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As fans of public radio can tell you, this trail’s namesake is the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, made famous by author and radio personality Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion. Along the 10-foot-wide paved trail, you’ll find small towns that provided Keillor with inspiration, including Holdingford, a town once referred to by Keillor as “most Wobegonic” and which now advertises itself as “The Gateway to Lake Wobegon.” Keillor helped dedicate the trail upon its opening in 1998, and he even composed a song for the occasion, appropriately titled “Lake Wobegon Trail.”
The trail rests on an inactive Burlington Northern Railroad corridor between the cities of Osakis and St. Joseph. Along the path, which is dotted by trailheads and parking access areas, trail users are treated to scenic views of prairie remnants, lakes, woodlands, and open farmland. In fact, Stearns County is the top dairy producer in Minnesota. Much of the trail parallels busy I-94, making it a safe alternative for nonmotorized travel in the heart of Minnesota.
Not far from the Avon trailhead is St. John’s University, situated on more than 2,000 wooded acres that hold hiking trails and lakes. An extension of the Lake Wobegon Trail north from the city of Albany takes trail users to Holdingford, which features the longest covered bridge in Minnesota.
Beyond Holdingford, the rail-trail continues even farther north to the Stearns–-Morrison county line at 450th Street, adding another 13 miles of paved trail with this northern extension. Here, the Soo Line Recreational Trail begins, offering an additional 10.5 miles of paved trail to US 10 just north of Royalton. Ultimately, intrepid recreationists can travel uninterrupted on off-road trails north all the way to Duluth, a distance of more than 150 miles.
This is not the only trail connection provided. The Lake Wobegon Trail’s western end in Osakis offers a seamless connection to the 55-mile Central Lakes State Trail. These combined trails give users 120 miles of uninterrupted pavement from St. Joseph to Fergus Falls.
In the near future, the Dairyland Trail will take bikers, walkers, and snowmobilers south from Albany to Brooten. In the east, a planned 7-mile rail-with-trail extension will eventually bring the Lake Wobegon Trail to St. Cloud on the Mississippi River. 3 miles of that extension has been opened, bringing the eastern endpoint to River's Edge Park in Waite Park.
The trail parallels I-94/US 52 for its entire length. To reach the western trailhead in Osakis, take I-94 E. to Exit 114 for County Road 3/MN 127 (Osakis/Westport). Head northeast on MN 27, and in 1.7 miles turn left onto First Ave. E. In 0.7 mile turn left onto Main St. and find parking along the street.
For the trailhead in St. Joseph, take I-94 to Exit 160. Head northeast on CR 2, and go 1 mile. Turn right onto CR 75, and go 0.9 mile. Turn left onto College Ave. N., and in 0.1 mile turn right onto Elm St. E. Parking will be on the left.
Additional parking and other amenities can also be found in most towns along the trail’s route, including in Albany for the northern trail extension.
For parking along the trail extension in Holdingford, take I-94 to Exit 153. Head north on CR 9/Fourth St./Avon Ave. S., and go 9.5 miles. Turn left onto River St. In 0.2 mile the parking lot will be on the right.
For parking in Albany, take I-94 to Exit 147. Head north on Eighth St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Railroad Ave. In 0.2 mile turn right onto Fifth St. and reach parking along the trail. Follow the trail 1.1 miles west to reach the beginning of the trail extension to Holdingford.
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