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7 Best Lakes to Stand Up Paddleboard in Minnesota

Want to spend some time in the clear lakes and crisp natural waters of Minnesota? Stand up paddleboarding requires minimal equipment and training, it’s a very accessible pastime and a great way to enjoy nature.

As Minnesota is known as ‘the state of 10,000 lakes’, it’s the ideal place to base ourselves while we explore on a paddleboard. 

Here are 7 that are worth the paddle:

1. Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis, MN

Image by Sequential5

The Chain of Lakes is perfect for stand up paddleboarding. There’s plenty of space, plenty of water and no motorboats are allowed. Plus, it’s just 15 minutes from Downtown, which is ideal!

There’s a circuit you can paddle that takes around 4 hours or you can enjoy some of the lovely lakes that make up this region. Lake Calhoun and Cedar Lake are particular highlights, but everywhere here is a great option.

If you’re new to paddleboarding or want to travel light, you can hire a kit at Bde Maka Ska.

  • Great for beginners
  • 15 minutes from Downtown
  • Quiet with no motorboats
  • Paddleboard hire available

2. Duluth Harbor, Duluth, MN

Image by ArtBoyMB

Duluth Harbor on the shores of Lake Superior is a protected part of the lake that’s a little quieter and outside the main shipping lanes. That makes it a place to enjoy the Great Lakes without putting yourself at risk.

The harbor area can get busy at peak times but once you’re out and towards Barker’s Island, it gets quieter. You’re away from the cruisers and the day sailors and have your own little stretch of the lakes to enjoy.

You can go as far as you like weather permitting. Or stay closer to the harbor and explore the shores at your leisure.

  • The Great Lakes experience with a twist
  • Quiet and relaxing once out of shipping lanes
  • Plenty of coastline to explore
  • Unbeatable in good weather

3. Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely, MN

Image by Jacob Boomsma

Bear Head Lake is up north and a short distance south of Eagle’s Nest. It’s a drive, but it’s also a real taste of wilderness full of water, woods and wildlife. It’s also perfect for paddleboarding.

The area is set up for the outdoors and has very peaceful waters. It’s the perfect spot for getting away from it all, turning off Slack and email and leaving the world behind for a while. All within a short drive from amenities.

Bear Head Lake is great for whiling away the days listening to the birds and looking out for wildlife. It’s a touch of the wilderness within this great state.

  • The wilderness within hours of the city
  • Calm, peaceful and quiet
  • Miles of green and pleasant landscape
  • Board rentals offered by the park

4. Medicine Lake, Plymouth, MN

Image by City of Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake borders Clifton French Regional Park and is a great place to stand up paddleboard in Minnesota. It’s accessible, reasonably quiet and has good water quality.

While not the largest lake in the region, it’s a firm favorite of paddleboarders. You’ll usually find a bunch of them exploring the shores and surfing the chop and everyone seems friendly and welcoming.

There are two bays in the southern lake that are very calm, ideal for practicing or idling, while the rest of the lake is very engaging.

  • Parks and plenty of nature
  • Two secluded bays to practice
  • Mostly calm water
  • Friendly, relaxed vibe

5. Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior, MN

Image by Alvis Upitis

Lake Minnetonka is just 20-30 minutes west of Minneapolis and is very convenient to the city along Highway 7. It’s a very popular spot in summer but has the space and laid back vibe we look for.

Excelsior Bay is a great place to launch and to end your day as it has bars and restaurants close by.

The only downside to Lake Minnetonka is that boat traffic can hug the shoreline. Where we would normally have some space to ourselves, you need to be vigilant on busier days. That shouldn’t put you off coming though!

  • Just 20-30 minutes from Minneapolis
  • Leisure amenities around the lake
  • Very little current and calm waters
  • Board rentals in Wayzata Bay

6. Cuyuna Mine Lakes, Cuyuna, MN

Image by Planet with Sara

Cuyuna Mine Lakes offer some of the best paddleboarding in Minnesota. Just 3 hours north of Minneapolis, these old mining lakes are the perfect place to learn our sport.

The waters are calm, the lakes are secluded and the landscape protects you from the wind. It’s a great place to take your first few paddles. Motorboats are limited to slow speeds.

Cuyuna Mine Lakes are quite a trek from the city but are well worth the journey. That’s true whether you’re learning the sport or just want time away from everything.

  • Calm protected waters
  • 10mph speed limit for boats
  • Perfect for beginners or not having to think while you paddle
  • Rentals available in Cayuna Cove

7. Lake Winona, Winona, MN

Image by Rruntsch

Lake Winona is by the Mississippi River east of Rochester along Highway 14. It’s a lovely place to enjoy the outdoors, hike, bike, camp and paddleboard close to the city.

It’s protected from the river by huge bluffs that are well worth the hike to the summit and enjoy the scenery. It’s set up for outdoor pursuits, which is great news for us.

The lake itself is calm, protected from the weather and not too large. It stays relatively quiet too and is small enough that not many motorboats bother with it. That’s great news for us!

  • Protected calm waters
  • Very accessible location southeast of Minneapolis
  • Hike, bike, camp and paddle in one area
  • Ideal for beginner paddleboarders

You’re spoilt for choice if you love the water in Minnesota. We won’t know whether there are actually 10,000 lakes or not but there are enough to make watersports a very viable hobby.

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