or $30/year). Permits can be purchased online or at the entrance of the park. However, the county offers several free days each year when a vehicle permit is not necessary. This includes the first Tuesday of each month (unless it falls on a holiday), Earth Day in April, National Get Outdoors Saturday in June and the Friday after Thanksgiving in November.

Useful Links:

Lake Elmo Park Reserve Park & Trail Maps

These Lake Elmo Maps and more can be found on Washington County’s Parks and Trails Map page.

Printable PDFs:


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