Are you looking for a fun spring outing with endless bird-bike sighting opportunities for the family or a getaway for yourself? Consider planning a trip to the Willmar Lakes Area. Head west out of the Twin Cities, and before you know it, you will be greeted by small-town charm and a sprawling countryside full of birding opportunities. It may seem like just another rural prairie community to the naked eye, but head out on your bike with the binoculars, and the area offers many birding haunts. Along this central migrating flyway, you can spot many species from the Minnesota Prairie Bird List that nest in the area.
As the trees begin to bud and marshes come alive along the trails and roads in Kandiyohi County, birders and cyclists will find a special place to visit.
A perfect spring bike-bird location in western Minnesota
Species to check off your list when bike-bird opportunities arise in the Willmar Area
Besides the Red Crossbill sighted around the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar, many parks here along the trail are also worth checking out. Some of the great birding haunts in the area include; Sibley State Park, Mason Lake State Park, the Prairiewood Environmental Learning Center, and a couple of Big Kandiyohi Lake County Parks, easily accessible from the Glacial Lake State Trail. When visiting here are some of the other birds you may see to check off your list: the Short-eared Owl; Townsend’s Solitaire; Long-eared Owl; Black-throated Green Warbler; Connecticut Warbler; Snowy Egret; Common Gallinule; Blue Grosbeak; Eastern Screech-Owl; White-winged Crossbill and a Long-tailed Duck.
Getting around on your bike in Willmar is more than encouraging. Awarded the Bike Friendly Bronze status by the League of American Cyclists, the community has redesigned its streets and inner-city trails to make it easy to pedal around and explore the area’s attractions and parks.
Getting around Willmar with your bike and binoculars
While biking, this is also an excellent area for bird enthusiasts. Sibley State Park is one of the most popular areas, so bring your binoculars and camera. Around the park, you will have a chance to see many of the 206 different species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. And with the Glacial Trail, it’s easy to get out to the park, by bike, from your hotel room in the Willmar Lakes Area.
About the Glacial Lakes State Trail
Built on a former Burlington Northern railroad line, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The path is paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. This multi-use bike corridor offers many opportunities to look at wildflowers and wildlife along the way—a perfect route to get out to Sibley State Park and Mount Tom.
Sibley State Park and Mount Tom
Once you get to the state park, hike up Mount Tom. It’s worth the walk and will give you a birds-eye view of the area. At the summit, on a clear day, enjoy an eyeshot of forest, farmland, prairie knolls, and lakes in a patchwork setting. Along with prime birding activities in the park, they offer several interpretive programs throughout the year.
You will find nearly two miles of paved trails that link Lakeview Campground and the Interpretive Center in the park. Another favorite haunt with a slight elevation change is the Pond View Trail loop, which offers more birding opportunities.
Other parks and trails
It is easy for everyone to enjoy the outdoors in Willmar and the surrounding area. With several parks offering recreational activities and trails, those who visit with their bike will find many haunts to pedal to, including Bergquist Park, Ramblewood Park, Rau Park (Scott Park), Thompson Park, and Swansson Park. You can also reach Robbins Island Park and the park at Green Lake from the trail.
Rural road bike-bird opportunities
There are also plenty of bike-friendly Kandiyohi County roads, paved and gravel, to help you navigate the area to reach other marshy areas popular with several bird species here.
More about the bike-friendly Willmar Lakes Area
When you are not riding, the area also offers plenty of indoor attractions when you want to relax. Along with several museums covering different parts of Minnesota’s history, after your ride, enjoy a refreshing beverage or snack as you take a break from the outdoor activities in this scenic prairie lakes area.