The Central Lakes State Trail opened in phases since the purchase of an abandoned Burlington Northern Railroad corridor by the State of Minnesota in 1992. The final segment of the trail was completed in 2005, marking the ideal end of a partnership between local and state officials and volunteers lasting for over a decade.
The trail begins in Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County and ends in Osakis in Douglas County 55 miles to the south. The landscape between the two cities is incredibly diverse, ranging from rolling hills and dense forest to farmland, prairie remnants and Minnesota's famous lakes. Because the trail runs past lakes used by many species of waterfowl during migration, bird watching aficionados will want to bring their binoculars.
While much of the trail offers the kind of rural serenity that lends itself to bird watching and wildlife sightings, the paved pathway also runs directly through the city of Alexandria. The urban route passes several miles of both commercial and residential areas before reentering a pastoral landscape. The small towns of Ashby, Garfield, Nelson, Brandon and Evansville all offer convenience stores or cafés where you can grab a bite to eat.
The entire length of the trail is a spacious 14 feet wide. In Osakis, the Central Lakes State Trail connects directly to the Lake Wobegon Trail
. That trail continues south for another 62 miles to the city of St. Joseph.
Parking for the Central Lakes State Trail can be found in Fergus Falls at DeLagoon City Park, in Alexandria at Big Ole Park and in Osakis at the Osakis Information Center and downtown trailhead. In the smaller cities of Dalton, Ashby, Evansville, Brandon, Garfield and Nelson, park at the dedicated parking lots where available or on city streets.